Turning Point Essay Competition

Essay Contest Details & Timelines

Turning Points


Essay Contest Details

How Does Turning Points Work?

Teachers and peers help students through a process of self-reflection and discussion about a significant event – a turning point – in their lives. Students then write an essay about that event to relate its significance to their present situation – and to their future. They are then encouraged to submit their essays for formal evaluation, recognition, and publication in an annual anthology. Those chosen for publication receive cash prizes, engraved plaques, a copy of the anthology, and are invited to recognition events in their area.

Register your School for Turning Points


These are general timelines. For specifics, check your region below.
September – teachers register online until September 30.
October – teachers attend in-service and/or do eLearning modules.
November to February– implement Turning Points in the classroom. All students are expected to participate and write the culminating essay. Turning Points is flexible.  It can be run over several months or in the space of two weeks.
March– teachers select the best essays and, if agreed upon with the students, submit them ELECTRONICALLY for the essay contest.  We will send an allocation form that shows the number of essays your school may submit.
April – Tier 1 Judges (Faculty of Education students) and Tier 2 Judges (authors, retired educators, journalists, story tellers, business professionals, members of the community) judge all submitted essays and select finalists. Winners are announced.
May – Winners and their teachers, principals, families and judges celebrate student success at an awards event.
June – The Anthology of Winning Essays is published.

Download your Regional Turning Points Timeline:

Competition Rules
The Turning Points Essay Competition is open to all students currently in Grade 6 to 12. It is suggested that the essays be marked as part of the Language/English program.

Essay Requirements:  

1. Essays must be authentic (true story)

2. Essays must adhere to the maximum word count for the grade level:
Group A Grade 6: 250 to 350 words
Group B Grades 7 and 8: 350 to 500 words
Group C Grades 9 and 10: 500 to 700 words
Group D Grades 11 and12: 800 to 1,000 words
3. Essays must have an effective title (note that "My Turning Point" or "personal essay" will not be accepted).  Title is not included in the word count.
4. Student name must not appear on the essay pages.
5. Essay font must be Arial, size 12.                             
6. Entries will be marked on the basis of originality of thought, clarity of language, organizational structure, use of conventions such as grammar and spelling, understanding of a "turning point" and impact on the reader.
7. Once an essay is submitted to The Learning Partnership, the essay becomes the property of The Learning Partnership.

Cash prizes will be awarded for essays recommended by a panel of judges.

Cash prizes will be awarded for essays recommended by a panel of judges. 
Prizes will be awarded at an Awards Celebration event (exact dates for each location to be confirmed) to which finalists, parents, teachers, principals, trustees, directors of education, members of the steering committee, and judges will be invited.


The Learning Partnership will publish all winning essays in an anthology.
GTA Grades 6 & 7/8 English - Closed
GTA Grades 9/10 & 11/12 - Closed
GTA Grades 6, 7/8 French - Closed

Alberta - Closed
Ontario - Closed
Newfoundland - Closed
New Brunswick - Closed
Nova Scoita - Closed
Saskatchewan - Closed


Registration and Letter of Agreement for 2013 - 2014 [form]

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are."
- Pablo Neruda, Nobel Prize-winning Chilean Poet and Political Activist

For more information, please contact: 
Marni Angus
Program Manager
Phone: 416 915 7615
Email: mangus@thelearningpartnership.ca


Turning Points

Character development through a values-driven process.

Turning Points is a powerful program that touches hearts and souls as students write about a significant event that impacted their lives.

The Turning Points program is a character awareness and literacy program that provides opportunities for students in Grades 6 - 12 to read, write and think about their fundamental values. A process of self-reflection and discussions with teachers and peers leads to writing a narrative essay about a significant event - a turning point - in which students organize and express their thoughts about the principles that guide their lives.

Students are encouraged to submit their essays for formal evaluation, recognition and publication - the submission link will be live according to the timelines for your area.  Click here to submit your essay.

"The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe." 
~ David Hare, British Playwright and Director

Celebrate the resiliency and greatness of the human spirit.

“I know that Turning Points is more than an essay contest.  It is one of those golden moments to celebrate the resiliency and greatness of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Julian’s essay won him the recognition and respect of the people attending the awards celebration and his win energized a school community and generated hope among students that they too could tell their stories and rise above adversity and meet with success.”

- Teacher (Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board)

Emotional, inspiring and informative experience.

“This was our third year participating in the Turning Points event. This has proven to be an emotional, inspiring and informative experience for all of us. This speaks to the work that we must continue to do with our students by listening to their stories and by collectively striving to make a difference in their young lives. They make a difference in ours by having the courage to share their innermost thoughts, struggles and dreams.”
- Catherine McCullough,
Former Director of Education and Secretary of the Board
Sudbury Catholic Board of Education


Who Benefits from the Turning Points Program? 

Students benefit as they reflect on a turning point in their life that had a profound impact on them. With the support of their peers and teachers, they explore their values and find the confidence to write their story in a purposeful and articulate way that truly touches the heart of readers. Students who choose to enter the essay contest may receive a cash prize, an engraved plaque, and become a published author when their essay is included in the annual Anthology of Winning Essays.
Teachers benefit because Turning Points helps them get to know their students better. The program provides teacher-friendly lesson plans and activities.
Faculty of Education students benefit when, in their role as judges, they get a deeper understanding of the challenges many students bring with them into the classroom. They have an opportunity to assess authentic student writing through the use of rubrics and the moderated marking process. They also become aware of an effective program they can use with their own students when they begin teaching.

Families benefit from the revelations and insights that this personal telling story process brings. It gives them an opportunity to discuss important issues and events. 

Community partners benefit from learning what our young people are dealing with and thinking about, and can help celebrate student success.

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are." 
- Pablo Neruda, Nobel Prize-winning Chilean Poet and Political Activist

  • To transform students’ lives by instilling a lifelong love of learning
  • To provide a vehicle for students to focus on their values and life goals and express them on paper
  • To provide schools with a flexible, easy to implement character awareness program
  • To offer teachers an engaging, classroom process that reinforces writing skills while generating student motivation to express themselves in written form by linking the essay writing to the student’s personal experience
  • To mobilize community recognition for young people
  • To encourage families to engage in an ongoing dialogue about what really matters in life
This program is currently offered in both English and French in Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Did You know
  • The Turning Points program focuses on character awareness and literacy through a written expression program
  • Grade 6-12 students participate in English and French in Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
  • More than 18,000 public school students participated in essay writing 2016.
  • More than 118 volunteer judges were involved in the selection process of the winning essays in 2016
  • Over 142,000 Turning Points essays have been written since 2000.
  • Winners receive cash prizes, plaques and are published in the annual Turning Points Anthology of Winning Essays.
  • Turning Points is in its 18th year


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