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Essay Contest: Frequently Asked Questions

archived contest

Frequently Asked Questions -- 2014 Spring Edition

Where can I get information about the essay topics so I can do research for my essay?
You are welcome to use any reputable source. To get you started, you can visit our resource page with links to information about Saturn’s Rings, Titan, and Saturn so you can research these topics before writing your essay.

How do I submit my student's essay?
Students in the United States must use the online submission form. It will be online soon. Students participating in the international contest should contact their national organizers for instructions.

Who can participate in the essay contest?
This contest is open to all students in the U.S. in grades 5 to12. Parallel contests are being run in other countries around the world. For a list of participating countries, visit the international pages.

Can home-schooled students enter this essay contest?

What is the prize for U.S. contest winners?
All U.S. winners of the Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest will have their essays posted on NASA's Cassini website. U.S. winners and their classes will be invited to participate in a video- or tele-conference with Cassini scientists so the students can have their questions about Saturn answered by the experts. Other participating countries may offer their own prizes.
All participants will receive a certificate of participation. In addition, winners, finalists, and semi-finalists receive certificates that include their status as contest winners.
We do not have cash prizes, scholarships, trips, etc. as prizes. Our funding source prevents this, unfortunately. We do have many students and teachers who enter the contest year after year, which indicates that they find value in participating in the contest.

What is the prize for international (non U.S.) contest winners?
All international winners of the Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest will have their essays posted on NASA's Cassini website. Each participating country may offer its own prizes.
All national coordinators will receive a template for the certificate of participation so that they can acknowledge all of their country's participants.

Can students at a Museum, Science Center, Astronomy Club or After-school program participate?
Yes, but please have your program coordinator contact us at for the details on how to submit.

My country doesn’t have a contest, but I would like to participate. What can I do?

- If your country has a space agency, ask if they would like to host a Cassini Scientist for a Day contest in your country.
- Some countries don’t have national coordinators, but there may be a contest available to students in your region.
- You can always do the research and write the essay anyway. It’s good practice for writing essays in college or university, even if you don’t write the essay for the purpose of entering the contest.

Can I choose to write about more than one image?
- No, you have to choose just one imaging target in your essay. Being able to describe which target you think will return the most interesting scientific data is one of the main points of this activity.

English is not my first language. Does my essay have to be written in English?
- The contest for students in the United States is only accepting essays in English. Each country that participates in the essay contest may choose the language(s) in which entries will be accepted. It depends in part on the languages the contest judges can read. Check the rules for your country’s version of the contest.
I live in the United States, and I’m enrolled in school, but I’m not a United States citizen. Can I still send my entry to enter the U.S. contest?

Can students from different grades work together?
Yes, but you must indicate the grade level for each student who wrote the essay, and the essay will be judged in the grade category of the oldest student who collaborated on the essay.

I have given this assignment to my classes as a project. Can I send all the essays I collected?
You are welcome and encouraged to use this contest as a class assignment. Please read the essays and send us ONLY the top three essays from each of your classes for us to judge.
After submitting your students' best essays, please send a list of all the students in your classes who wrote essays for the contest.

Is grammar important?
Yes, your peers – the jury judging your essay – must be able to comprehend your argument.

Who do I contact if I have questions?
Send an email to or to your country’s national essay contest coordinator, if you’re not in the United States.