Marie McSpadden Sands Writing Awards

Established by Dave and John Sands in 1997 to remember their mother and the importance she placed on writing well, this endowed scholarship helps to support excellence in writing at Scripps College. At the conclusion of each fall semester, a Writing Program faculty committee and the Dean of Faculty select two students whose essays exemplify the highest level of achievement in Writing 50 to receive Sands Essay Awards. The awards take the form of a partial scholarship for the winners’ sophomore year at Scripps College. An award is also given to the Writing 50 instructor who is considered outstanding by students, the Director of the Writing Program, and the Dean of Faculty. The award-winning essays, one in the short textual analysis essay category and the other in the longer researched argument essay category, are printed in the next edition of the Scripps College Journal, Scripps’ literary magazine.

Submission Procedure

Instructors will make this description available to their students as part of the syllabus and explain the evaluation criteria as part of their work with students on each type of essay. Toward the end of the fall semester, interested students should communicate with their instructors about essays they wish to be considered for the Sands Essay Award. Instructors may also communicate with students whose essays they feel have a chance of winning the award. We ask that submissions have received an A or A- grade or were otherwise singled out by the instructor as excellent. All submissions can be revised before the final deadline, which is the last day of final exams in the fall (a Friday in mid-December); by or before this date, students must email their essay(s) to their instructors, who then select two essays from each of their sections to submit to the Director of the Writing Program. This deadline is a firm one, and while students can certainly revise their essays in conjunction with feedback received from their instructor, Writing Center tutors, and/or peers before submitting them to instructors, instructors will not edit the essays themselves before handing them in to the Director. The Director ensures that all identifying information is removed from the essays and then circulates them among the members of the Sands Award Committee, all of whom are Writing 50 instructors. The committee meets in early January to make their final selections and presents them to the Dean of Faculty, who notifies the winners. Students who have questions about the submission or evaluation process should contact their Writing 50 instructors.

Selection Criteria

The essays are judged according to the criteria for superior college writing.

All submitted essays should:

  • construct an argument responding to a significant, practicable, and stimulating problem, question, or project, one whose scope is feasible within the assignment’s requirements
  • represent and participate in the academic conversation about this problem and critically discuss counter-arguments
  • clearly communicate the significance and originality of the claim or argument to readers who may not be familiar with the texts under discussion and show how it promotes meaningful disagreement
  • support claims with suitable and relevant evidence that is properly introduced, contextualized, analyzed, interpreted, and cited
  • make logical organizational decisions and felicitous stylistic choices to achieve coherence and flow, avoiding formulaic structures
  • express ideas in elegant, sophisticated, and error-free prose, and adhere to the conventions of standard written English
  • use and document sources accurately and ethically, conforming to style conventions

Additionally, the textual analysis essay should:

  • present a fresh analysis of the primary text that contributes to a reader’s understanding
  • rely entirely on the text for evidence rather than on generalizations or outside sources

Additionally, the research essay should:

  • address a specific yet significant problem or question in a particular field
  • utilize a variety of primary and secondary sources, including several scholarly sources (in addition to sources studied in the course or supplied by the instructor)
  • avoid overdependence on secondary sources for primary claims and important ideas, and establish the argument’s distinction from ideas provided by secondary sources