About the Dedman Distinguished Scholars Program

Established in 1989, the Dedman Distinguished Scholars Program recruits and educates the top Liberal Arts students in the country. Through a close-knit community of students and faculty, unique research and service projects, and other academic enrichment opportunities, Dedman Scholars build the experiences and skills that allow them to successfully compete with the best students in the world by attending a world-class research university that provides them with enriching opportunities in education and research. The program also supports its scholars with generous scholarship funds, giving them the financial freedom to focus on their academic pursuits.

“The objective of the Program is to provide the nation’s top young minds with the educational experience of a lifetime. The program strives to offer these students the freedom – both financial and intellectual – and the opportunities to pursue their highest selves.”

-Robert and Nancy Dedman

Given the goals of the Dedman family, all scholars are expected to succeed in one or more of the following ways: compete for prestigious post-baccalaureate awards such as Rhodes, Marshall, and Truman; earn admission to the world’s most prestigious graduate and professional programs in liberal arts, sciences, medicine, law, and business; or begin careers of distinction in the for-profit, non-profit, or government sectors.


Dedman Scholars belong to cohorts organized by entering class, with each cohort named after a Dedman virtue: humility, sacrifice, courage, conviction, honor, compassion, integrity, and honesty. These eight virtues also reflect the character attributes that Robert Dedman upheld in his own life and identified as the foundation for his success.

To learn more about the Dedman Distinguished Scholars Program, please visit our page.

About the Competition

As the Scholars know, competing with the best students in the country requires success in many areas, including scholarship, leadership, service, and research. In all of these areas, effective communication, and especially the ability to write clearly and with purpose, is the foundation of success. Thus, Dedman Scholars work to improve their communication skills through regular practice of their abilities in writing, argumentation, and presentation.

Through the Dedman Distinguished Scholars Essay Competition, our program aims to help high school students do the same by emphasizing and improving their communication skills with a focus on writing at the college level. We hope that students who compete and use the provided resources are able both to write more effective college admissions essays, but also write more effectively once they reach college.

We are happy to present to you the Dedman Distinguished Scholars Essay Competition. The program and its scholars hope that high school students will find the competition to be inspirational, rewarding, and beneficial as they prepare themselves for success in college and beyond.

Application Instructions

Below is the prompt for the 2019 essay:

Write about a time in your life when an authority figure or someone you admired showed a lack of integrity. How did you respond?

The essay itself is limited to 4,000 characters, which is about 750-800 words. Judges will review essays and score them based on a number of factors including:

  • Adherence to the prompt
  • Originality and creativity
  • Grammar and mechanics
  • Organization and presentation
  • Ability to inspire and evoke emotion


Winning essays will receive a certificate from the program along with one of the following cash award prizes:

  • First place
  • Second Place
  • Third Place
  • Honorable mention #1
  • Honorable mention #2



  • Only sophomores and juniors currently enrolled in a public or private high school in Texas are eligible to apply
  • Essays must be the original work of student entrants
  • Winning students must submit documentation from their high schools showing their enrollment status
  • Each student is allowed only one entry in the competition per year
  • Essay forms must be fully completed using the link above for submission to be valid for the competition
  • Entrants must agree to allow their essays to be published on the Dedman Distinguished Scholars Essay Competition website and in other materials
  • Winners must agree to submit and allow brief biographical information to be posted on the Dedman Distinguished Scholars Essay Competition website and in other materials
  • Winners will be required to create a UT EID and submit a payment address with the University.

Students entering the competition are strongly encouraged to review the Writing Resources page to find information about how to craft an effective essay. The resources listed on that page are commonly provided to students at UT Austin to help them write effectively at the college level. Winning essays are expected to be written at that level as well, so all entrants should review and make use of the information provided when crafting their essays.

Apply here.

Application will open on 4/5 and will close on 4/28 at 11:59 p.m.

For questions about the competition, please contact us at contact@dedmanessay.com.


2018 Winners

hanson Headshot
1st Place 

Laurel Hanson – NYOS Charter School, Austin, Texas

Laurel Hanson is a junior at NYOS Charter School in Austin, Texas. She plays the clarinet, paints sets for her school’s Drama Club, helps edit the school’s yearbook, and participates in National Honor Society. She is also a student attorney for the mock trial team. With such diverse interests, Laurel is excited to see what the future holds as she prepares for college

cole newby headshot
2nd Place

Cole Newby – Ronald Reagan High School, San Antonio, Texas

Cole Newby is a junior at Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio, Texas. Year-round, Cole plays lacrosse for multiple club teams. He also has a passion for computer science and would like to pursue a degree in either aviation or electrical engineering.

Christiana Lloyd Dedman Essay Picture
3rd Place

Christiana Lloyd – Cumberland Academy High School, Tyler, Texas

Christina is a junior at Cumberland Academy in Tyler, Texas. She is active in theatre, choir, Student Council, and National Honor Society. She also volunteers with the Tyler Texas Azalea and Spring Flower Trails as a Belle. Christina has won many awards, including UIL speech and debate, UIL one-act, state solo and ensemble, piano, and her high school’s student athlete award. Christiana plans to pursue studies in Speech Language Pathology in college.

Leihgeber photo Dedman Essay
Honorable Mention

Jenna Leihgeber – Whitehouse High School, Whitehouse, Texas

Jenna is a junior at Whitehouse High School in Whitehouse, Texas. She is currently involved with Varsity Soccer, Varsity Cross Country, and Business Professionals of America, and is serving as the National Honor Society’s service chair at her high school. She also was honored as a Johnson and Johnson Youth Champion of Care due to her participation in the Smiles for Soldiers Campaign. She plans to study chemical engineering in college and wants to study abroad in China to learn Mandarin.

woodford grace photo
Honorable Mention

Grace Woodford – NYOS Charter School, Austin, Texas

Grace Woodford is a junior at NYOS Charter School in Austin, Texas. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Secretary of the PALs program, lead set designer for the drama club, and has created t-shirts and logos for her school. She volunteers for many events around Austin including fun runs, food drives, building dog houses for Pflugerville Pets Alive. Grace is interested in art and design and plans to study graphic design after high school.

Writing Resources

Dedman Scholars spend a considerable amount of time writing for their classes but also for their other academic and extracurricular activities.  Some Scholars serve as writing fellows or mentors, others write for student magazines or other publications, and many perform significant writing in their internships or volunteering activities.  The Scholars also know that the key to good writing is continuous effort: good writers are rarely born that way but instead become good because of practice and reflection on their own writing.

Below we have provided some resources to help you craft a strong essay for the competition but also to give you some guidance on more effective writing at the college level.  These instructional resources cover a range of basic topics that serve as the foundation of strong essay writing, so we hope that you will consider using them to help improve your own entry in the competition.

Constructing Thesis Statements

Writing Introductions

Writing Conclusions

Creating Clarity

Editing your own writing

The University Writing Center (UWC) at UT Austin has provided all of these materials.  The Department of Rhetoric and Writing at UT Austin directs the UWC, and highly-trained staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students support the center by working with students across the university to help them achieve their writing goals.  The UWC sees thousands of students every year and is able to provide feedback on many aspects of writing and development of papers, theses, and even dissertations.  For support on many more topics related to effective writing, you can visit the UWC website to browse their various free handouts.

You should also consider finding a writing style guide to help with various aspects of writing and word choice.  Some popular general-purpose style guides include:

The Elements of Style (by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White)

Garner’s Modern American Usage (by Bryan A. Garner)

The Sense of Style (by Steven Pinker).

Many other writing guides exist, so you should find one that works best for you.  For many newer writers, The Elements of Style is a great resource.

We hope that these resources serve you well both for the competition but also for writing your college entrance essays.  If you join us here at UT Austin, or perhaps even as a Dedman Scholar, we hope that you will come to see the UWC as a great resource for your education throughout your time on campus.