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

The 2023 competition will open April 1 and will close April 30.

Dedman Distinguished Scholars Essay Competition application

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

Please keep all 5 judging criteria in mind when writing and submitting your essay.


This year’s essay prompt is centered around the DDSP virtue of Integrity.

“Can you imagine a time when someone’s lack of integrity led to more success? What can this teach us about the value of integrity?”

The purpose of the prompt is to have students think critically about the issue of integrity rather than simply accept it as a virtue at face value.  It’s easy to write an essay about why integrity is important, but it’s much harder to write one about why integrity is important even when people sometimes succeed without it. 


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
  • 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.
    • Winners do not have to attend UT Austin in order to receive their funds. The cash awards can be used for any school.

Beginning in 2022, the DDSP will also host two Writing Workshops to help students prepare for the competition. Students entering the competition are strongly encouraged to attend these writing workshops. Students can also 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.

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

Past Winners

2021 Winners

1st Place

Avery Wayne, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Austin, Texas

Avery Wayne is a junior at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, whose passions include art, economics, and East Asian studies. She is the president of the Food Sustainability Club, and tutors at the Writing Center. Outside of school, she volunteers at the Blanton Museum at UT, and is currently interning at art business start-up Alpha’a. Avery also served as a Youth Jury member at this year’s Aspen Shortsfest, and hosted a ConnectHer film screening on environmental feminism. In her free time, she writes on her blog Opinion Redacted and makes art: films, photography, collage work, and digital art.  In the future, Avery hopes to develop her passions while remaining intellectually curious and making a community and global impact.

2nd Place

Emilie Grace Baillo, Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School, Austin, Texas

Emilie Grace Baillo is a junior at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School in Austin, Texas. As one of the leaders of her school’s Minorities in Math club, Emilie’s passionate about making STEM more accessible to low-income and underrepresented communities. Her club’s Math Circle, which hosts math presentations and activities for middle schools in their area, hopes to demonstrate that math is something that adds beauty to the world and everyone can enjoy. Emilie is also a high school mentor for Verizon Innovative Learning, where she encourages middle school girl mentees to set and pursue goals for themselves related to career, academic, personal, and cultural development. In college, Emilie plans to go into engineering to develop technology that mobilizes communities of color with information about their health. In her personal life, Emilie loves cooking, reading, writing, and spending time with her family dog Datu (meaning chieftain).

3rd Place

Marcus Aguilar

Honorable Mention

Kawsar Yasin, Tyler Legacy High School, Tyler, TX

Kawsar Yasin is a junior at Tyler Legacy High School in Tyler, TX. Being heavily involved in her school’s debate team and visual arts program, she’s come to realize the power of expression, whether that be through words or through her art. For example, this past year, she created her art portfolio in her AP studio art class to reflect and portray the daily struggles and triumphs of immigrants in the United States. Outside of debate and art, she can often be found trying out different boba flavors, making a mess in the kitchen by baking (or at least trying to), and reading books on United States foreign policy. After high school, she hopes to study in a field similar to global health, foreign relations, or biochemistry with plans on attending medical school.

Honorable Mention

Luisa Mao, Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School, Austin, Texas

Luisa Mao is a junior at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School in Austin, Texas. She loves anything math or science and enjoys working with other students who are excited about STEM at her school’s math and computer science clubs. She believes in the power of STEM and its spirit of collaborative innovation to help current social and environmental issues to better the world in the future. She currently serves as a U.S. ambassador for the Youth Leadership Program to Fiji, Tonga, and Tuvalu in a STEM-oriented project to pursue climate resiliency. In her freetime, she enjoys reading, writing, swimming, music, coding cool projects, and spending time with her friends and family. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in computer science. She isn’t entirely sure what she wants to do, but knows she wants to make a positive impact on the world.

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.

Additionally, we hope that you use this competition to share yourself with us, but we also want you to be safe and healthy when sharing your story. This article offers a loving critique of using an essay such as this to share painful or traumatic experiences. An important quote from the article is “when at-risk students write about their pain and don’t get accepted, it could potentially devalue their pain, thus making the act of sharing mentally harmful.” The DDSP values the psychological safety of its students and that extends to you. Of course, you are free to write about what you wish, and we hope you share safely.

You can find more information on topics such as constructing thesis statements, writing introductions, writing conclusions, creating clarity, and editing your own writing at this website from the University Writing Center.

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.