The Bowdoin Prizes, some of Harvard’s oldest and most prestigious student awards, are designed to recognize essays of originality and high literary merit, written in a way that engages both specialists and non-specialists.
Established in 1791, the Bowdoin Prizes have been awarded to many notable Harvard students, among them the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson; the former Harvard presidents Charles Eliot and Nathan Pusey; the historians Henry Adams, Susan Pedersen, and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.; the novelist John Updike; the writer and philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke; and the journalist Faith Salie. Each winner of a Bowdoin Prize receives, in addition to a sum of money, a medal and a certificate, and his or her name is printed in the Commencement program.
The Bowdoin Prizes are funded by the income of the bequest of Governor James Bowdoin, A.B. 1745, which was, in 1901, increased by George Sullivan Bowdoin. Undergraduates resident in Harvard College who do not hold an academic degree or have not fulfilled the requirements therefor may compete for these prizes. (For further information about eligibility, see FAQ 3.)
For answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Bowdoin Prizes for Undergraduate Students, click the link.
Undergraduate Essays in the English Language
(Deadline: 11:59 p.m. on March 25, 2021)
Undergraduate Essay in the Natural Sciences
(Deadline: 11:59 p.m. on April 1, 2021)