Kelly-Douglas Fund
The Kelly Essay Prize for Excellence in Humanistic Scholarship



Given the Institute’s current travel and residential policies in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Kelly-Douglas Fund is suspending its activities for the remainder of this academic year. The undergraduate traveling fellowships competition for summer 2020 and the Kelly Essay competition will therefore not take place this academic year.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Kelly-Douglas administrator at

Honoring outstanding achievement in non-fiction writing

To acknowledge outstanding achievement by undergraduate students intellectually committed to fields of study that fall under the purview of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at MIT, the Kelly-Douglas Fund awards two prizes of up to $800 each to the best essays in any field of study within SHASS.

While the Kelly Essay Prize is primarily aimed at recognizing the best research essays submitted in SHASS subjects, some other forms of non-fiction prose are also eligible for consideration. Thus, students may submit works of 12-20 pages in these genres as well: cultural commentary, creative non-fiction, travel writing, and science journalism.

Faculty Role

The Kelly Essay Prize is distinctive in being the only SHASS writing award open to all students engaged in HASS-related studies, with no further restriction on topic and content. Faculty are encouraged to identify high-quality undergraduate essays written for courses they offer, and help students develop them for submission to the essay competition.

Application Process


Top Image: Detail, The Eight-legged Essay (Ba Gu Wen)
The eight-legged essay was a style of essay writing that had to be mastered to pass the imperial examinations during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is named so because it was divided into eight sections.