Although finishing among the best in an international high-school essay contest is a great success on its own, such achievement points far beyond itself: it is a part of that unique career path Milestone’s students may follow through, and whose next step might even be one of the world’s top universities. Emma Miléna Mészáros and Benjamin Allen know that very well. In December 2020, the editorial of Dialexicon philosophy journal, sponsored, among others, by the Department of Philosophy of the University of Toronto and the Canadian Philosophical Association, informed the two that the essays they had submitted to the journal’s competition were found to be among the top entries. Miléna’s piece will be published in the journal’s next issue, while Benjamin’s paper received an honourable mention, but neither of them think of this outstanding achievement as the capstone of their work. The both keep one eye on the next possible challenge already, which, according to the plans, will be the essay prize of Cambridge University’s Trinity College this spring.

Essay contests of the highest prestige, such as the Cambridge or the Oxford ones, generate enormous interest every year, and the juries must assess thousands of submissions Dániel Gergely Nagy, Miléna’s and Benjamin’s mentor explains: “Dialexicon’s contest and similar events, besides their own merit, provide a wonderful opportunity for Milestone’s students to prepare for the even more distinguished competitions”. According to Dániel building a strong profile is exceptionally important for Junior Year students like Miléna and Benjamin, and essay contests are the most obvious opportunities for those interested in humanities to polish their talent and knowledge. Throughout the years Milestone Institute has created a database – also accessible for students – about the major international contests, not only in the field of humanities, but also in other disciplines, so that students would not miss any big opportunity.

“I was completely surprised when I learned that I made it into the last round, and when I was notified by the University of Toronto that my essay was chosen among the best, I was even more surprised” Miléna says. Benjamin had a very similar experience of his success: “I wouldn’t have thought that my piece was that good, I was only thinking of the contest as a good way to practice” he says adding (with only a tiny bit of bitterness to be fair) “It is a bit disappointing if I think about it that with more work invested I could have achieved an even better result”. 

Based on Miléna’s and Benjamin’s story one might think that achieving such success was only a walk in the park for them but the truth is much more complex than that: there’s months’ or even years’ hard work in the accumulation of the knowledge and in the development of the skills that led to these great results. According to their mentor both students have great writing skills but for doing so extremely well at the international level they needed the experience they’d gained at Milestone and the philosophical background knowledge they’d gathered in their modules and through mentoring. “It is important to understand that preparation works really well at an institutional level: different elements of the educational programme are closely interlinked, they build upon one another, and that’s what can become the foundation of academic success and even of an outstanding academic career” Dániel concludes.

What Miléna and Benjamin say about what helped them during their work is completely in line with their mentor’s words: “I can almost see my mentor standing beside me during writing” Benjamin explains, while Miléna can constantly feel the influence of the experience she gained through Milestone modules and mentoring in her work.

As Junior year students Miléna and Benjamin are already thinking actively about choosing a university of course: at the moment Cambridge University’s Department of Philosophy is the primary target for both of them, however, Benjamin is also interested in Leuven University, also belonging to the world’s top institutions. Regardless of what university they’ll eventually apply to their achievement in Dialexicon’s contest, and even more importantly the Milestone-trained skills and knowledge leading up to that achievement will give them a great advantage. Dániel’s message to all of those open to humanities is to write and read as much as possible and, similarly to Miléna and Benjamin, take the opportunities provided by international contests.