TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

Topic: An Aging World

The APA Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) is pleased to announce that the topic for the 2017 APA TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students is "An Aging World." Four winners will be selected for this year's competition, each of whom will receive a $250 award. The deadline for submission is March 15, 2017, and essays should be submitted through the online database.

Submit Your Essay & Apply

The increasing number of older adults in the United States and certain other parts of the world presents both opportunities and challenges for individuals in their personal development, their social systems and their living environments.

General Guidelines

Write an essay of no more than 3,000 words that addresses the topic of aging and that provides information concerning physical, psychological and social factors that influence the aging process. In addition, each essay should use existing psychological research to examine how individuals and society can promote healthy aging.

Submissions must:

  • Address the three essay sections provided below.
  • Include internal references and a reference list using APA style. For more information, please consult the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association®"(6th ed., 2nd printing).
  • Document credible and peer-reviewed sources throughout the essay.
  • Include a cover page, an abstract of 120 words minimum, in-text citations in APA format and a references page.

Plagiarism is prohibited. Essays found to be plagiarized will be eliminated from the competition.

Essay

Section One: Introduction

  • Use credible research and information to establish the scope and nature of the topic. Briefly describe demographic changes relevant to aging. Clearly define any introduced terminology and use these terms with precision.

Section Two: What Does Healthy Aging Look Like?

  • Describe physical changes that occur in the process of normal aging and at least two physical factors that can promote healthy aging, citing at least one peer-reviewed journal article.
  • Describe psychological changes that occur in the process of normal aging and at least two psychological factors that can promote healthy aging, citing at least one peer-reviewed journal article.
  • Describe the social changes that occur in the process of normal aging and at least two social factors that can promote healthy aging, citing at least one peer-reviewed journal article.

Section Three: Conclusion and Application for Promoting Healthy Aging

  • Select two factors described in section two, and explain how individual lifestyle and behavioral changes can promote health and well-being as we age.
  • Select two factors described in section two, and propose a potential change in public policy or programming that could promote health and well-being as we age.
Scoring Rubric

Out of 110 points:

Formatting (10 points)

Papers must be in APA format (see the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association). This includes:

  • A cover page.
  • An abstract, not to exceed 120 words.
  • Citations in correct APA format.
  • A reference page.

Section I: Introduction (20 points)

A good introduction will:

  • Provide credible evidence of changing age demographics. (10 points)
  • Use terminology and concepts accurately, providing appropriate definitions. (5 points)
  • Cites at least one peer-reviewed journal. (5 points)

Section II: Physical, Psychological and Social Changes (60 points)

A good answer will:

  • Discuss at least two physical factors that promote healthy aging. (15 points)
  • Cite at least one peer-reviewed journal article related to physical factors (5 points)
  • Discuss at least two psychological factors that promote healthy aging. (15 points)
  • Cite at least one peer-reviewed journal article related to psychological factors (5 points)
  • Discuss at least two social factors that promote healthy aging. (15 points)
  • Cite at least one peer-reviewed journal article related to social factors. (5 points)

Sections III: Conclusion (20 points)

A good conclusion will:

  • Provide two lifestyle/behavioral changes that positively affect health and well-being. (10 points)
  • Provide two policy/program proposals that positively affect health and well-being. (10 points)
Rules and Contact Information

Teachers and students should contact Yvonne Hill, (202) 336-6076, with questions.

Eligibility

  • Entrants must be high school students.
  • Entrants must complete the project individually, not in teams or groups.
  • Entrants must have been enrolled or be presently enrolled in a high school psychology course.
  • No more than five (5) entries per school will be accepted.

The Paper

Papers must be no more than 3,000 words in length. Papers exceeding this length will be disqualified.

Students should be aware that essays will be screened for originality.

The Procedure

No more than five (5) papers per school may be submitted.

All cover pages must include the following information (all required):

  • Student's name, address, phone number and email address.
  • Student's school name, school address and school phone number.
  • Current or past psychology teacher and teacher’s email address.

Psychology faculty at the college and high school level will serve as judges.

Previous winners and topics

2017 TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

The APA Teachers of Psychology in Secondary Schools (TOPSS) is pleased to announce the winners for the 2017 APA TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students. Each winner will receive a $250 award.

  • Poorvi Dua of Xavier College Preparatory (Phoenix)
  • Sophia Song of Seoul International School (Seoul, South Korea)
  • Wendi Ji of Shen Zhen College of International Education (Guangdong, China)
  • Grace Rhine of Penn Manor High School (Millersville, Penn.)

The 2017 competition question asked students to submit an essay on the topic “An Aging World.” 

Students were to write an essay of no more than 3,000 words that addressed the topic of aging and provide information concerning physical, psychological and social factors that influence the aging process. In addition, each essay was to use existing psychological research to examine how individuals and society could promote healthy aging. 

2016 TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

  • Shi Jia Liu of Guangdong Country Garden School (Guangdong, China)
  • Anan Quan of Cape Coral High School (Cape Coral, Fla.)
  • Jane Sensibaugh of Solon High School (Solon, Ohio)
  • Alan Zheng of Pioneer High School (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

The 2016 competition question asked students to submit an essay on racial bias, including the cognitive and social factors that contribute to the problem. Students were to address how implicit bias has informed our understanding of racial biases. In addition, each essay was required to use existing psychological research to examine how this problem specifically impacts the criminal justice system.

2015 TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

  • Elma Adusei of Fredericksburg Academy (Fredericksburg, Va.)

  • Alison J. Gold of Ladue Horton Watkins High School (St. Louis, Mo.)

  • Lavinia Wing Lam Tse of Oundle School (Oundle, Peterborough, U.K.)

  • Lucy R. Purnell of Oundle School (Oundle, Peterborough, U.K.)

The 2015 competition question asked students to submit an essay exploring the neurological, cognitive and social implications of substance abuse. Students were asked to write about one type of substance use (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, cannabinoids, opioids, stimulants or hallucinogens) and a scientifically tested measure for prevention or intervention.

2014 TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

  • Miriam Hauptman of Ladue Horton Watkins High School (St. Louis)

  • Rebecca Jordan of Rye High School (Rye, N.Y.)

  • Emory Nager of North Salem High School (North Salem, N.Y.)

  • Milena Pirman of Kimberly High School (Appleton, Wis.)

The 2014 competition question asked students to submit an essay exploring the current prevalence, impact and/or implications of obesity. Along with describing the biopsychosocial factors that contribute to obesity, students were asked to offer a solution using psychological science.

2013 TOPSS Competition for High School Psychology Students

  • Sarah Giuffrida of Penn Manor High School (Lancaster, Pa.)

  • Katie Shen of Solon High School (Solon, Ohio)

  • Sarah Whyler of Penn Manor High School (Lancaster, Pa.)

  • Aliya Zaidi of Solon High School (Solon, Ohio)

The 2013 competition question asked students to write a short composition exploring the role psychological science can play in both explaining and informing solutions for social injustices and inequities. Students were also asked to design an original visual poster on the theme “Psychology Addressing Injustice” to accompany their written component.

2012 TOPSS Essay Competition

  • Rakesh Goli of The Altamont School (Birmingham, Ala.)

  • Ning Liu of Parkview High School (Lilburn, Ga.)

  • Rebecca Shaw of Horace Mann School (New York)

  • Rachael Spillane of Topsail High School (Hampstead, N.C.)

The 2012 essay question asked students to describe specific psychological concepts as they relate to the various ways a person might react to a natural disaster. Students were asked to relate these specific psychological concepts to a person’s potential behavior and mental processes following the disaster.

2011 TOPSS Poster Competition

  • Corie Schwabenland of Central West High School (Fresno, Calif.)

  • Zackery Perkins of Oscar F. Smith High School (Chesapeake, Va.)

  • Andrew Branstetter of Solon High School (Solon, Ohio)

  • Laura Wetzel of Stevens Point Area High School (Stevens Point, Wis.)

The 2011 poster question asked students to focus on the theme “Psychology is a Science.” Students were asked to select one or more theme(s) or topic(s) within psychology that demonstrate(s) that psychology is a science. Students were asked to design an original visual poster that included the phrase “Psychology is a Science.”

2010 TOPSS Essay Competition

  • Sabina Babar of Colonia High School (Colonia, N.J.)

  • Rachael J. Erickson of Sutton Memorial High School (Sutton, Mass.)

  • Allison Gutworth of Colonia High School (Colonia, N.J.) 

  • Alexis Suskey of Grandville High School (Wyoming, Mich.)

The 2010 essay question asked students to focus on the effects human behavior has had on the current environmental crisis. Students were asked to create and describe a community service project that could be carried out in their local communities to encourage environmentally-friendly behavior, explaining how human behavior affects a specific environmental issue.

2009 TOPSS Essay Competition

  • Arzina Alam (Avenel, N.J.)

  • Sharon Hecker (Sparta, Mich.)

  • Meghan Christine Zeitter (Grand Rapids, Mich.)

Sara Berlin of Miami, Fla., received an honorable mention award for her essay.

The 2009 essay question asked students to focus on techniques advertisers use to encourage consumers to purchase their products. Students were asked to create an advertising campaign on behalf of a fictitious company that sells new athlete shoes, explaining how principles of compliance and techniques of persuasion were used.

2008 TOPSS Scholars Competition

  • Mira Vale from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School (Sudbury, Mass.)

  • Rebecca Joy from Arlington Catholic High School (Arlington, Mass.) 

  • Rohit Mehta from Colonia High School (Colonia, N.J.)

The essay question posed for this year's competition focused on the portrayal of psychological disorders in movies. The students were asked to choose a psychological disorder and use the DSM-IV-TR to summarize the salient characteristics of the disorder. The psychological disorders were based on three movies "As Good As It Gets" (1997) for obsessive compulsive disorder; "A Beautiful Mind" (2001) for schizophrenia;  and "The Mosquito Coast" (1986) for bipolar disorder.