Essay contests have their own settings and the ability for you to control the grid view width of each contestant. To run an essay contest you have a few options, you can choose whether or not a photo upload field is shown in your essay contest entry form and whether or not it is mandatory. You could add a file upload field for PDF, Word Documents, Text Documents, etc and specify the file formats you accept. If you want the contestants to simply paste the text of the essay in the description field without a photo then you can use the default Essay Contest Settings. When determining the excerpt size for grid and list view you will have to make some adjustments to the Excerpt Settings.
You can view a full demo of the WordPress Essay Contest here.