FFRF Student Scholarship Essay Contests

William J. Schulz High School Essay Contest

For College-Bound High School Seniors

First place: William J. Schultz Memorial Award: $3,000
Second place: $2,000
Third place: $1,000
Fourth place: $750
Fifth place: $500
Sixth place: $400
Optional honorable mention(s): $200

Eligibility: North American high school seniors who graduate in spring 2015, college-bound in fall 2015.

Choose one of the topics below:

  • Atheist/nonbeliever of color prompt: Write from personal perspective about experiences or challenges you face, as a nonbeliever in a religious family or community, and minority within the freethought community. Are there obstacles discouraging diversity within the movement? What do you think could be done to make freethought and nonbelief more attractive to America's nonwhite communities? Include at least one paragraph about why you are a nonbeliever.
  • Why I'm good without God prompt: Write from personal perspective about your experiences or challenges in the face of persistent stereotypes that atheists and other nonbelievers are not moral. Explain how you're "good without God," why religion is not necessary for morality and may even be counterproductive. What can you or others do to counter negative stereotypes about nonbelievers? Include at least one paragraph about why you are a nonbeliever.

Length: 500 to 700 words.

Other requirements: Essays must be submitted both by mail and email by postmark deadline. No faxes. Typed, stapled and double-spaced with standard margins. Include word count. Place name and essay title on each page. Choose own title and include a one-paragraph biography on separate page at end of essay. Include name, age and birth date, hometown, university or college, year in school, intended major and interests, name, city and state of high school and date of graduation as well as intended college. Don't attach a résumé.

Provide both summer and fall 2015 addresses (campus and home), phone numbers and email addresses for notification. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. Do not write under or over word minimums and maximums. For chance to win $50 bonus, indicate the name of the secular school or college club you belong to or join the Secular Student Alliance (free at www.secularstudents.org/studentmember) and mention it. The bonus is provided by a kind couple. Click here to view a printable PDF

Deadline: Postmarked no later than June 1, 2015. Winners announced in August.

Submission rules: Essays must be both mailed (postmarked) and emailed no later than June 1, 2015 to  with subject heading "Essay [and Your Full Name]," e.g., Essay Voltaire, and send to:

High School Essay Contest
FFRF
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701

About William J. Schultz: This competition is endowed by William J. Schultz, a member of FFRF who died at 57, was a farm boy who became a chemical engineer and built paper-producing mills around the world. He cared deeply about FFRF's work.

Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Contest

For College Students Under Age 25

First Place: Michael Hakeem Memorial Award: $3,000
Second Place: $2,000
Third Place: $1,000
Fourth Place: $750
Fifth Place: $500
Sixth Place: $400
Optional Honorable Mention(s): $200

Eligibility: Currently enrolled undergraduate college student through age 24, including but not limited to college seniors graduating in the spring or summer 2015, attending a North American college or university.

Prompt: Atheists are one of the most despised minorities, yet statistically are among the most moral segments in the U.S. population. Write a persuasive essay about why nonbelievers should be respected, not stigmatized. Include personal perspective or experiences with religious family, schoolmates or community. Provide supporting arguments (e.g., recent studies, philosophical or historic perspectives) about how freethinkers contribute to society despite widespread vilification. Include at least one paragraph about why you are a nonbeliever.

Length: 700–900 words

Other requirements: Essay must be submitted both by mail and email by postmark deadline. No faxes. Typed, stapled and double-spaced with standard margins. Include word count. Place name and essay title on each page. Choose own title and include a one-paragraph biography on separate page at end of essay. Include name, age and birth date, hometown, university or college, year in school, intended major and interests, and anticipated graduation date. Don't attach a résumé.

Provide both summer and fall 2015 addresses (campus and home), phone numbers and email addresses for notification. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. Do not write under or over word minimums and maximums. For chance to win $50 bonus, indicate the name of the secular school or college club you belong to or join the Secular Student Alliance (free at www.secularstudents.org/studentmember) and mention it. The bonus is provided by a kind couple. Click here to view a printable PDF

Deadline: Postmarked no later than June 15, 2015. Winners announced in September.

Submission rules: Essays must be both mailed (postmarked) and emailed no later than June 15, 2015 to with subject heading "Essay [and Your Full Name]," e.g., Essay (Your Full Name), and to:

College Essay Contest
FFRF
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701

About Michael Hakeem: The late Michael Hakeem, a sociology professor, was an FFRF officer and active atheist known by generations of University of Wisconsin-Madison students for fine-tuning their reasoning abilities.

Brian Bolton Graduate Student/Older Student Essay Contest

For Graduate Students to Age 30 or any Student Age 25 to 30

First Place Brian Bolton Memorial Award: $3,000
Second Place: $2,000
Third Place: $1,000
Fourth Place: $750
Fifth Place: $500
Sixth Place: $400
Optional Honorable Mention(s): $200

Eligibility: Currently enrolled graduate student up to age 30, or undergrads ages 25–30, attending a North American college or university, including but not limited to someone graduating or earning a degree in the spring or summer of 2015.

Prompt: Write a persuasive analysis dissecting the common claim that religion cannot be held responsible for violence in its name. For example, President Obama has said of the Islamic State: "They are not religious leaders, they are terrorists. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism." He also said "no god condones the killing of innocents." Analyze the claim that it's only a handful of extremists who are "perverting" religion who are to blame for the violence, and not religion itself. Provide supporting arguments to back up your position (religious pronouncements such as biblical or Koranic verses, historic or contemporary violence, underlying factors, etc.). Are there solutions to religious terrorism?

Length: 750-950 words

Other requirements: Essay must be submitted both by mail and email by postmark deadline. No faxes. Typed, stapled and double-spaced with standard margins. Include word count. Place name and essay title on each page. Choose own title and include one-paragraph biography on separate page at end of essay. Include name, age and birth date, hometown, university or college, year in school, intended major and interests, previous degrees and anticipated graduation date. Don't attach a résumé.

Provide both summer and fall 2015 addresses (campus and home), phone numbers and email addresses for notification. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. Do not write under or over word minimums and maximums. For a chance to win $50 bonus, indicate the name of the secular school or college club you belong to (or join the Secular Student Alliance, free at www.secularstudents.org/studentmember) and mention it). The bonus is provided by a kind couple. Click to view printable PDF here

Deadline: Postmarked no later than July 1, 2015. Winners announced by end of September.

Submission rules: Essays must be both mailed (postmarked) and emailed no later than July 1, 2015 to with subject heading "Essay [and Your Full Name]," e.g., Essay (Your Full Name), and to:

Graduate Student/Older Student Essay Contest
FFRF
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701

The competition is generously endowed by Brian Bolton, an FFRF Lifetime Member who is a retired psychologist, humanist counselor and university professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas. 

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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