FFRF Student Scholarship Essay Contests

William J. Schulz High School Essay Contest

First Place William J. Schulz 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

Download the PDF here

Choose one of the two topics below:

"The challenges of growing up a freethinker"

Write a personal (first-person) essay about challenges or problems you have faced as a young freethinker. Did you grow up in a home with devout parents? Were you forced to attend a private religious school or church? Were you ever bullied or put down for your freethinking? Did you have to hide your true thoughts from others for fear of repercussions? Explain how you overcame the prejudices of others, and why you are free from religion, including at least a sentence or two about why you reject religion.

"Why Boy Scouts of America should welcome atheists and nonbelievers"

Write a persuasive open letter to Boy Scouts of America from a personal (first person) point of view about why the Boy Scouts should revoke its bigoted policy officially barring nonreligious boys and their families from membership. The organization recently lifted its homophobic membership ban, but continues to "maintain that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God." Explain why believing in a god is not synonymous with being moral, and why you as a nonbeliever consider yourself a good person and citizen. You may wish to cite the examples of nonbelievers who have contributed to society. Include at least a short paragraph explaining why you are a nonbeliever. (If you are/were a member of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, you may wish recount your experiences.)

Word length: 350-500 words.

Eligibility: North American high school senior who graduates in spring 2016, going on to college in fall 2016.

Deadline: Postmarked no later than June 1, 2016. Winners announced by August.

Submission rules: Essays must be both mailed and emailed. Email your essay to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with subject heading "Essay [and Your Full Name]." Follow other requirements listed below.
Other requirements: Submit essay both by mail and email by postmark deadline. No faxes. Essay must be typed, double-spaced, standard margins and stapled. Include word count. Place name and essay title on each page. Choose own title. Attach a one-paragraph biography on separate page at end of essay including name, age and birth date, hometown, university or college, year in school, major or intended major, degree being earned and interests. Include high school's name, city, state and date of graduation as well as intended college. Do not include a résumé.

For a chance at an additional $100 bonus, indicate the name of the secular school or college club you belong to (including a student membership in FFRF) or Secular Student Alliance (free at www.secularstudents.org/studentmember and mention it in your bio). Provide both summer and fall 2016 addresses (campus and home), phone numbers and email addresses for notification. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. You may not re-enter the same contest for your student group if FFRF has previously awarded you for an essay. By entering, students agree to permit winning essays to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper, and posted online at FFRF's website.

Winners agree to promptly provide a photograph suitable for reproduction with their essay and will not receive their prize until they do so. Winners will receive a school-year subscription to Freethought Today. All eligible entrants will be offered a subscription to Freethought Today or a freethought book or product. Email essay as indicated above; also mail by required deadline to:

FFRF
Attention: High School Essay Contest
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701 

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

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

Download the PDF here.

 Choose one of the two topics below:

"Why I am a freethinker"

Write a personal (first-person) persuasive essay about why you are a nonbeliever (freethinker, atheist, agnostic, skeptic) and your experiences as a young nonbeliever. Please write about what was the most compelling or instrumental catalyst for you in becoming an atheist, or what confirmed your nonbelief, such as a philosophical argument, book or experience. Include some intellectual reasons for your rejection of religion, and the best arguments you would enlist to win over or respond to those who frown on atheism.

"Why I am a freethinker of color"

Write a personal (first-person) persuasive essay about why you are a nonbeliever (freethinker, atheist, agnostic, skeptic), and your experiences as a young nonbeliever of color. Please include some intellectual reasons for your rejection of religion, and the best arguments you would enlist to win over or respond to those who frown on atheism. You may wish to include advice on how the secular movement can become a more welcoming and inclusive place for young freethinkers of color.

Word length: 550 to 700 words.

Eligibility: Ongoing undergraduate college student through age 24, including, but not limited to, college seniors graduating in spring/summer 2016, attending a North American college or university. Note: If you have just graduated from high school but have not yet started college, you must enter the high school senior contest.

Deadline: Postmarked no later than June 15, 2016. Winners announced by September.

Submission rules: Essays must be both mailed and emailed. Email your essay to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with subject heading "Essay [and Your Full Name]." Follow other requirements listed below.
Other requirements: Submit essay both by mail and email by postmark deadline. No faxes. Essay must be typed, double-spaced, standard margins and stapled. Include word count. Place name and essay title on each page. Choose own title. Attach a one-paragraph biography on separate page at end of essay including name, age and birth date, hometown, university or college, year in school, major or intended major, degree being earned and interests. Do not include a résumé.

For a chance at an additional $100 bonus, indicate the name of the secular school or college club you belong to (including a student membership in FFRF) or Secular Student Alliance (free at www.secularstudents.org/studentmember and mention it in your bio). Provide both summer and fall 2016 addresses (campus and home), phone numbers and email addresses for notification. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. You may not re-enter the same contest for your student group if FFRF has previously awarded you for an essay.

By entering, students agree to permit winning essays to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper, and posted online at FFRF's website. Winners agree to promptly provide a photograph suitable for reproduction with their essay and will not receive their prize until they do so. Winners will receive a school-year subscription to Freethought Today. All eligible entrants will be offered a subscription to Freethought Today or a freethought book or product. Email essay as indicated above; also mail by required deadline to:

FFRF
Attention: College Essay Contest
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701

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

Download the PDF here.

"Why God and Politics/Government Are a Dangerous Mix"

The topic is: “Why God and Politics/Government Are a Dangerous Mix — Especially in an Election Year.” Write a persuasive essay about the dangers of religion and politics/government mixing in this election year. Analyze current examples of religious pandering, church politicking or political religious litmus tests that concern you and threaten the Establishment Clause. You may wish to use examples of the harm created by religion in politics and government from a legal, topical or historic perspective, or discuss how it makes you feel excluded as a young secular voter.

Word length: 600 to 800 words.

Eligibility: Currently enrolled graduate student including 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 degree in spring/summer 2016.

Deadline: Postmarked no later than July 15, 2016. Winners announced by October.

Submission rules: Essays must be both mailed and emailed. Email your essay to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with subject heading "Essay [and Your Full Name]." Follow other requirements listed below.

Other requirements: Submit essay both by mail and email by postmark deadline. No faxes. Essay must be typed, double-spaced, standard margins and stapled. Include word count. Place name and essay title on each page. Choose own title. Attach a one-paragraph biography on separate page at end of essay including name, age and birth date, hometown, university or college, year in school, major or intended major, degree being earned and interests. Do not include a résumé.

For a chance at an additional $100 bonus, indicate the name of the secular school or college club you belong to (including a student membership in FFRF) or Secular Student Alliance (free at www.secularstudents.org/studentmember and mention it in your bio). Provide both summer and fall 2016 addresses (campus and home), phone numbers and email addresses for notification. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. You may not re-enter the same contest for your student group if FFRF has previously awarded you for an essay.

By entering, students agree to permit winning essays to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper, and posted online at FFRF's website. Winners agree to promptly provide a photograph suitable for reproduction with their essay and will not receive their prize until they do so. Winners will receive a school-year subscription to Freethought Today. All eligible entrants will be offered a subscription to Freethought Today or a freethought book or product. Email essay as indicated above; also mail by required deadline to:

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

The competition is endowed by Brian Bolton, an FFRF Lifetime Member who is a retired psychologist, humanist minister 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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