Topics, rules and deadlines have been announced for FFRF’s 2011 high school, college and graduate/mature student essay scholarship competitions.
FFRF, an educational state-church watchdog that has 16,000 members nationwide, has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979. In 1994, FFRF added a separate contest for college-bound high school seniors. The Foundation debuted its first “graduate/mature students over age 25” competition in 2010, resulting in many excellent essays.
Each competition awards a $2,000 cash scholarship for the first-place essay, a $1,000 cash scholarship for second place, $500 for third place and $300 for a newly offered fourth place. Several $200 “honorable mentions” are awarded at judges’ discretion.
FFRF members are asked to publicize the essay competitions to their local high schools, colleges and universities. (See ads, back wrap.)
Herbert Bushong High School Senior Essay Competition
This competition is named for Texas Foundation member Herbert Bushong, a nonagenarian with an interest in rewarding freethinking by students.
College-bound high school seniors are asked in their essays to “Describe a Moment that Made You Proud to be a Freethinker (Atheist/Agnostic/Nonbeliever).” The dictionary definition of freethinker is “one who forms his or her opinion about religion based on reason rather than faith, tradition or authority.” Maybe you had a moment, experience or “epiphany” that led to or affirmed your rejection of religion. Maybe you stood up for freethought or spoke out against the encroachment of religion at school social events, in government, in classroom instruction or in your family. Use that moment to illustrate why you are a freethinker.
High school seniors in North America who are college-bound in fall 2011 are eligible. Include your high school’s name, city, state and date of graduation.
Essays should be 500 to 750 words. (Note other requirements at the end of this article.)
Deadline: June 1, 2011. Winners will be announced in August.
Essays must be both mailed and e-mailed. Mail no later than June 1 to:
High School Essay Contest
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701
Also e-mail your essay no later than midnight June 1, 2011, to and use the word “Essay” and your name in the subject heading. Example: Essay (Your full name). Please include a copy of all information indicated in the requirements.
Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Competition
The late Professor Michael Hakeem was an FFRF officer, sociologist and active atheist known by generations of University of Wisconsin-Madison students for fine-tuning their reasoning abilities.
The topic of this year’s college essay competition: “Why I Am an Atheist/Agnostic/Unbeliever and Not a ____.” Fill in the blank with Catholic or Muslim or born-again, etc. In honor of Bertrand Russell, who wrote the classic, “Why I Am Not a Christian,” write your own essay about why you are a nonbeliever and not, for example, a Mormon.
Submit a persuasive essay about why you reject religion and choose reason over faith. Use a personal (first-person) approach. Experiences with being a “heretic” in a religion-drenched society may be included. Or you may wish to employ your best arguments against religious belief.
The competition is open to North American students or students currently enrolled in North American colleges or universities at least through December 2011. Note: The college scholarship is restricted to under age 25. If you are 25 or older or a graduate student, please enter FFRF’s competition for grad/mature students (below). College-bound high school seniors enter FFRF’s high school competition.
College students should submit an essay of 750 to 1,000 words. (Note other requirements at the end of this article.)
Deadline: June 15, 2011. Winners will be announced by September.
Essays must be both mailed and e-mailed. Mail postmarked by June 15 to:
College Essay Contest
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701
Also e-mail your essay no later than midnight June 15 to with the word “Essay” and your name in the subject heading. Example: Essay (Your full name). Please include a copy of all information indicated in the requirements.
Brian Bolton Graduate/Mature Student Essay Competition
The competition is named for Brian Bolton, an FFRF Lifetime Member who is a retired psychologist, humanist minister and university professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas.
Graduate students, or currently enrolled college students age 25 or older, who are enrolled in a North American college or university through at least December 2011, are eligible. The topic: “Why Thomas Jefferson Got It Right!” The Jeffersonian “wall of separation between church and state” is endangered. Write a persuasive essay defending the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government. You may wish to debunk myths such as that the United States is a Christian nation or address ongoing threats to the Establishment Clause. You may wish to use examples of the harm created by religion in government from a personal, legal, topical and/or historical perspective.
The entrant should submit a 900 to 1,200 word essay. (See other requirements below.)
Deadline: July 15, 2011. Winners will be announced by September.
Essays must be both mailed and e-mailed. Mail postmarked by July 15 to:
Graduate/Mature student Essay competition
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701
Also e-mail your essay by midnight June 15 to and use the word “Essay” and your name in the subject heading. Example: Essay (Your full name). Please include a copy of all information indicated in requirements.
Rules applying to all competitions
All essays should be typed, double-spaced, standard margins and stapled. The word count must be included. Put your name and essay title on each page. Entrants choose their own title and include a one-paragraph biography. The bio should include name, age, birth date, hometown, university or college, year in school, major or intended major, degree being earned and interests. Do not include a resumé. Provide both summer and fall 2011 addresses (campus and home), phone numbers and e-mail addresses for notification.
Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Essay must be submitted both by mail and e-mail by deadlines. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions.
By entering contest, students agree to permit winning essays to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF’s newspaper, and later posted online at FFRF’s website. Winners agree to provide a photograph suitable for reproduction with their essay. Winners will receive a school-year subscription to Freethought Today. All eligible non-winning students will be offered a subscription or a freethought book.
Note: FFRF monitors for plagiarism.