Mobile Menu

FFRF 2022 Student Scholarship Essay Contests

Student Essay Contests 2022 FFRF

Please scroll for information about each of FFRF's five 2022 essay competitions: college-bound high school seniors, ongoing college students, older/grad students, BIPOC students and law school students. Students may enter only one contest per year. Eligibility, deadlines, and links to apply, etc., are all indicated below.


Diane and Stephen Uhl Essay Competition for Law School Students 

Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards

First Place Prize: $4,000
Second Place Award: $3,000
Third Place Award: $2,000
Optional Honorable Mention(s): $500

This Year's Topic: Why religious exemptions from vaccine requirements are not legally required.

Prompt: As the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has become vital to the global effort to end the pandemic, both government and private employers, as well as some schools, around the country have announced vaccine mandates. Historically, very few employees have claimed religious exemptions from required vaccinations. However, people who oppose COVID-19 vaccines for political or other reasons are now abusing religious exemptions in order to flout vaccine mandates.

Against this backdrop lawsuits have surged, challenging vaccine requirements on religious grounds and arguing that religious exemptions to such requirements are required by the First Amendment. Craft an argument that religious exemptions from vaccine requirements are not legally required, addressing constitutional questions as well as other legal issues raised by such mandates. 

DEADLINE: March 15, 2022

ESSAY GRADING: Essays will be blinded to avoid unintentional bias. A selection of FFRF attorneys will be on the review panel. 

ELIGIBILITY: The contest is open to all ongoing law school students attending a North American law school. You remain eligible to enter this contest if you will graduate from law school by spring or summer of 2022. You are not eligible to enter if you will be starting law school for the first time in the fall of 2022. You may not re-enter if FFRF has already awarded you for a law student essay.

WORD LIMIT AND FORMATTING: Essay must be no longer than 1,500 words (not including footnotes), double spaced, standard margins, and font size 11 to 14 point. Include your name and title of your essay on each page. Choose your own title. Pages must be numbered. Indicate word length at end of essay.

Submit Essay Here


William J. Schulz Memorial Essay Contest for College-Bound High School Seniors

Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards

First Place Prize: $3,500
Second Place Award: $3,000
Third Place Award: $2,500
Fourth Place Award: $2,000
Fifth Place Award: $1,500
Sixth Place Award: $1,000
Seventh Place Award: $750
Eighth Place Award: $500
Ninth Place Award: $400
Tenth Place Award: $300

Optional Honorable Mention(s): $200

All eligible entrants are offered a full one-year complimentary student membership, which includes a digital version of 10 issues of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper (publishes winning student essays), and a complimentary book or premium.

This Year's Topic: "Good without God"

Prompt: Nonbelievers are routinely told we can't be moral if we don't believe in a god. Please write a letter to a religious friend, classmate, teacher, family member, etc., who buys this myth, to explain why you can be "Good without God." Debunk what's wrong with this mindless prejudice against atheists and explain why religiosity is not synonymous with morality. You may wish to use examples. Be sure to define or include what being moral or ethical entails.

Word Limit: 350-500 words

Eligibility: Open to all high school seniors who graduate in spring 2022, who will be attending a North American college or university in fall 2022. If you took a "gap year," please fill out question 9. Note: If you fit this profile and if you are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color, you may enter this contest, or you may enter FFRF's David Hudak Memorial Contest for Black, Indigenous and Students of Color. However, you may not enter both contests.

Deadline: Fill out the application and submit your essay no later than 11:59 pm, June 1, 2022. Winners will be notified no later than August 2022.

Submission RulesPlease fill out the online submission form and attach the essayThe essay must be double-spaced, standard margins, the font size of 11 to 14 point, and attached as a PDF. Your name and the name of your essay must be included on every page. Pages must be numbered. Indicate word length at end of the essay. Please choose your own title. Do not upload any other documents here, such as a resume.

Agreement: By entering the competition, you agree to permit your name and winning essay to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper; announced in a news release, and posted online at FFRF's website. You also agree, if you win an award, to promptly provide FFRF with a high-resolution photograph of yourself suitable for reproduction with your winning essay.

Requirements: Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions, including word limit and deadline. Students are required to submit their essay via the online application, and should carefully review all contest rules. FFRF monitors for plagiarism.

Banish Manglish: FFRF encourages you to please use inclusive language, rather than language that presumes everyone is male. For example, try "humanity" or "humankind," rather than "mankind."


Kenneth ProulxKenneth L. Proulx Memorial Essay Contest for Ongoing College Students

Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards

First Place Prize: $3,500
Second Place Award: $3,000
Third Place Award: $2,500
Fourth Place Award: $2,000
Fifth Place Award: $1,500
Sixth Place Mr. Madison Arnold Award: $1,000
Seventh Place Award: $750
Eighth Place Award: $500
Ninth Place Award: $400
Tenth Place Award: $300

Optional Honorable Mention(s): $200

All eligible entrants are offered a full 1-year complimentary student membership to FFRF, which includes a digital version of 10 issues a year of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper (publishes winning student essays), and a complimentary book or premium.

This Year's Topic: In God I Trust - NOT!

Prompt: Please write a personal statement about why you, as a nonbeliever/atheist/humanist, have faith not in a supernatural deity but in yourself. How does trusting in a deity instead of oneself prevent individuals or society from advancing or solving problems? Why would the world be a better place if humankind put faith in itself, instead of a supernatural deity? Give examples.

Word Limit: 450-650 words

Eligibility: Open to all ongoing undergraduate college students up to age 24 already attending a North American college or university. You remain eligible to enter this contest if you will graduate from college by spring or summer of 2022. If you're entering college in Fall 2022 for the first time, please enter FFRF's contest for college-bound high school seniors. If you're an undergraduate student age 25 through 30, please enter FFRF's graduate/"older" student essay contest instead. If you're Black, Indigenous or a Student of Color up to age 21, who is currently enrolled in college, you may enter this contest or the David Hudak Essay Contest for Black, Indigenous and Students of Color, but you may not enter both contests. You may only enter one FFRF Essay competition per year.

Deadline: Fill out application and submit your essay no later than 11:59pm, June 1, 2022. Winners will be notified no later than August 2022.

Submission Rules: Please fill out online submission form and attach essayThe essay must be double-spaced, standard margins, font size of 11 to 14 point, and attached as a PDF. Your name and the name of your essay must be included on every page. Pages must be numbered. Indicate word length at end of the essay. Please choose your own title, do not use the topic of the essay as the title. Do not attach a resume with your essay.

Agreement: By entering the competition, you agree to permit your name and winning essay to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper; announced in a news release, and posted online at FFRF's website. You also agree, if you win an award, to promptly provide FFRF with a photograph of yourself suitable for reproduction with your winning essay.

Requirements: Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions, including word limit and deadline. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. You may not re-enter this contest if FFRF has previously awarded you for an essay in the College Contest, (previously named the Michael Hakeem Memorial contest). If you have previously entered but did not win, you may submit another essay in this contest.

Banish Manglish: FFRF encourages you to please use inclusive language, rather than language that presumes everyone is male. For example, try "humanity" or "humankind," rather than "mankind."

Kenneth L. Proulx (pronounced "Prue"), 1924-2019, was a WWII vet and self-educated man who greatly valued education, and was one of FFRF's most stalwart and generous members. Among his many pithy sayings: “The Mafia and the Catholic Church are the largest crime syndicates on Earth. One of them is illegal.” A frugal worker at an auto plant by day, he taught himself how to invest. His bequest is endowing the college competition.

The $1,000 prize in the ongoing college competition is now being generously endowed starting in 2021 by actor and FFRF Lifetime Member Madison Arnold. (Photo below.)

Madison Arnold


David Hudak Memorial Essay Contest For Black, Indigenous and Students of Color

Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards

First Place Prize: $3,500
Second Place Award: $3,000
Third Place Award: $2,500
Fourth Place Award: $2,000
Fifth Place Award: $1,500
Sixth Place Award: $1,000
Seventh Place Award: $750
Eighth Place Award: $500
Ninth Place Award: $400
Tenth Place Award: $300

Optional Honorable Mention(s): $200

All eligible entrants will be offered a full one-year complimentary student membership, which includes a digital version of 10 issues of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper (publishes student essays), and a complimentary book or premium.

This Year's Topic: "How atheism/humanism makes me a better person"

Prompt: Psalm 53:1 preaches: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good." How would you answer this defamation of nontheists? Please write a personal essay that explains why being nonreligious (whether you identify as atheist, agnostic, or humanist) makes you a better, not a worse, person. You may wish to explain why your moral values are improved by your naturalistic views, or cite how nonbelief and nonbelievers have improved the world.

Word Limit: 350-500 words.

Eligibility: Open only to Black, Indigenous and Students of Color ages 17-21, who are either high school seniors graduating in spring 2022 who will be attending a North American college or university in fall 2022, or who are currently enrolled in a North American college or university. If you will be graduating from college in the spring or summer 2022, you remain eligible to enter this contest. This contest is offered to provide support and acknowledgment for freethinking Black, Indigenous and Students of Color, as a minority within a minority. People of Color refers to all racial groups that are not white. Specifically, any person who is not considered white, including African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans and others. FFRF offers other essay contests open to all students in your age group. Students may only enter one FFRF contest annually.

Deadline: Fill out application and submit your essay no later than 11:59pm, June 1, 2022. Winners will be notified no later than August 2022.

Submission Rules: Please fill out online submission form and attach essay. The essay must be double-spaced, standard margins, font size of 11 to 14 point, and attached as a PDF. Your name and the name of your essay must be included on every page. Pages must be numbered. Please choose your own title, do not use the topic of the essay as the title. Indicate word length at end of the essay. Do not attach a resume with your essay.

Agreement: By entering the competition, you agree to permit your name and winning essay to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper; announced in a news release, and posted online at FFRF's website. You also agree, if you win an award, to promptly provide FFRF with a high-resolution photograph of yourself suitable for reproduction with your winning essay.

Requirements: Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions, including word limit and deadline. FFRF monitors for plagiarism.

Banish Manglish: FFRF encourages you to please use inclusive language, rather than language that presumes everyone is male. For example, try "humanity" or "humankind," rather than "mankind."


Cornelius Vander Broek Essay Contest for Graduate/"Older" Students (To Age 30) 

Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards

First Place Prize: $3,500
Second Place Award: $3,000
Third Place Award: $2,500
Fourth Place Award: $2,000
Fifth Place Award: $1,500
Sixth Place Award: $1,000
Seventh Place Award: $750
Eighth Place Award: $500
Ninth Place Award: $400
Tenth Place Award: $300
Optional Honorable Mention(s): $200

All eligible entrants are offered a full 1-year complimentary student membership to FFRF, which includes a digital version of 10 issues of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper (publishes winning student essays), and a complimentary book or premium.

This Year's Topic: "Why religion is not the answer"

Prompt: Please analyze and document at least one major national or worldwide problem in which religion is the problem - not the answer. How does faith or religious dogma get in the way of solving earthly problems? If religion is not the answer, what is? Indicate instead how we should approach the challenge you are analyzing in particular and problem-solving in general.

Word Limit: 550 - 750 words

Eligibility: Open to any graduate students through the age 30, or to undergraduate students ages 25-30 who attend a North American college or university. You remain eligible to enter this contest if you will graduate by spring or summer 2022.

Deadline: Fill out application and submit your essay no later than 11:59pm, July 1, 2022. Winners will be notified no later than September 2022.

Submission Rules: Please fill out the online submission form and attach the essay.Essay must be typeset, double-spaced, standard margins, font size of 11 to 14 point, and attached as a PDF. Your name and the name of your essay must be included on every page. Pages must be numbered. Indicate word length at end of the essay. Please choose your own title; do not use the topic of the essay as the title. Do not attach a resume with your essay.

Agreement: By entering the competition, you agree to permit your name and winning essay to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper; announced in a news release, and posted online at FFRF's website. You also agree, if you win an award, to promptly provide FFRF with a high-resolution photograph of yourself suitable for reproduction with your winning essay.

Requirements: Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions, including word limit and deadline. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. You may not re-enter this contest if FFRF has previously awarded you for an essay in FFRF's Brian Bolton "Graduate/Older Student" contest. If you have previously entered but not won, you may submit another essay in this year's contest.

Banish Manglish: FFRF encourages you to please use inclusive language, rather than male-generic language. For example, try "humanity" or "humankind," rather than "mankind."