Topics, rules and deadlines have been announced for FFRF’s 2012 high school, college and graduate/mature student essay scholarship competitions.
FFRF, an educational state-church watchdog that has 17,500 members nationwide, has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979. In 1994, FFRF added a separate contest for college-bound high school seniors. FFRF debuted its first “graduate/mature students over age 25” competition in 2010.
This year the awards increase to $3,000 for the first-place essay, a $2,000 cash scholarship for second place, $1,000 for third place, $500 for fourth place and $300 for a newly offered fifth 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 in the back wrap or visit: ffrf.org/outreach/student-essay-contests/.
Herbert Bushong High School Senior Essay Competition
This competition is endowed by Texas FFRF member Herbert Bushong, a nonagenarian with an interest in rewarding freethinking students. High school seniors in North America who are college-bound in fall 2012 are eligible.
Describe a moment when you stood up for freethought and/or that made you proud to be a freethinker. A 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. Perhaps you stood up for freethought or spoke out against the encroachment of religion at school events, in government, in the classroom or in your family. Use one such moment to illustrate why you are a freethinker.
Essays should be 500 to 700 words. (Other requirements are listed at the end of this article.)
Deadline: June 1, 2012. Winners will be announced in August.
Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Competition
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. The competition is open to students currently enrolled in North American colleges or universities at least through December 2012. Note: The scholarship is limited to those 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.
The topic of this year’s college essay competition: “Why I Am an Out of the Closet Atheist (Freethinker, etc.).” In honor of FFRF’s “Out of the Closet” campaign, write an essay on why you are “out” as a nonbeliever and think others should be, too. Use a personal (first-person) approach. Experiences with being a “heretic” in a religion-drenched society and describing your “coming out” may be included. You may wish to employ your best arguments for rejecting religious belief.
College students should submit an essay of 750 to 900 words. (Other requirements are listed at the end of the article.)
Deadline: June 15, 2012. Winners will be announced by September.
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 2012, are eligible.
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. Please 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 personal, legal, topical and/or historical perspective.
The entrant should submit a 800 to 1,000 word essay. (See other requirements below.)
Deadline: July 15, 2012. Winners will be announced by September.
Rules applying to all competitions
All essays must be typed, double-spaced, standard margins and stapled. Include word count. 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. High school students should include high school’s name, city, state and date of graduation as well as intended college.
Do not include a résumé. Provide both summer and fall 2012 addresses (campus and home), phone numbers and email addresses for notification.
Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Essay must be submitted both by mail and email by the specified deadlines. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions. FFRF monitors for plagiarism.
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 provide a photograph suitable for reproduction with their essay. Winners will receive a school-year subscription to Freethought Today. All eligible entrants will be offered a subscription or a freethought book.
Send essays by required deadline to:
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701