Student Essay Scholarships

Student Essay Scholarships (5)

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2012 Student Essay Contest

Written by

FFRF Brian Bolton Graduate/Mature Student Essay Contest for Grad Students and Students Age 25 and Older

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has awarded graduate students (or any students 25 or older) $9,100 in this year's essay competition. Students were asked to describe "Why God and Government Are a Dangerous Mix – Especially in an Election Year," in 850-1,000 words. There were six major winners with a tie for fourth place, plus seven honorable mentions. The winners are: 

  • First place ($3,000): Elizabeth Pipal, Harvard Graduate School of Design.
  • Second place ($2,000): Wilson Melón, Purdue University.
  • Third place ($1,000): Lynn Wilhelm, North Carolina State University.
  • Fourth place ($500): Bryan Johnson, Colorado State University.
  • Fourth place ($500): Vicky Weber, Colorado State University.
  • Fifth place ($300): Jemille Bailey, Columbia University.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Anastassia Smorodinskaya, Columbia University.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Antwon Kennedy, Kennesaw State University.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Ashley Miller, University of South Carolina.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Justin Vacula, Marywood University.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Kristina Beverlin, University of Kansas.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Maria Rodriguez, University of Connecticut School of Law.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Wanda Thompson, Western Governor’s University.

The awards are made possible by the generosity of FFRF Lifetime Member Brian Bolton, a retired psychologist, humanist minister and university professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas. FFRF would also like to extend a warm thank you to FFRF members Dean and Dorea Schramm for providing the honorable mention awardees with a $50 bonus.


FFRF Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Contest

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has awarded $7,800 to 10 college students in this year's essay competition. Students were asked to describe "Why I am an out of the closet atheist (freethinker)," in 750-900 words. There were five major winners, plus five honorable mentions. The top five essays can be found on pages 12-14 of the September issue of Freethought Today. The winners are: 

  • First place ($3,000): Laila Shalikar, University of California at Berkeley.
  • Second place ($2,000): Savannah Roland, College of Charleston.
  • Third place ($1,000): Casimir Klim, Columbia University.
  • Fourth place ($500): Anna Biela, Purdue University.
  • Fifth place ($300): Eric Ouellet, Carleton University.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Kate Heetland, University of Northern Iowa.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Leah Aeby, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Lukas Deem, University of Central Arkansas.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Michaelyn Everhart, University of Kansas.
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Omar De Los Santos, Yale University.

This year's awards were made possible by the Michael Hakeem Memorial, endowed by his bequest. Mr. Hakeem was a well-known sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an FFRF officer and active atheist. FFRF would also like to extend a special thank you to FFRF members Dean and Dorea Schramm for providing each student with a $50 bonus.


FFRF Herbert Bushong Annual Essay Contest for High School Seniors Who Are College-Bound in the Fall

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased to announce the 2012 Herbert Bushong High School Essay Award Winners. FFRF has awarded $11,250 to 13 college-bound high school seniors in this year's essay competition. Seniors were asked to "describe a moment when they stood up for Freethought and/or that made them proud to be a freethinker," in 500-700 words. There were seven winners in the top five, with two ties for fourth and fifth place, plus six honorable mentions. Their essays can be found on pages 11-15 in the August Freethought Today. The winners are: 

  • First place ($3,000): Jordan Halpern, University of California-Davis. 
  • Second place ($2,000): Danielle Kelly, University of Montana in Missoula. 
  • Third place ($1,000): Joseph Price, UCLA. 
  • Fourth place tie ($500): Nicole Schreiber, New York University. 
  • Fourth place tie ($500): Sarah Hedge, Northwestern. 
  • Fifth place tie ($300): Rebecca Ratero, Rutgers. 
  • Fifth place tie ($300): Samantha Biatch, Smith College. 
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Abigail Dove, Swarthmore College. 
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Amedee Martella, University of Colorado-Boulder. 
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Cheyenne Tessier, The George Washington University (Cheyenne will defer her university enrollment for a year to do humanitarian service in Senegal with Global Citizen).
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Jarrett Browne, Wright State University. 
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Kaitlin Holden, Winthrop University. 
  • Honorable Mention ($200): Zach Gowan, USC Upstate. 

Nonagenarian Herbert "Harry" Bushong has endowed this year's contest. FFRF would also like to extend a special thank you to FFRF member John Moe for endowing the honorable mention awards of $200 and FFRF members Dean and Dorea Schramm for providing each student with a $50 bonus.

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FFRF Student Scholarship Essay Contests

Written by

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.

Printable PDF

brianboltonFor Graduate Students to age 30 or Undergrads 25 to 30

First Place, Brian Bolton Award — $3,000


Second Place — $2,000


Third Place — $1,000


Fourth Place — $75o


Fifth Place — $500


Sixth Place — $400

Honorable Mention(s) — $200

“WHY 'RELIGIOUS LIBERTY' DOES NOT MEAN THE RIGHT TO IMPOSE YOUR RELIGION ON OTHERS”

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 Spring or Summer 2014.

Topic: Write a persuasive analysis of the newest danger to the Establishment Clause: The radical redefinition of “religious freedom” to include the right to impose one’s religious beliefs on others. Research and include at least some examples, such as religious litigants opposing Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate or states passing laws to allow businesses to decline services to same-sex couples based on religious objections, or other issues, such as statutes exempting faith-healing parents from prosecution. Or analyze what’s right or wrong with the Supreme Court’s ruling this summer in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby (in which a corporation claims its “religious beliefs” are violated by permitting employees to exercise their own freedom of conscience).

Length: 750 to 1,000 words. Include word count. Submit typed, double-spaced essay with standard margins.

Other Requirements: Choose own title. Do not include resumé. Please staple and place your name and essay title on each page. Include a separate paragraph identifying your age, birthdate, hometown, college or university, year in school or degree being earned, previous degree(s) earned, major and interests. Include your name, mailing address, phone number(s), and e-mail address. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Essay must be submitted both by mail and e-mail by deadline (see below). 

Dean & Dorea Schramm, FFRF members, are offering a $100 bonus to any student winner who is a member of FFRF, a secular student club or the Secular Student Alliance, at the time the essay is submitted. Join SSA free online at: www.secularstudents.org, under donate. To be eligible for the bonus, be sure to specify in your bio whether you belong to FFRF, a secular student club (please name) or have joined SSA online.

By entering contest, students agree to have winning essays printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF’s newspaper, and later posted online at FFRF’s website. Winners agree to promptly 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.

Deadline: Postmarked no later than July 15, 2014. Winners announced in September. Mailing specifications: Send both by email and mail, no later than July 15, 2014. Email your essay no later than midnight, July 15, 2014, to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Use the word “essay” and your first and last name in the subject heading. Example: Essay: (Your full name). Also mail (postmarked by July 15, 2014) to:

Graduate/Older Student Essay Competition

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 minister and university professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas.

mikehakeem35th Annual College Student Essay Contest (2014)

Printable PDF 

FOR Currently enrolled COLLEGE STUDENTS UNDER AGE 25

First Place, Michael Hakeem Memorial Award — $3,000


Second Place — $2,000


Third Place — $1,000


Fourth Place — $75o


Fifth Place — $500


Sixth Place — $400

Honorable Mention(s) — $200

“My atheist/unbeliever 'coming out' story”

Eligibility: Currently-enrolled college student under age 25, currently attending a North American college or university at least through spring or summer 2014. (Undergraduates over age 25: please enter the FFRF Graduate/Older Student Essay Competition. College-bound high school seniors enter FFRF High School Contest.)

Topic: Use a personal (first-person) approach about how and why you came out as a nonbeliever (freethinker, atheist, agnostic, skeptic). Include some intellectual analysis of why you reject religion. If you grew up without religion, you may wish to describe your experiences being open as an atheist or nonbeliever with religious classmates or society. If raised with religion, tell us how and why you thought your way out of religion. You may wish to include experiences with activism.  

Length: 700 to 900 words. Include word count. Submit typed, double-spaced essay with standard margins.

Other Requirements: Choose your own title. Do not include a resume. Please staple. Place your name and essay title on each page. Include a separate paragraph identifying your age and birthdate, hometown, college or university, year in school or degree being earned, major and interests. Include your name, mailing address, contact phone number(s), and email address. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Essay must be submitted both by mail and e-mail by deadline (see below). 

Dean & Dorea Schramm, FFRF members, are offering a $100 bonus to any student winner who is a member of FFRF, a secular student club or the Secular Student Alliance, at the time the essay is submitted. Join SSA free online at: www.secularstudents.org, under donate. To be eligible for the bonus, be sure to specify in your bio whether you belong to FFRF, a secular student club (please name) or have joined SSA online.

By entering contest, students agree to have winning essays printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF’s newspaper, and later posted online at FFRF’s website. Winners agree to promptly 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.

Deadline: Postmarked no later than June 15, 2014. Winners will be announced in September.

Mailing specifications: Send both by email (see below) and mail. Email your essay no later than midnight, June 15, 2014, to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Use the word “essay” and your first and last name in the subject heading. Example: Essay: (Your full name). Please include a copy of everything indicated in requirements. Also mail postmarked no later than June 15, 2014, to:

College Essay Competition

FFRF

PO Box 750

Madison WI 53701

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

20th Annual High School Seniors Essay Contest 2014

Send both by email and mail, no later than June 1, 2014. Email your essay no later than midnight, June 1, 2014, to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Printable PDF

FOR COLLEGE-BOUND HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS

First Place: William J. Schulz Memorial Award — $3,000


Second Place — $2,000


Third Place — $1,000


Fourth Place — $75o


Fifth Place — $500


Sixth Place — $400

Honorable Mention(s) — $200

DESCRIBE "A MOMENT WHEN YOU STOOD UP FOR FREETHOUGHT/SECULARISM" 

Eligibility: North American high school senior who graduates in spring 2014, going to college in fall 2014.

Topic: Write from a personal perspective about your activism or include memorable challenges you’ve faced as a nonbelieving teenager, in your family, your high school or community. Explain how and why you’ve spoken up for freethought and/or secular government in the classroom, at school events, in government or your personal life. Include at least some intellectual analysis of what led you to reject religion and/or why you care about keeping religion out of public schools/ government.

Length: 500 to 700 words. Include word count. Submit typed, double-spaced essay with standard margins.

Other Requirements: Choose your own title. Do not include a resumé. Please staple. Place your name and essay title on each page. Include a separate paragraph identifying your age, birthdate, hometown, the college or university you will be attending in the fall, intended major and interests or high school achievements. Include your name, mailing address, phone number(s), and e-mail address. Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Essay must be submitted both by mail and e-mail by deadline (see below). 

Dean & Dorea Schramm, FFRF members, are offering a $100 bonus to any student winner who is a member of FFRF, a secular student club or the Secular Student Alliance, at the time the essay is submitted. Join SSA free online at: www.secularstudents.org, under donate. To be eligible for the bonus, be sure to specify in your bio whether you belong to FFRF, a secular student club (please name) or have joined SSA online.

By entering contest, you agree to have winning essays printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF’s newspaper, and later posted online at FFRF’s website. Winners agree to promptly 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.

Deadline: Postmarked no later than June 1, 2014. Winners announced in August.

Mailing specifications: Send both by email and mail, no later than June 1, 2014. Email your essay no later than midnight, June 1, 2014, to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Use the word “essay” and your first and last name in the subject heading. Example: Essay: (Your full name). Also mail, postmarked no later than June 1, 2014 to:

High School Essay Contest

FFRF

PO Box 750

Madison WI 53701

About William J. Schulz: This competition is endowed by William J. Schulz, 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.

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

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

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