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Scholarships and Essay Contests for Secular Students

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Every year, the Secular Student Alliance and other like minded organizations offer scholarships to students. Check here frequently to see what's being offered.


Freedom From Religion Foundation William J. Schulz High School Essay Contest
(Click here for more info)

Description
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. Write a 350-500 word essay either of the two prompts:

  • "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.)

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. Winners agree to promptly provide a photograph suitable for reproduction with their essay and will not receive their prize until they do so.

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.

Scholarships

  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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 affiliate (mention it in your bio).

To apply

Must be a North American high school senior who graduates in spring 2016, going on to college in fall 2016.

Essays must be both mailed and emailed. Email your essay to highschoolessay AT ffrf DOT org with subject heading "Essay [and Your Full Name]." Mail must be postmarked no later than June 1, 2016 to:

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


Freedom From Religion Foundation Michael Hakeem Memorial Essay Contest
(Click here for more info)

Description
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. Write a 550 to 700 word essay either of the two prompts:

    • "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.

    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. Winners agree to promptly provide a photograph suitable for reproduction with their essay and will not receive their prize until they do so.

    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.

    Scholarships

    • 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
    • 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.
    • 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 affiliate (mention it in your bio).

    To apply

    Must be an 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.

    Essays must be both mailed and emailed. Email your essay to collegeessay AT ffrf DOT org with subject heading "Essay [and Your Full Name]." Mail must be postmarked no later than June 15, 2016 to:

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


    Freedom From Religion Foundation Brian Bolton Graduate Student/Older Student Essay Contest
    (Click here for more info)

    Description
    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. Write a 600 to 800 word essay on the following prompt:

      • "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.

      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. Winners agree to promptly provide a photograph suitable for reproduction with their essay and will not receive their prize until they do so.

      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.

      Scholarships

      • 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
      • 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.
      • 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 affiliate (mention it in your bio).

      To apply

      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.

      Essays must be both mailed and emailed. Email your essay to gradessay AT ffrf DOT org with subject heading "Essay [and Your Full Name]." Mail must be postmarked no later than July 15, 2016 to:

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


      First in the Family Humanist Scholarship Award
      (Click here for more info)

      Four $1,000 scholarships are awarded to high school youth to assist with their tuition, room and board, books, and other academic resources. This award is available to anyone who attends the Los Angeles Unified School District and are accepted into two or four-year colleges regardless of if they are religions or not. Preference is given to students of color (Black/African American, Latino(a), Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American) who are (or have been) in foster care, homeless, undocumented and/or LGBTQ (system involved youth applicants are also welcome).

      Apply online by June 10, 2016 


      Freedom From Religion Foundation Catherine Fahringer Memorial Award
      (Click here for more info)

      Four $2,500 scholarships are awarded to high school youth to assist with their tuition, room and board, books, and other academic resources. This award is available to high school youth who live in the U.S. who identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist and/or secular, and are accepted into two or four-year colleges. Preference is given to students of color (Black/African American, Latino(a), Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American).

      Apply online by June 17, 2016 

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