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Scholarships and Essay Contests for Secular Students


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

American Atheists Scholarship

Each year, American Atheists awards scholarships to recognize student activism: two $1,000 O'Hair Scholarships, four $500 President's Scholarships, and two $500 Chinn Scholarships for LGBT Atheist Activism. The 2017-2018 Scholarship Application is available for download here. Winners will be announced at the end of March 2017.

The Scholarship

Detail your activities, motivations, and the importance of atheist activism in a 500- to 1,000-word essay. While all activism is important and considered, special attention is given to those students who show activism specifically in their schools, such as starting an atheist group or fighting against violations of the separation of religion and government within their school. Please note that merely writing an essay will not win you a scholarship. This is about activism, and your essay should be about your activism for the cause of atheist civil liberties, the separation of religion and government, or presenting a positive view of atheism to the general public and your fellow students and faculty.

Qualified applicants must also submit any and all information or evidence they have of their activism for the previous year. Examples include:

  • Letters printed in newspapers.
  • Letters to politicians about key issues with the replies from those politicians.
  • Letters of testimonials from teachers, friends, or other activists.
  • Evidence that you sponsor an atheist podcast, blog, etc.
  • Student essays.
  • Photos.

Please submit all materials as attachments (PDFs are preferred, Microsoft Word documents are acceptable) to your email. Your application essay should not be included in the body text of the email. All files should include your first and last name in the file name. For example: JessicaExample-Application.pdf, JessicaExample-Essay.doc, JessicaExample-Transcript.pdf. Photos and scans should be of appropriate resolution and size.

Submit the scholarship application, supporting materials, and a 500- to 1000-word essay to scholarship@atheists.org by February 3, 2017 for consideration. Applications received after the deadline will not be accepted. Incomplete applications will not be considered. 

Jerry Carpenter Memorial Scholarship

The Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers awards a $1,000 scholarship to an atheist student enrolling in college or university.

The Scholarship

The application period is for the 2017-2018 school year. 

To be considered, please submit

  • The Scholarship Application Form
  • A copy of your most recent school report card or transcript showing a GPA of at least 2.5
  • Documentation supporting your activism during the year
  • 500-1,000 word essay detailing your activism

The scholarships can be used by high school students entering college the upcoming year who have been Iowa residents for at least two years. Applicants must identify as atheists and are judged based on their actions as atheists and activists. Applicants of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations are encouraged to apply. The winner of the scholarship will be published on the IAF website, Facebook group, and other social media.

You do not have to be a member of Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers to apply for the scholarship, but if you win, you will also be awarded a one year membership to Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers.

Send submissions and all required materials to scholarship@IowaAtheists.org by March 1, 2017. Incomplete applications will not be considered. The winner will be notified before April 1, 2017.

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