Open to juniors and seniors in U.S. high schools, including home-schooled students, as well as U.S. citizens attending high school overseas. Additional questions regarding eligibility may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students must submit an essay between 700 and 900 words on the provided topic below.
FIRE must receive all entries by 11:59 EST, December 31, 2020. Winners will be announced by February 15, 2021.
One $10,000 first prize, one $5,000 second prize, three $1,000 third place prizes and four $500 prizes will be awarded.
Before You Start
Get to know us! The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. In addition to defending the rights of students and faculty, FIRE works to educate students and the general public on the necessity of free speech and its importance to a thriving democratic society.
The freedom of speech, enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, is a foundational American right. Nowhere is that right more important than on our college campuses, where the free flow of ideas and the clash of opposing views advance knowledge and promote human progress. It is on our college campuses, however, where some of the most serious violations of free speech occur, and where students are regularly censored simply because their expression might offend others.
In a persuasive letter or essay, convince your peers that free speech is a better idea than censorship.
Your letter or essay must be between 700-900 words. We encourage you to draw from current events, historical examples, our free speech comic, other resources on FIRE’s website, and/or your own personal experiences.
Note: While there is no required format for your submission, many entrants use MLA guidelines. Successful entries will show an understanding of the importance of free speech and the pitfalls of censorship. You may use in-text citations, and do not need to include a References or Works Cited page. Essays that do not address the prompt question or fail to meet the word-count requirements will not be considered. View the essays of some of our past winners here!
Entering this essay contest constitutes agreement to having your name and essay published on FIRE’s website if you are selected as a winner. FIRE reserves the right to make minor edits to winning essays before publication on our website.