We are not currently accepting applications.
Who Can Enter
High school juniors and seniors for the 2014–2015 school year who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible to participate.
Students must submit an essay between 800 and 1,000 words on the provided topic below.
FIRE must receive all entries by January 1, 2015. Winners will be announced January 31, 2015.
One $10,000 first prize, one $5,000 second prize, and three $1,000 runner-up prizes will be awarded for the best essays.
Four $500 winners will be chosen from the remaining entrants in a drawing.
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.
FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.
Also check out FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus and explore thefire.org to learn more about us!
Watch The Videos
Before you begin your essay, watch these two short videos about real students who were censored and punished for speech that is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Students should also watch FIRE’s other videos.
Why is free speech important at our nation’s colleges and universities?
Using examples from both videos, discuss how censorship of student speech is incompatible with higher education.
Remember: Your essay should be 800–1,000 words.
The essay contest is now closed. Please sign up below for information about the 2016–17 essay contest.