Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards


Michael Hakeem Memorial First Place Award: $3,000
Second Place Award: $2,000
Third Place Award: $1,000
Fourth Place Award: $750
Fifth Place Award: $600
Sixth Place Award: $500
Seventh Place Award: $400

Optional Honorable Mention(s): $200

 All eligible entrants will receive a full 1-year complimentary student membership to FFRF, which includes a digital version of 10 issues a year of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper (publishes winning student essays). 

All eligible entrants will be offered a complimentary sweatshop-free cotton T-shirt (let us choose the color).  The upbeat message includes a rhyme by the "slightly irreverent" lyricist Yip ("Over the Rainbow") Harburg:  "They who live on love and laughter/Don't mess around with the hereafter."

THIS YEAR'S TOPIC: “Why I'm an unabashed nontheist, not afraid of burning in hell."

PROMPT: On a popular TV commercial recorded for FFRF by Ron Reagan, he identifies himself as "unabashed atheist...not afraid of burning in hell."  Tell us why you are an unabashed____________(fill in the blank with your favorite nonreligious appellation), also not afraid of burning in hell.  Include at least some intellectual reasons why you reject religion, and why hell as a concept is objectionable.  You may wish to address challenges of being a young, "unabashed" freethinker in your family or community.

WORD LENGTH: 450-650 words
ELIGIBILITY: Open to ongoing undergraduate college students up to age24 attending a North American college or university.  You remain eligible to enter this contest if you will graduate from college by spring or summer of 2018. (Note: You may enter only one of FFRF's two essay competitions for ongoing college students.)

If you're entering college for the first time in Fall 2018, please instead enter the William J. Schulz Contest for college-bound high school seniors.  If you're an undergraduate student age 25 through 30, you must enter the Brian Bolton Graduate/"Older" Student Essay Contest.

DEADLINE: Fill out application and submit your essay no later than midnight, July 1, 2018.

SUBMISSION RULES: Please fill out online submission form and attach essay. Essay must be typed, double-spaced, standard margins, font size of 11 to 14 point, and attached as a PDF. Your name and the name of your essay must be included on every page. Pages must be numbered. Indicate word length at end of essay. Please choose your own title, do not use the topic of the essay as the title. Do not attach a resume with your essay.

AGREEMENT: By entering the competition, you agree to permit your winning essay to be printed in full or in part in Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper; announced in a news release; and posted online at FFRF's website. You also agree, if you win an award, to promptly provide FFRF with a photograph of yourself suitable for reproduction with your winning essay.

REQUIREMENTS: Winners may be asked to send verification of student enrollment. Students will be disqualified if they do not follow instructions, including word limit and deadline. FFRF monitors for plagiarism. You may not re-enter this contest for if FFRF has previously awarded you for an essay in the Michael Hakeem College Contest.   If you have entered but not won, you may submit another essay in this contest.