Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards


Michael Hakeem Memorial First Place Prize: $3,500
Second Place Award: $3,000
Third Place Award: $2,500
Fourth Place Award: $2,000
Fifth Place Award: $1,500
Sixth Place Award: $1,000
Seventh Place Award: $750
Eighth Place Award: $500
Ninth Place Award: $400
Tenth Place Award: $300

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).
THIS YEAR'S TOPIC: "The Necessity of Freethought — Why I am Not Religious."

PROMPT: Although we are asking for a personal essay (written in “first person”) about why you reject religion, you may also wish to approach this from a philosophical or social science point of view. You may additionally include personal experiences or challenges you have faced as a young freethinker (atheist, agnostic).

WORD LENGTH: 450-650 words
ELIGIBILITY: Open to all ongoing undergraduate college students up to age 24  already 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 2020.

If you're entering college in Fall 2020 for the first time, please enter FFRF's contest for college-bound high school seniors.  If you're an undergraduate student age 25 through 30, please enter FFRF's graduate/"older" student essay contest instead.  If you're a student of color up to age 21, who is currently enrolled in college, you may enter this contest or the David Hudak Student of Color Contest, but you may not enter both contests.

DEADLINE: Fill out application and submit your essay no later than midnight, July 1, 2020.  Winners will be announced in August 2020.

SUBMISSION RULES: Please fill out online submission form and attach essay. The essay must be 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 the 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 if FFRF has previously awarded you for an essay in the Michael Hakeem College Contest.  If you have previously entered but did not win, you may submit another essay in this contest.

BANISH MANGLISH: FFRF encourages you to please use inclusive language, rather than language that presumes everyone is male.  For example, try "humanity" or "humankind," rather than "mankind."