Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards


William J. Schulz 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 are offered a full one-year complimentary student membership, which includes a digital version of 10 issues of Freethought Today, FFRF's newspaper (publishes winning student essays), and a complimentary book or premium.
THIS YEAR'S TOPIC: “Why I’m Proudly a Gen Z ‘None’”

PROMPT:  At least 48 percent of Gen Z identifies as religiously unaffiliated, with 17 percent identifying specifically as atheist or agnostic. You are part of the least religious generation in U.S. history! Describe your experiences growing up or becoming a “None,” explain why you reject religion, and how the growth of the unaffiliated in the United States is a positive development for progress.

WORD LENGTH: 350-500 words
ELIGIBILITY: Open to all high school seniors who graduate in spring 2023,  who will be attending a North American college or university in fall 2023.  If you took a "gap year," please fill out question 9.   Note: If you fit this profile and if you are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color, you may enter this contest, or you may enter FFRF's David Hudak Memorial Contest for Black, Indigenous and Students of Color.  However, you may not enter both contests.

DEADLINE: Fill out the application and submit your essay no later than 11:59 pm, June 1, 2023. Winners will be notified no later than September 2023.

SUBMISSION RULES: Please fill out the online submission form and attach the essay. The essay must be double-spaced, standard margins, the 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 upload any other documents here, such as a resume. FFRF monitors for plagiarism and A.I. (e.g., ChatGPT, etc.). If an entry is found to involve either, it will be disqualified and FFRF will bar entrant from future FFRF essay competitions, or take other warranted action.

AGREEMENT: By entering the competition, you agree to permit your name and 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 high-resolution 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. Students are required to submit their essay via the online application, and should carefully review all contest rules.  

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."