Essay Prompt, Requirements, Eligibility, and Awards


Kenneth L. Proulx 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 Mr. Madison Arnold 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 1-year complimentary student membership to FFRF, which includes a digital version of 10 issues a year of Freethought Today (FFRF's newspaper, which publishes winning student essays), and a complimentary book or premium.

PROMPT: Today’s youth are the least religious generation in U.S. history, according to many surveys — with the portion who are “Nones” (identifying as religious unaffiliated) ranging from about a third to more than half of Gen Zers. Many identify as atheists or agnostics. Explain why you’re a part of this cultural transformation that you’ve observed among your peers, and what you think is galvanizing so many young people to reject religion. Why is this a good development for individuals and for our nation?

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 2024.

If you're entering college in Fall 2024 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 Black, Indigenous or a Student of Color up to age 21, who is currently enrolled in college, you may enter this contest or the David Hudak Essay Contest for Black, Indigenous and Students of Color, but you may not enter both contests. You may only enter one FFRF essay competition per year.

DEADLINE: Fill out application and submit your essay no later than 11:59 pm CDT, June 1, 2024. Winners will be notified no later than September 2024.

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. 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, AND PRINTED IN FFRF's NEWSPAPER FREETHOUGHT TODAY; 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 college contest, (previously named the Michael Hakeem Memorial 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."