F.I.R.E. Free Speech $10,000 Essay Contest

FOR JUNIORS & SENIORS

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. In addition to defending the rights of students and faculty, FIRE works to educate students and the general public on the necessity of free speech and its importance to a thriving democratic society.

The freedom of speech, enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, is a foundational American right. Nowhere is that right more important than on our college campuses, where the free flow of ideas and the clash of opposing views advance knowledge and promote human progress. It is on our college campuses, however, where some of the most serious violations of free speech occur, and where students are regularly censored simply because their expression might offend others.

Eligibility

Open to juniors and seniors in U.S. high schools, including home-schooled students, as well as U.S. citizens attending high school overseas. Additional questions regarding eligibility may be emailed to [email protected].

Word Length

Word Length

Students must submit an essay between 700 and 900 words on the provided topic below.

Deadline

Deadline

FIRE must receive all entries by 11:59 EST, December 31, 2020. Winners will be announced by February 15, 2021.

Scholarship Prizes

Scholarship Prizes

One $10,000 first prize, one $5,000 second prize, three $1,000 third place prizes and four $500 prizes will be awarded.

The Prompt

In a persuasive letter or essay, convince your peers that free speech is a better idea than censorship.

Your letter or essay must be between 700-900 words. We encourage you to draw from current events, historical examples, our free speech comic, other resources on FIRE’s website, and/or your own personal experiences.

Note: While there is no required format for your submission, many entrants use MLA guidelines. Successful entries will show an understanding of the importance of free speech and the pitfalls of censorship. You may use in-text citations, and do not need to include a References or Works Cited page. Essays that do not address the prompt question or fail to meet the word-count requirements will not be considered. View the essays of some of our past winners here!


Submit

Entering this essay contest constitutes agreement to having your name and essay published on FIRE’s website if you are selected as a winner. FIRE reserves the right to make minor edits to winning essays before publication on our website.

Northeastern University Torch Scholarship

FOR SENIORS

This is a full-boat scholarship to Northeastern University. You must be nominated by your guidance counselor. For more information, click Torch.

TORCH SCHOLARSHIP CANDIDATES:

SQ-cup-icon Have persevered despite difficult family situations, cultural barriers, financial challenges, or unfavorable educational environments. These challenges have kept them from reaching their full academic potential and 
from applying for admission to a highly selective school such as Northeastern.
SQ-leader-icon Show leadership through community, school, work, or service. Torch nominees are “game changers” in their communities, working to make a difference.
SQ-achieve-icon Have enrolled in college prep classes and would be successful with the additional academic and personal support provided by the Torch Scholars Program, but have not yet demonstrated academic success at the level of their true potential.
SQ-global-icon Represent a diversity of academic majors, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and geographic areas.
SQ-1st-icon Are first-generation college students whose parents/guardians do not have a U.S. undergraduate degree or equivalent.
SQ-home-icon Are U.S. citizens or permanent residents from low-income households (and are likely to be Pell Grant eligible).

GPA REQUIREMENTS

Torch does not require a specific GPA. While prospective Torch Scholars might not have a grade record that indicates their full academic potential, they have been preparing for college by taking a challenging academic course load. We know they’re ready for a college education. We look at applicants holistically, going beyond the numbers to determine their talent and potential for college success at Northeastern.

John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

FOR ALL STUDENTS

Contest Topic

Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a US elected official who served during or after 1917.

To learn more about political courage, visit Contest Information and FAQs.

All submissions must adhere to contest requirements.

Contest Deadline

The Profile in Courage Essay Contest opens for submissions on September 1, 2020. The contest deadline is January 15, 2021.

Recognition and Awards

First-place: $10,000          Second-place: $3,000          Five Finalists: $1,000 each          Eight Semi-finalists: $100 each

Boston University Trustee Scholarship

FOR SENIORS

Every year, BU welcomes approximately 20 outstanding students to the Trustee Scholars Program. Many of our current Scholars had perfect 4.0 grade point averages in high school and ranked in the top of their class.

In addition to exceptional academic credentials, Trustee Scholars are intellectually and creatively adventurous and demonstrate viewpoints, experiences, or achievements beyond the usual. They are, in other words, not just top students, but extraordinarily well-rounded individuals. At BU, Trustee Scholars become part of a unique campus community that offers many intellectual, cultural, and social opportunities.

A Trustee Scholarship covers full undergraduate tuition plus mandatory undergraduate student fees, and is renewable for four years if certain criteria are met.

HOW TO APPLY

To be considered for a Trustee Scholarship:

  • Submit the Common or Coalition Application and all required materials for admission to one of the undergraduate degree programs at BU by December 1.
  • Complete the Trustee Scholarship essay on the Common or Coalition Application as part of your application to BU.

The Trustee Scholarship Essay:

Please choose from one of the two prompts below and submit one essay, in 600 words or less, as part of your application through the Common or Coalition Application.

  1. The Trustee Scholars at Boston University form a diverse and inclusive community of students. Please tell us about a time where you proactively advocated for, or experienced, inclusivity in your school or community. What did you learn and how would you put that into practice at Boston University?
  2. Howard Thurman, who was the dean of BU’s Marsh Chapel from 1953-1965, once wrote: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Can you describe a particular experience you have had or an activity that you participate in that makes you come alive? How would you try to integrate that experience or activity into your time at BU?

For more information, please contact us at 617-353-2320.

Equitable Excellence Scholarship

FOR SENIORS

Every year, students across the country work hard to make a positive and lasting impact in their communities and beyond. And every year, we award $1.8 million in college scholarships to hundreds of these remarkable young people throughout the nation representing all 50 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

Students have the opportunity to receive a $2,500, $10,000 or $25,000 scholarship. To recognize the important role their dedicated educators play in guiding these students along their path to success, we also award a $1,000 grant to every Equitable Excellence winner’s high school.

Eligibility

Equitable ExcellenceSM award winners come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, but are united by their drive, determination, and strong character.

Applicants to the Equitable ExcellenceSM Scholarship must:

  • Demonstrate courage, strength and wisdom as shown by community impact through volunteer service
  • Be high school seniors planning to attend an accredited two-year or four-year college or university in the United States.
  • Be a United States citizen or legal resident living or claiming residency in one of the 50 U.S. states, District of Columbia or Puerto Rico.

How to apply

The 2021 program opens on September 1st. The application period is until December 15, 2020 or when 10,000 applications have been received. Apply here.

FREE – Apply to North Shore Community College NOW

FOR SENIORS

On Tuesday, December 8, starting at 1:00 PM, North Shore Community College (NSCC) will host an On-the-Spot Admissions for Lynn English seniors.

This event will be an easy, fast and free way to apply to NSCC. If you plan to attend NSCC, apply this way! If you plan to enlist in the military or work after high school, as a back-up plan, apply this way! If you are looking for a safety college, apply this way!

Please register at this link – https://nshore.radiusbycampusmgmt.com/ssc/eform/G00z3m0C786G0x6702d67023.ssc

The link will direct you to an online sign-up form. You need to provide the following information: name, birth date, cell phone number, email address, program of study (from choices provided), high school name, and graduation month/year (June 2021). Unless you have different plans, select Fall 2021 for when you will begin classes. It is strongly suggested that you give NSCC permission to text you with important information and updates. Make sure you click “Sign Up Now!” at the bottom to submit the form.

Once registered, you will receive reminder emails leading up to the event. You will eventually receive a Zoom meeting link and passcode. Your guidance counselor will submit your transcript to NSCC.

Remember, NSCC has some of the lowest costs around for a college education. Plus, if you do really well at NSCC and want to continue your education at a four-year college, you can save even more money via the Commonwealth Commitment – https://www.mass.edu/masstransfer/macomcom/home.asp

Please take advantage of this very easy, fast and free way to apply to NSCC. If you have any questions, please contact your guidance counselor.

La Vida Scholars – Lynn

FOR JUNIORS

The below message is from La Vida Scholars – Lynn. They encourage you to visit their website (lavidascholars.org/) and watch their video to learn more and apply (lavidascholars.org/2020-application/).

La Vida Scholars offers services that bridge the gap between families and the college process by providing access to their dreams of higher education. For over a decade, LVS has helped over 150 students with their post-secondary education processes. Our students enter selective colleges and become the next leaders and thinkers. They have worked at Google, as doctors and nurses at hospitals, at think tanks in Washington, D.C., as engineers and researchers, at nonprofits in the Boston area, and even at the White House!

Each year, La Vida Scholars accepts 45 new Scholars to join our program towards the end of their sophomore year. Over the next two years you will receive:

  • Kaplan ACT preparatory classes
  • Career Exploration opportunities
  • Individualized student advising and counseling
  • Weekly College Prep classes
  • College Campus visits
  • Support with Financial Aid applications
  • Monthly family meetings
  • Matched college savings
  • Help in completion of scholarship and college applications.
  • And so much more!

To be eligible you must:

  1. be a Lynn resident attending a Lynn public school
  2. be “low income” by our eligibility requirement, see this chart for more info
  3. have a minimum GPA of 3.2 (report cards are required)

La Vida Scholars does not discriminate based on immigration or citizenship status- everyone is welcome! All students and families are eligible to apply regardless of whether they are undocumented, TPS, DACA, or DREAMers.

Since 2007, the program has helped 133 students secure over $15.2 million in grants, scholarships and awards.

Only apply if interested AND if you meet the three eligibility requirements.

If you have any questions, contact YOUR guidance counselor.

Thrive Scholars ( for Juniors )

FOR JUNIORS

Thrive Scholars (formerly SCS Noonan Scholars) is a national nonprofit organization that helps high-achieving, low-income students of color get into and excel at top colleges.

Every year, Thrive Scholars go to top colleges for free. They excel academically and graduate ready to thrive in their careers of choice. Through our six year program students receive:

  • Intensive Pre-College Summer Academy
  • Expert College Advising
  • Social, Emotional & Academic Support
  • Career Development
  • Financial Support

The application for this year’s selection is now open: thrivescholars.org/apply. The deadline for applications is January 6, 2021. There are several essay questions and academic & financial documents that you will need to provide, so please make sure you budget enough time to complete it.

Students who are accepted into the program meet the following criteria:

  • Cumulative high School GPA of 3.7 or higher (unweighted, out of 4.0)
  • 10th Grade PSAT Score of 1050+ or 11th Grade PSAT Score of 1150+ (if taken)
  • Household income at or below $75,000
  • Identify as one of the following:
    • A first-generation college student
    • A student of color

Do not apply or inquire about the program if you do not meet all of the above criteria. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact your guidance counselor.

Massachusetts AFL-CIO Scholarship Awards Program

FOR SENIORS

The Annual AFL-CIO Scholarship and Labor Education Program is in its 64th year. Through the program, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and affiliated unions are proud to award financial resources to high school students pursuing trade union programs or college/university study. ­The Massachusetts AFL-CIO administers half a million dollars of scholarship awards on behalf of unions and labor councils throughout the state. Individual awards range from $500 to $16,000.

Exam registration for 2021 is open. The deadline to register is December 18, 2020. 

Students can register here.

Click below to download the MA AFL-CIO Scholarship Exam study guide. *Additional content will be added in December. Please check back for updates.

PDF icon Mass AFL-CIO Scholarship Exam Study Guide 2019-2020

interactive exam website studying tool click here

Key Dates for 2020-2021 Program

  • October 2020Online registration opened. Once a student registers they must inform their high school guidance office that they intend to take the exam.
  • December 2020: Scholarship study guide and interactive website will have additional content. Students can continue using the current guide and website.
  • December 18, 2020: Last day to register. All applications must be received by 5pm to be eligible to take the scholarship exam.
  • January 25, 2021-February 5, 2021: Scholarship exam is administered at high schools across Massachusetts. Schools will be assigned a timeframe to administer the exam. Students must check with their exam proctor for testing time and location.

In order to be eligible for a scholarship, students must take the Labor History Exam. The Massachusetts AFL-CIO publishes a Labor History Study Guide, which covers a broad range of the history of working people organizing for justice in the United States.

The Labor History Exam is administered once per year, and awardees are determined by the Scholarship Committee of the MA AFL-CIO. The Scholarship Committee consists of current and retired union members.

All Massachusetts high school seniors are eligible to compete for certain awards. Additionally, students with a family or personal union affiliation are eligible for awards given by their family’s specific local union or central labor council. About 2,000 students take the exam annually to compete for a scholarship.

Read more about application and eligibility on our FAQ page linked below. If you have additional questions, contact Scholarship Coordinator Carla Connolly at [email protected].

The Stephen Phillips Memorial Scholarship Fund

FOR SENIORS

The Stephen Phillips Memorial Scholarship Fund offers renewable, four-year scholarships to students with financial need who display academic achievement, a commitment to serving others (in school, their community, or at home), a strong work ethic, good character, part-time employment, and leadership qualities. The Fund also values demonstrated grit and resiliency in students who have faced significant challenges. Applicants may be high school seniors, recent high school graduates or current college students. Annual awards range from $3,000 to $8,000 ($12,000 to $32,000 total over four years).

Despite the turmoil of last spring, the Fund was able to administer over 500 new and renewal awards for the 2020-21 academic year totaling well over $3 million. These included nearly 50 donor-funded scholarships and a special COVID Relief award that was provided to 40 Phillips Scholars this fall. The Fund is now preparing for next spring.

High School students who have received the financial aid packages from their preferred colleges may apply by April 2, 2021 in order to receive the Fund’s decision before the May 1, 2021 college common reply date. The Fund hopes that this strategy allows students a better understanding of their finances before they select a school.

2021-2022 Application Deadlines and Dates

  • Applications will be posted on the website in December 2020.
  • The New High School Applicationand New College Application are due at noon on May 3, 2021.
  • Early Response Option for High School Students Application is due at noon on April 2, 2021

Please click on How to Apply to access a detailed summary of the application process.

Students interested in the Early Decision Process should access the Fund’s webpage

How to Apply for 2021 – Early Response Process.

And, finally, here is the link to the How to Apply for 2021-Spanish version.