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Fires Essay Contest

By Bonnie Snyder December 21, 2017

There’s still time to enter FIRE’s Free Speech Essay Contest … but not much!

Let’s cut right to the chase. We’re prepared to award $10,000 in prize scholarship money to the best essay on this topic: Explain in 800-1000 words why free speech is so important to higher education, and why censorship undermines the ideals of liberal education and a free society.

At FIRE, we defendindividual 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.

If you are a high schooler who also believes that these basic constitutional rights are important — especially in academia — then we encourage you to gather your thoughts together in a well-constructed essay and submit it to our contest before time runs out. This year’s contest concludes at midnight on December 31, 2017, and we’ll be announcing the winners (5 top winners and 4 runners-up) by January 31, 2018. (You can check out some past winners here.)

Free speech is currently under tremendous pressure in academia, but there’s something you can do about it: speak up! Submit your free speech essay to FIRE and take part in defending First Amendment rights on college campuses. We’re looking forward to reading your entry.

By Bonnie Snyder December 28, 2017

$10,000. It’s now or never. Will you be entering FIRE’s Free Speech Essay Contest this year?

We’re down to the final week for submissions; the contest officially ends at midnight on December 31, 2017. We’re looking for 800-1,000 words on the following topic: Explain why free speech is so important to higher education, and why censorship undermines the ideals of liberal education and a free society. Most of the essays we’ve received are written in either MLA or APA style and double-spaced, with 12-point font, although these are not requirements and just guidelines. The absolutely essential, non-negotiable factor for the winning entry is that it must be submitted to FIRE!

It’s time to take a seat, stop procrastinating, and collect your thoughts on this important topic, if you’d like a chance to be selected as our $10,000 top prize winner. We’ll also be awarding a $5,000 second prize, three $1,000 runner-up awards, and four $500 awards to randomly-selected entries.

You can find all the details of the contest — along with video prompts to stir your creative juices — at You can also refer to FIRE’s archived news stories, or FIRE’s recent Speaking Freely Survey results to educate yourself on this important topic and to inspire and prepare you to address it in writing. Time is indeed short, but you still have enough time to craft a winning essay if you start today!

If you’re concerned about declining appreciation for First Amendment rights in academia, this is a perfect opportunity to stand out and persuasively make the case for free expression on campus. Don’t miss your final chance to participate in our 2017 essay contest; we’re looking forward to reading your entry!