Free Speech Essay Contest


High school juniors and seniors for the 2013–2014 school year who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible to participate in FIRE’s essay contest. To enter, students must submit an essay between 800 and 1,000 words on the provided topic below.

One $10,000 first prize, one $5,000 second prize, and three $1,000 runner-up prizes will be awarded for the best essays. Four $500 winners will be chosen from the remaining entrants in a drawing.

FIRE will accept essay contest entries from August 1, 2013 to January 1, 2014. Winners will be announced January 31, 2014.


  1. Familiarize yourself with FIRE and FIRE’s issues. Our mission statement:

    The mission of FIRE mission 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. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

    Reading FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus and exploring are good ways to become more familiar with FIRE.

  2. Watch these two short videos about real students who were censored and punished for speech that is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

    Students should also watch FIRE’s other videos, available on

  3. Answer the essay question: Why is free speech important at our nation’s colleges and universities? Using examples from both videos, discuss how censorship of student speech is incompatible with higher education. Your essay should be 800–1,000 words.
  4. Submit your essay through the online form below. Only current high school juniors and seniors (graduating in the spring of 2014 or 2015) who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents may apply.


If the form returns in error, please send the same information to

FIRE thanks the Sandra and Lawrence Post Family Foundation for its generosity in making the 2013–14 essay contest possible.  Email at with questions.