The Value Of Time Essay Contest

By Bonnie Snyder December 14, 2017

High school juniors and seniors: Your holiday plans are surely filling up, but there is still time to write an essay on the importance of free speech in higher education and submit it to FIRE’s Free Speech Essay Contest. With just three weeks left to enter (the contest ends at midnight on December 31, 2017), it’s time to finally check this important task off your end-of-year to-do list.

You can find examples of past contest-winning essays here. This year’s winners will be announced by January 31, 2018. We will be awarding $20,000 in scholarship prizes, with $10,000 going to the top essay writer.

This year’s contest asks you to familiarize yourself with FIRE’s work defending and sustaining 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).

To get yourself in the proper writing mood and mode, be sure to take a look at these two videos about real students who faced censorship and punishment for exercising their right to free speech.

Then, do your best to tackle this writing prompt in 800-1000 words: “Drawing on the above videos and any other resources available on FIRE’s website, 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.”

FIRE’s Free Speech Essay Contest is open to juniors and seniors in U.S. high schools, including home-schooled students and U.S. citizens attending schools overseas.

Don’t delay; enter today. We look forward to reading your submission!

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Any Penn State undergraduate student interested in exploring and writing about ethical values and intercultural issues can enter the second annual Collegiate Laws of Life Essay Contest, sponsored by The Paterno Fellows Program in the College of the Liberal Arts.

The contest is open to all full-time baccalaureate students who are enrolled at any Penn State campus for at least one semester of the 2014-15 academic year. Essays should be no longer than 800 words and will be judged on originality, relevance and creativity.

Participating students must select one of the following prompts for their essays:

-- “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable and those that move.” -- Benjamin Franklin

What are the differences among these three, and how can they best collaborate?

-- “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations to have as little political connection as possible. ... It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” -- George Washington

How should we understand this historical legacy? Do you think that the United States should continue to foster democracy across the world? Why or why not?

-- “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” -- Charles William Eliot

What is your favorite book, and how has it changed your world view or impacted the way you live your life?

Winners will receive $500 for first place, $400 for second place and $300 for third place. All winners will be acknowledged at the annual Paterno Fellows Recognition Ceremony on Jan. 28. Their essays will be published on Liberal Arts Voices.

The deadline is Jan. 16 and submissions can be uploaded at


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