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Opportunity for USA High School and College Students to Participate in an Essay Contest

Free Expression Essay Competition

GrantWatch ID# 201307
Agency: Foundation

Funding Source
PEN America
Array ( )

Geographic Focus

Important Dates
Deadline: 03/01/23 11:59 PM ET Save

Grant Description
Opportunity for USA high school and college students to participate in an essay contest. Winners will receive cash prizes of up to $2,000. Essays must address topics related to free expression and should be original and clearly written. Winning essays will be published on PEN America’s website.

PEN America is inviting submissions for a new national student essay competition about the role of free expression in today’s world. Essays will be judged for their originality, clarity of thought, and relevance to free expression by both experts at PEN America and guest judges. 

For our second year of the Free Expression Essay Competition, PEN America invites students to write essays on any issue related to free expression in the U.S. or abroad, at a length of 1,000 words for both the high school and college competition levels.


  • Others (see text field entitled "Additional Eligibility Criteria" for clarification)

Additional Eligibility Criteria
PEN America invites students to write essays on any issue related to free expression. If you’re in high school or college, PEN America wants to know what you think.

High school-level submissions are generally open to students ages 15-17; and college-level submissions are generally open to students ages 18-23. Applicants must be residing in the United States and provide a U.S. mailing address. Please enter the competition level based on your age at the time of submission. Current enrollment in school is not required to enter.

Statement on plagiarism: The PEN America Free Expression Essay Competition maintains a zero tolerance policy for submissions that have been plagiarized, including submissions that fail to incorporate proper citations. Those who submit an essay that is not entirely their own will be disqualified from the Free Expression Essay Competition without warning. PEN America reserves the right to investigate whether a submission has been plagiarized. Should your essay require citations, you may use any citation system you prefer (e.g. APA, Chicago, MLA, etc.), as long as your citation style is consistent throughout your essay.

Pre-Application Information
All submissions must be received on or before March 1st at 11:59pm ET.

Number of Grants
For each competition level, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places essays will be honored with cash prizes.

Estimated Size of Grant
The top three college-level essayists will receive $2,000, $1,500, and $1,000 respectively; and the top three high school-level essayists will receive $1,500, $1,000, and $500 respectively.

Winning essays will be published on PEN America's website.

Contact Information
Apply Online:

If you have any questions about your eligibility, please do not hesitate to contact with ‘Essay Competition’ in the subject line.

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