October 31 Is the Deadline to Enter This $30K Scholarship Essay Competition

Election Day is two months away, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or VFW, has two timely contests that will make reflecting on the importance of voting and patriotism worth some lucky students’ time.

The first is a scholarship competition for students in grades nine through 12. Entrants must submit what the VFW calls an “audio essay.” This year’s topic is: “Why My Vote Matters.”

The second, dubbed Patriot’s Pen, is a written essay contest for grades six through eight on “Why I Honor the American Flag.”

Voice of Democracy ‘Why My Vote Matters’ High School Contest

The 2018-19 patriotic-themed scholarship contest is part of the VFW’s Voice of Democracy program, founded in 1947. Nearly 40,000 students enter annually to try to capture a portion of the $2.1 million in scholarships available, according to the VFW.

The national first-place winner in the Voice of Democracy “Why My Vote Matters” contest will receive a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s college, university, vocational or technical school, which must be in the U.S.

Other awards range from $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to $16,000.

How to Enter the VFW’s Voice of Democracy Scholarship Contest

Students at any public, private or parochial school in the U.S. or its territories who are in ninth through 12th grade by the Oct. 31 deadline are eligible. Home-schooled students can also enter.

Applicants must download the Voice of Democracy entry form and brochure, record their essay on an audio CD or a flash drive and submit it — along with a typed script — to their local VFW post. The audio essays must be between three and five minutes (plus or minus five seconds) — and no music, poetry, singing or sound effects are allowed.

How Will the Entries Be Judged?

Points will be awarded based on the following criteria:

  • Originality: 30 points. Imagination and human interest are important.
  • Content: 35 points. Ideas should be expressed in a clear and organized way. The theme should be fully developed, and transitions from one idea to the next should be smooth.
  • Delivery: 35 points. Speak clearly and credibly.

Entries must be submitted to a participating VFW post. The deadline is Oct. 31, 2018. If you need help finding a post, contact your state VFW office.

You can read the rules and eligibility requirements and download an entry form here.

You can listen to the winning speech from the 2017-2018 contest here.

Patriot’s Pen Essay Competition for Middle Schoolers

The 2018-19 Patriot’s Pen contest is open to students in sixth through eighth grade (in U.S. public, private, parochial or home schools) and is designed to encourage a better understanding and appreciation of the country, the VFW says.

Entrants must submit a 300- to 400-word essay (plus or minus five words) on “Why I Honor the American Flag.” Read the rules and eligibility requirement for Patriot’s Pen Competition here.

Prizes start at $500 and peak at $5,000 — plus an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. — for the national first-place winner. A total of $54,500 in awards is available nationally.

More than 132,000 students competed in the 2017-18 competition. You can see that year’s winner read her essay here, although essays for this contest need to be submitted in writing only.

What to Include in an Essay Entry

Essays will be judged on the understanding, development and presentation of the theme: “Why I Honor the American Flag.” The VFW recommends a positive viewpoint, so this probably isn’t a good time for a political rant.

  • Knowledge of the theme: 30 points. Demonstrate that you have done thorough research.
  • Theme development: 35 points. Answer fully, and relate the theme to your own experience.
  • Clarity of ideas: 35 points. The writing should be clear and your explanation of the theme easy to understand.

Entries must be submitted (along with a completed entry form) to a sponsoring local VFW post.

The deadline for this contest is Oct. 31, 2018.

Susan Jacobson is an editor at The Penny Hoarder.