Young Patriots Essay Contest 2015-2016: Win Scholarship Money For College!

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*** The 2015-2016 Young Patriots Essay Contest is now closed. Click here to be taken to the 2016-2017 contest page***


Need money for college?

The National Center for Policy Analysis and Debate Central are happy to announce the 2015-2016 Young Patriots Essay Contest, Sponsored by Copart. Entrants have the opportunity to showcase their writing skills and compete for $9,000 in scholarship money.


The Young Patriots Essay Contest is designed to challenge middle and high school students to creatively engage with public policy and current events through the art of writing. We assign a controversial topic each year, and THREE winners are chosen to receive a scholarship out of hundreds of essay submissions. Find the topic and entry instructions below!


Kevin Young Patriots scholarship award

Last year’s first place contest winner receiving his scholarship award.


The topic for the 2015-2016 scholarship essay contest is:  

“Should the emerging and ongoing threat of global terrorism change how we view government surveillance as it relates to the 4th Amendment? Why or Why Not?”


Contest participants have the opportunity to:

  • Earn a college scholarship of up to $5,000.
  • Have your essay published on Debate Central.
  • See your essay posted on the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) home page.
  • Have your essay shared with 350,000 NCPA Policy Patriots via email.
  • Have your winning entry be sent to your hometown newspapers, radio and TV.



Please read the following pieces as you consider the above topic:

The first two are required. The third is optional, but strongly recommended. Your submission will be graded in part according to how carefully and thoughtfully you engage with these challenging articles. They are:


You may incorporate outside research into your writing. Although this is not required, it may improve the overall quality of your essay. Make sure to include a bibliography citing any outside sources you choose to reference. Your bibliography does not count against your word total.


Entries will be judged on the quality of their writing (style and mechanics), their level of engagement with the topic, and the strength of their reasoning. Essays that make an argument and support it well will out-perform essays that only provide a neutral overview of both sides. Judges will not consider their personal feelings on the topic when evaluating the essays.


 How to Enter:

Please submit your essay using the form below.

Your essay should be written in English and should not exceed 1,200 words.

Your bibliography does NOT count towards your word total.

All essays must be submitted by Tuesday, January 5 2016 at 11:00pm CT. No late submissions will be accepted.

See the FAQ below for questions regarding the entry process. If your question is not covered, please leave it in the comment section.

***Entries for the 2015-2016 Contest are no longer being accepted at this time. Please check back for the launch of the 2016-2017 contest this summer!***



Young Patriots Submission Guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. How should I format my entry?

A. Essays should be written in English, and should not exceed 1,200 words (excluding the bibliography). Essays exceeding this length will not be considered. Submit using the form on this page.

Q. How do I submit my entry?

Use the form on this page above.

Q. What happens if I exceed the word limit?

A. Your essay will not be considered. There is no word minimum.

Your bibliography (citations section) does not count towards the word limit.

Q. Who is eligible to enter?

A. Any American citizen or lawful resident who is currently a student in grades 6-12, or recent high school graduates who have never enrolled as a degree-seeking student in any college or university.

If you have enrolled in a college course for dual credit during high school, you are still eligible.

One other caveat: if you have ever won first place in a previous year’s Young Patriots Essay Contest, you are not eligible to win again.

Q. Are homeschool students eligible?

A. Yes!

Q. Are international students eligible?

A. Only if they meet certain conditions. American citizens residing abroad are eligible. Non-citizen legal residents are also eligible. International students who do not meet these criteria are not eligible.

Q. How can I spend the scholarship money?

A. For tuition or related expenses at a college or university of your choice. You are NOT allowed to spend the money on non-educational expenses.

Q. Can I choose to remain anonymous?

A. No. We must be able to publish both your essay and name.

Q. How should I format citations?

A. If you only reference the required/recommended readings, no bibliography/”Works Cited” section is necessary.

If you use outside research, citations should be listed in a bibliography section at the end of the document. You may use any recognized citation style (e.g. MLA, APA, Chicago).

The bibliography will not be included in your overall word count.

Q. Is there anything else you can tell me about how to stand out from the crowd?

A. Yes. Here are a few suggestions for participants:

  • Stick to the subject and topic. Displaying a strong writing style is essential, but the substance of your essay is the most important part. If you write a fantastic essay that doesn’t address the central question, you won’t win.
  • Submit a professional document. Double check grammar and spelling and try to make rambling sentences more concise.
  • Follow and demonstrate a clear vision. This contest leaves lots of room to address the subject in a variety of ways. Students should attempt to be creative, clear and persuasive in their approach to the topic.
  • Include your perspective on the works. Show us that you have read and considered the material. Do not simply summarize the readings but rather explain how they influence your thinking on the issue.

Q. Do I need to agree with the recommended readings’ authors?

The short answer: No. The longer answer: No, but you should warrant your disagreement with outside sources and research. Make sure your argument is complete, articulate and supported. Avoid ad hominem attacks that indict the author without properly considering the merit of the argument.

You should also note that there is one required reading supporting both “sides” of the topic.

Q. Is there just one prize?

A. No. First, second and third prizes will be awarded in the amounts of $5,000, $2,500, and $1,500 respectively.


PRIVACY: This scholarship is provided by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public policy organization. Funding comes from private donors. Any personal information collected from non-winning entries is used only in aggregate to gauge participation statistics, and will never be otherwise distributed. Contest winners must agree to have their name, school, grade level, hometown, and essay made public for site usage, NCPA newsletter, etc. Beyond the initial confirmation message, contest entry will not result in any further communication or solicitation from Debate Central, the NCPA, or contest donors. We will never sell or otherwise distribute your personal information to third parties.


Any questions? Leave them in the comments. We’ll get back to you right away.

Good luck!

105 Responses to Young Patriots Essay Contest 2015-2016: Win Scholarship Money For College!

  1. Pingback: Win a Scholarship! The 2015-2016 Young Patriots Essay Contest is Now Open! « Free Debate Resources | Debate Central

  2. Alexandria Fowler says:

    What perspective should the essay be written in? First person POV, or third person POV?

  3. Robert says:

    If I choose to do my paper in MLA style in a separate document then copy and paste the document into the “essay box” above will the judges see the MLA format or will everything be viewed differently? Also, is a type of writing format required or optional, such as MLA, or should I “just write my speech”? Thanks you for your help.

  4. Noah Lockhart says:

    If you win a scholarship, can you reapply in the years following?

  5. Kennedy Tool says:

    Is there any way to show that we have read the necessary essays, or are we supposed to reference them in our papers?

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      Yes, you may reference them in order to demonstrate your familiarity/understanding. However, you actually aren’t required to cite the readings in your essay, if they don’t fit your argument. The judges will know whether you completed the readings based on your mastery of the subject, either way.

  6. Amiyah Lee says:

    Hi I am interested in applying for this scholarship and have a few questions.
    1. Am I allowed to use quotes from the articles and other resources?
    2. Is this a persuasive essay or just argumentative?
    3. What is the average amount of people who apply for this scholarship and what are my chances of winning?
    Sorry for the lengthy comment. Thanks for the help!

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      1. Yes, you may quote/reference the articles as well as outside research. Be sure to including a bibliography– any recognized format (MLA, APA, etc) is fine. Your bibliography does NOT count towards your word total.

      2.You may write the essay however you like, but the best essays take a stance– not just summarize both sides of the debate.

      3. There are usually ~300 entries. Your chances of winning depend on the quality of your essay! 😉

      I hope that helps.

  7. JEREMIAI says:


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  9. Josiah B. Oleson says:

    Do you want us to title our essays?

  10. Emily Tenorio says:

    Hi there, I have a question, can my English Teacher go through my essay and make comments/edits?

  11. Mairo Kuntze says:

    Will the essays be submitted separately? Do you submit one essay arguing one side and submit another that argues the other side? Thanks.

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      It is only necessary to submit one essay, arguing one side or the other. If you would like to submit multiple essays, there is no rule against that, but it is certainly not required. I hope that helps!

  12. Andy Hsu says:

    So how are we supposed to be getting the scholarship?

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      The winners will be notified in early 2016, and we will make arrangements to mail the scholarship check. Please let me know if that does not answer your question.

  13. Pingback: Scholarships with January 2016 deadlines | JLV College Counseling

  14. Rachael says:

    The requirements say the works cited page may be written in any citation format of your choosing– are in-text citations necessary as well?

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      Ideally, your essay should refer to the source of your information (“According to Rachel Stevens…”), but formal footnotes or parenthetical citations aren’t necessary. I hope that answers your question– let me know if you need further clarification.

  15. Aaron says:

    I submitted an entry but did not get an automated email response confirming my submission. Was I supposed to receive an email confirmation?

    • Ifeoluwa Ojo says:

      Same thing happened to me so I re-did it and still nothing came up

      • Rachel Stevens says:

        Some popup blockers, etc. will prevent you from seeing the confirmation. If this is the case, please feel free to email young [dot] patriots [at], and I’d be happy to double-check for you that your entry was received.

        • Mahesh Krishna says:

          I’ve sent a couple emails requesting some confirmation, but haven’t received a response. Should I submit my essay again since I didn’t see a confirmation when I tried to submit it the first time?

          • Rachel Stevens says:

            Hi Mahesh- I double-checked, and your essay was received. Thanks for entering the Young Patriots Essay Contest!

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  17. Allison says:

    Is this scholarship applicable to American students looking to attend school abroad?

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      Yes, you may use the scholarship to fund educational expenses at any college or university of your choice, including abroad. The only requirement is that you be a current citizen or legal resident of the United States. I hope that helps!

  18. John says:

    Current college students are ineligible to enter?

  19. Josiah B. Oleson says:

    Do you want us to give a url in the formatting? MLA no longer requires it, but some people prefer it that way.

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  22. Angel Bui says:

    Let’s say a student did win the scholarship. Would using the money to pay fees for a basketball season at school be considered “educational purposes?”

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      No, sports participation would not be considered an educational expense. However, a student could use the funds to pay for, for example, textbooks or other supplies. In turn, that could free up your own money to put towards sports or other extracurriculars. I hope that helps!

  23. Pingback: Scholarship Saturday – January 2, 2016 | JLV College Counseling

  24. Rachel says:

    I have two questions.
    Can I type my essay on google drive and copy and paste it into the submission box?
    When I tried to submit my essay, it led me to a page that said that the server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later. I tried to submit three times, but it said the same thing.

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      Hi Rachel- I double-checked, and I have received an essay from the email address you provided. So, there’s no need to resubmit. Thanks for entering the Young Patriots Essay Contest!

  25. Liz S says:

    Should we double space our essays?

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  28. Marisa says:

    Should we include in text citations?

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      As in all forms of writing, you should always reference your source materials in order to avoid plagiarism. For example, by saying “According to a study by [author name]….” However, formal parenthetical citations/footnotes/etc. are not necessary. I hope that helps!

  29. Jennifer says:

    Hello, sorry for such a late question:
    So is it ok to send 2 entries arguing for different sides?
    Thank you!

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      Yes, you may submit multiple essays if you would like to. However, a student may only win once (in other words, you cannot win 1st place for one submission AND second place for another).

  30. Brice says:

    When will the winners of the essay be announced?

  31. katie says:

    If I just submitted my essay but forgot the bibliography, is there any way I can re-submit my essay?

  32. Grace says:

    Just wondering about citations. I plan on referencing a government document (FISA act), and I was wondering if I need to cite the document itself, or the specific sections I’m referring to. Also, are we required to use the two sources provided, or can we just use our own?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      I would handle this by writing something like “According to section [x] of the FISA act…”
      In your bibliography, you should cite the document and the section.
      You are required to read and consider the provided sources, but you do not have to cite them directly if you would prefer not to. Demonstrating your understanding of them, though, might be advantageous. If you do reference them, you don’t need to include them in your bibliography, since they are assumed. I hope that helps!

  33. Brice says:

    Is there a way I can check to see if my entry was submitted, if not will I get penalized for submitting it again?

  34. Lisa says:

    Hi, is this essay based on how well we wrote it or our thought process?

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      Both are considered, but the strength of your ideas is paramount. That said, winning essays will be both well-argued and well-written. I hope that helps!

  35. Lisa says:

    I typed up my essay in a different font, but when I copy paste it into the box below “essay” the font changed. Will it come out like it is in the box or how we wrote it before we copy pasted our essay?


  36. Roberto Guardiola says:

    Sunday, January 3rd, I accidentally submitted a scholarship application without the essay included. This occurred in the afternoon. I have resubmitted tonight (9:00 PM CT) with the essay attached. Please disregard the previous submission and accept the most recent this evening. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.

  37. Jackson says:

    Do you get a conformation message that your essay was submitted, or does it just go back to the web page?

  38. Levi Heiser says:

    I typed up my completed essay, but when i went to paste it into the box, the site would not allow it. And I tried several times through the day, and this did not work. Is there any way I could possibly get an extension of some kind? Or send it in through a different way?

  39. Aaron Fishkind says:

    Can you please tell me when the winners are announced and if everyone is informed that the results are in or just the winners?

  40. Chad Gardner says:

    Hi, I was just wondering if you received my essay a couple days ago, I did not receive a confirmation email or anything like that, and I was just wondering?

  41. Shane Pausits says:

    Oh No! I read the deadline wrong and had it confused with another scholarship as Jan 7th!! I know that this is preposterous but is there any way possible that you may accept this essay late this one time! I am so dearly sorry, I wrote it over the break and had to wait until school started up again to converse with my teachers. Please I beg of you, this is my final year of high school.. Please do not let this deter me!

  42. Dylon Youngblood says:

    I am afraid I put in my incorrect email address on my application. Is there a way to fix this? Please advise and thank you Rachel!

  43. Naedum DomNwachukwu says:

    Should I have received a confirmation email affirming that my application was received? If so I never got one.

    • Rachel Stevens says:

      Hi Naedum, for some reason the confirmation message did not appear for some people, but I checked and I did receive an essay from you. No need to worry. Thanks for entering!

  44. Chelsea Bartley says:

    Hey there! I didn’t get a conformation email and I’m worried mine was never received. I sent it in January 5th.

    Have a good day!

  45. Anonymous says:


    Have winners been notified?


  46. Abena says:

    Hello, I was wondering if my submission was received. I did not get a confirmation email.

  47. Danielle Azu says:

    I was wondering if my submission was received

  48. Anonymous says:

    Hi, have winners been notified yet?

  49. Anonymous says:

    Hi, have winners been notified of the results yet?

  50. Marisa says:

    When will the winners be announced?

  51. Robert says:


    When will the essay winners be announced?

  52. Liz S says:

    Hi, I just wanted to know when winners would be announced? I know they were initially supposed to be announced in February, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss it

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