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American Foreign Service Association National High School Essay Contest

Application Deadline
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The American Foreign Services Association (AFSA) sponsors a high school essay contest each year which asks students to write an essay between 1,000 to 1,500 words identifying the United States' strengths and weaknesses in establishing peace in foreign countries. Students must answer three questions about U.S. foreign policy and national security.


Successful entries respond directly to the prompt and demonstrate a deep understanding of the Foreign Service. Submissions will be judged on the quality of analysis, quality of research, and form, style and mechanics. The top five essays from each region advance to the final round of judging that determines the winner, runner-up, and honorable mentions.


The winning prize is $2,500 and includes an all-expense paid trip to the District of Columbia from anywhere in the U.S. for the winner and his or her parents, and an all-expense paid educational voyage courtesy of Semester at Sea. The runner-up receives $1,250 and full tuition to attend a summer session of National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy program.


  • Remote


  • Spring


  • No fee

Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicants must be U.S. citizens in grades 9-12.
  • Applicants’ parents must not work in the Foreign Service.


  • Early April

Application or Entry Requirements

  • Essays must be between 1,000 and 1,250 words (not including sources)
  • Entries must be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point Times New Roman or an equivalent font with a one-inch margin on all sides of the page.
  • Student registration forms must have a teacher or sponsor name. That person may review the submitted essay and act as the key contact between participants and AFSA. It is to the student’s advantage to have a coordinator review the essay to make sure it is complete, contains all the necessary forms, is free from typographical and grammatical errors, and addresses the topic.
  • Do not place last name or school name on any of the pages of the essay. Only the registration form should include this information.
  • Entries should include a bibliography and follow the standards of content and style from current edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers for:
    • Documentation of sources in the text of your memo
    • The format of the list of works cited
  • Essays should use a variety of sources—academic journals, news magazines, newspapers, books, government documents, publications from research organizations. At least three of the cited materials should be primary sources (a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time under study). General encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, are not acceptable as sources. Essays citing general encyclopedias in notes or bibliography will be disqualified. Websites should not be the only source of information for essays; online sources must be properly cited.

Notifications of Decisions

  • Winners are notified in June.

Financial Aid Details

Other Dates to Keep in Mind

  • Essay prompts are released in the Fall.

Have other questions?

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The American Foreign Service Association, established in 1924, is both a professional association and an exclusive representative for the U.S. Foreign Service. AFSA is the principal advocate for the long-term institutional wellbeing of career Foreign Service members and is responsible for safeguarding the interests of AFSA members. AFSA also seeks to increase understanding about the vital role of the U.S. Foreign Service in sustaining American global leadership.

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Writing, Humanities/Social Sciences
Grade Level
High School, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Remote/In person
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