Length: Your essay should be at least 1,000 words but should not exceed 1,250 words (word count does not apply to the list of sources). The word count must be included on the document you submit.
Content and Judging: Submissions will be judged on the quality of analysis, quality of research, and form, style and mechanics. Successful entries will answer all aspects of the prompt and demonstrate an understanding of the Foreign Service. The top five essays from each region will advance to the final round of judging that will determine the winner, runner-up, and honorable mentions. All decisions of the judges are final. All qualifying essays will be judged blind through several rounds of judging. All decisions of the judges are final.
Sources: Standards of content and style from current edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers will be expected for (1) documentation of sources in the text of your memo; (2) the format of the list of works cited; and (3) margins and indentation. A bibliography following the MLA Handbook must be included. 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 your essay; when you do use online sources they must be properly cited.
Eligibility: Students whose parents are not in the Foreign Service are eligible to participate if they are in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, or if they are U.S. citizens/lawful permanent residents attending high school overseas. Students may be attending a public, private, or parochial school. Entries from home-schooled students are also accepted. Previous first-place winners and immediate relatives of directors or staff of the AFSA, the U.S. Institute of Peace, Semester at Sea and National Student Leadership Conference are not eligible to participate. Previous honorable mention designees are eligible to enter.
Prizes: $2,500 to the writer of the winning essay, in addition to an all-expense paid trip to the nation’s capital 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. Runner-up receives $1,250 and a full tuition to attend a summer session of National Student Leadership Conference’s International Diplomacy program. Due to COVID-19 some prizes may not be claimable immediately.
Your essay will become the property of the American Foreign Service Association once it is submitted, and will not be returned.
Thank you for your essay submission and good luck!