National High School Essay Contest

The 2016 contest is now under way!


The American Foreign Service Association’s National High School Essay Contest, now in its 18th year, encourages students to think critically and write a research paper about building peace through diplomacy. New this year is the partnership between AFSA and the United States Institute of Peace, through which we will be offering this year’s contest winners exciting opportunities. We are pleased to continue our partnership with Semester at Sea and the National Student Leadership Conference, offering full scholarships to their programs.

Entrants are asked to place themselves in the shoes of a member of the Foreign Service assigned to a functional bureau within the Department of State or the U.S. Agency for International Development. Click here for the 2016 topic. Their essay should offer a peacebuilding solution to a particular conflict or crisis that threatens U.S. interests abroad. The submission deadline is March 15, 2016.

The winner will receive a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expense paid two-day trip to Washington, D.C., to meet the Secretary of State and tour USIP, and a full-tuition paid voyage with Semester at Sea upon the student’s enrollment at an accredited university. The runner-up will receive a $1,250 cash prize and a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference, held in Washington, D.C., and New York annually. (Last year's winner, Thomas Keller, is pictured to the right meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry.)

Eligibility for AFSA’s 2016 National High School Essay Contest is limited to high school students of U.S. citizenship, in grades 9-12, whose parents are not members of the Foreign Service.

Contact Perri Green, AFSA’s Foreign Service Profession Awards Coordinator, at with questions.


AFSA collects your information for this contest and for AFSA partners.  You may be signed up to receive updates or information from AFSA and our partners. You will receive confirmation from AFSA that your submission has been received and a notification if you are the winner or an honorable mention in May 2016. You may also receive a message from our sponsor regarding their program offerings.


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 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 and Semester at Sea are not eligible to participate. Previous honorable mention recipients are eligible to enter. $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.

The winner's school also receives a donation of 10 copies of AFSA's Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work


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