Essay Contest

The AFSA National High School Essay Contest

Thank you for your essay submissions. The 2015 essay submission deadline has passed. Winners will be notified in late May 2015 and posted on the website in July 2015. 

2014 AFSA National High School Essay Contest Winner Nitisha Baronia with Secretary Kerry

AFSA is excited to announce the results of the 2014 National High School Essay Contest. This year’s winner, Nitisha Baronia, is a 2014 graduate of Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, California and will begin her college career this fall at University of California, Berkeley. Nitisha’s winning essay offered a thoughtful, in-depth outline of the Marshall Plan, including both its challenges and successes. She carefully explored not only the plan’s implementation, but its long term ramifications for both the Foreign Service and US diplomacy as a whole. Some of these impacts were abstract, such as the Marshall Plan’s contribution to the slow breakdown of American isolationism. Others, however, were quite literal. For example, the formation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) finds its roots in this program that began in 1948. Nitisha’s eloquence and thoroughness made this paper such a success. Click here to read Nitisha's winning essay.

After having won and completed the contest, Nitisha said that she had not actually realized how big of a step the Marshall Plan was for the United States: “Before researching for the essay contest, I never realized how big of an impact the Marshall Plan would have on US Foreign Relations from the post-WWII period to the present,” said Nitisha.

2014 AFSA National High School Essay Contest Runner Up Angelia Miranda

At University of California, Berkeley, Nitisha plans to focus on either Business or Political Science and Economics. Her fully funded Semester at Sea voyage, she hopes, will bring her around the European Union during one of her summers. After college, Nitisha says she would like to work for a few years, and then continue on to law school.

The runner-up of this year’s contest, Angelia Miranda, is a rising junior, homeschooled in Kent, Washington. Angelia wrote about the Camp David Accords and the subtle, incredible work of the Foreign Service in making them possible. While acknowledging the difficulty of evaluating these accords as a model for future negotiations, Angelia clearly described the diplomatic processes used that are applicable to this day. She chose the topic to learn about a subject she had limited knowledge on. Her goals are to be in the Foreign Service.

As a runner-up to the contest, Angelia won a full scholarship to attend the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. and participate in their International Diplomacy program. She visited AFSA for the day and received her certificate. AFSA arranged for her to meet staff in the offices of her representatives and she had a photo with Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Adam Smith. Following her tour of the Hill she finished the day visiting the first floor of the State Department.

AFSA would also like to honor our Top 23 honorable mentions: Lina Andersson (Manosque, France), Henry Sullivan Atkins (Ada, MI), Shivam Bhatt (Edison, NJ), Patrick Cha (Chevy Chase, MD), Caitlin Crahan (Long Beach, CA), Timothy Joseph Cronin (Weymouth, MA), James Degnan (Darien, CT), Rohit Iyer (Edison, NJ), Sarah Jacob (Fredericksburg, VA), Isabel Johns (Potomac, MD), Michael Keen (Bethesda, MD), Elizabeth Konneker (Uniontown, OH), Colleen O'Leary (Chicago, IL), Jared Lehman (Decatur, IN), Andrew Liang (Alpharetta, GA), Annie Liu (Belle Mead, NJ), Nikhil Mandalaparthy (Woodinville, WA), Zachary Marcone (Fort Salonga, NY), Rachel Morrow (Cave Springs, AR), Andie Palagi (Butte, MT), Aaron Smithson (New York, NY), Jessica Tueller (Phoenix, AZ) and Uma Unni (Orinda, CA).

AFSA would like to extend a sincere thank you to all applicants who submitted an essay this year.

AFSA's National High School Essay Contest is now in its seventeenth year, and remains one of the prime contests of its kind in the United States, with remarkable opportunities for young people interested in foreign affairs and the Foreign Service.

This year's topic asks students to imagine themselves in the role of a member of the U.S. Foreign Service posted to one of six pre-selected diplomatic posts. They must explain how they would use the tools available to them as a diplomat to tackle the main issues facing their chosen post, and any major challenges in that place's relationship with the United States. New this year, students must include a discussion of how or whether social media can be leveraged as part of the solution. Click here to read more about the topic. Please note that the 2015 contest deadline has passed.

The AFSA High School Essay Contest is an outreach initiative of the American Foreign Service Association. Established in 1999, the annual contest encourages students to think critically about a topic of global significance and the key role diplomacy plays in connecting people and ideas. In an era of rapid change, this contest is an opportunity for high school students to research international issues in the hopes of inspiring and empowering the next generation of diplomats and development professionals. Today's youth is essential in shaping the future of foreign relations and promoting a culture of peace and sustainability.

This year’s contest topic focused on diplomatic relations, with a remarkable series of prizes for the winning entry. In partnership with the Semester at Sea study abroad program, the 2015 winning essayist will receive a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to meet the Secretary of State, and full tuition for a Semester at Sea voyage (once the student is enrolled at an accredited university). The runner-up will win a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy program of the National Student Leadership Conference.

Eligibility: Must be a U.S citizen. "High school" refers to grades 9-12. Students whose parents are in the American Foreign Service are not eligible (click here to explore other scholarship opportunities).

For more information about AFSA's National High School Essay Contest, please contact Coordinator for Special Awards and Outreach Perri Green at or (202) 719-9700.

PRIVACY POLICY: 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 2015. 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

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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Inside a U.S. Embassy


2013 winner Kailee Marie Pedersen of Lincoln, NE
with her family and Secretary Kerry

2013 runner-up Joshua Ferry of Wall, NJ with
representatives from NSLC and AFSA

2012 winner Natasha Madorsky with Sec. Clinton
and  Susan Johnson, Perri Green, Dr. Elizabeth
Stern, Paul Carter, Robert Waters, Michael
Madorsky, Mona El-Banna and Margaret Hull

2011 winner Grant Jirka of Columbus, NE
with his family and Secretary Clinton