Essay Contest


The deadline for submissions has passed. Winners will be notified in May; results will be posted in July. Thank you for your submissions.

2013 AFSA National High School Essay Contest Winner Kailee Pedersen and Secretary John Kerry with certificates from the American Foreign Service Association and Semester at Sea

AFSA's National High School Essay Contest is now in its sixteenth 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.

The Foreign Service celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2014, and this year's topic made use of that milestone by asking students to delve deep into America's diplomatic history. Click here to read more about the topic, which was particularly challenging this year as it required significant research skills and understanding of historical context. 

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 2014 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 2014. 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

We invite you to learn about the National High School Essay Contest and our partners. Occasionally AFSA may make site visitor information available to our partners. If you would like to receive information please fill in the data sheet by clicking the banner below. Please note that we do not make use of cookies, or other means of tracking our visitors so rest assured that this will be used in only the most professional manner.

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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