by Tahj Mayes, October 22, 2015

It’s not too late! The VFW awards over 3 million dollars in scholarships each year and the deadline is just around the corner for the following competitions: Voice of Democracy (grades 9-12), and Patriot’s Pen (grades 6-8). The awards include money toward scholarships and expense-paid trips to Washington D.C.

Below is a little about each VFW scholarship and some do’s and don’ts for writing an essay on fleek.

(And if you’re reading this past the due date, mark your calendars–these VFW scholarships are annual! Plus, the tips for essay writing are relevant year-round.)

The Voice of Democracy Theme: My Vision for America

Open to any student in grades 9-12, this competition is an essay/speech. Write an essay, record yourself reading it, and send it off! There are several winners, including the top contributor from each state.

Winnings (quoted directly):

“The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. Other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000, and the first-place winner from each (state) VFW Department wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.”

This vfw scholarship is judged on creativity (30 points), content (35 points), and delivery (35 points).

You can read about the details here.


Patriot’s Pen Theme: What Freedom Means to Me

To enter this competition you must write a 300-400 word essay on the theme and turn it in (along with the entry form) by the deadline November 1, 2015. Students grades 6-8 may apply.

This vfw scholarship is judged on knowledge of the theme (30 points), theme development (35 points), and clarity of ideas (35 points).

Winnings (quoted directly):

The first-place winner from each state competes for national awards totaling $50,000, with each first-place state winner receiving a minimum of $500 at the national level. The national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in March.

More on Patriot’s Pen competition.


A few do’s and don’ts for writing essays for the VFW scholarships:

Do go for it. Apply. Put your heart into it and don’t listen to any naysaying voices from anyone (even yourself, especially yourself).

Do a free-writing draft. Write down everything the theme makes you think about, even if it seems silly or trite. Push yourself to write for 10 minutes or 20 minutes. Just flow! Both of these VFW scholarships want to see personality and creativity.

Don’t get hung up on grammar–at first. Bring forth your ideas, organize them, and complete a draft with solid content.

Do ask someone who is educated (and older) to read through your draft for content. You want them to ask questions to help you dig deeper. You want them to point out anything that doesn’t make sense or needs to be clarified or expanded (so don’t get defensive). This is a great time to take care of the next do:

Do make sure the scholarship logistics are taken care of. Fill out the entry form. Prepare anything that needs doing for the final submission ahead of time.

Don’t worry about grammar–still not time. Use the feedback you received to improve your draft. If you feel that you didn’t really receive much feedback, seek another source. (Teachers are great resources.)

Do read through your (almost) final draft and check that you are within the time limit or word limit. Make edits accordingly.

Don’t forget to proofread for grammar. It’s time!

Do let your draft sit comfortably all alone for at least a few hours, maybe a day. Go outside. Do some physical activity. Taking breaks is good for the brain, baby.

Do get someone else, preferably that teacher, to proofread your draft for grammar.

Do send in your essay/speech early! You always aim to turn in work early so that if any unseen roadblocks pop up, you have time for the detour. Also, when you turn it in early, you can spend the due date binge-reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series.

Do mark your calendars for next year’s VFW scholarships!