Think for Yourself Scholarship

Submissions are now closed for this year’s awards. We’re reading over 5,000 essays and will announce the winners in August. Please be patient with us!

Let Grow’s annual “Think for Yourself” high school essay contest awards $8000 in scholarships for college or post-secondary programs.

Open to high school students age 15+ in the U.S- click here to see complete rules and eligibility.

Last year’s contest received over 5,000 entries. High school students wrote about the value of free speech, curiosity, and open-mindedness in their everyday lives.

Since launching in 2018 we have awarded $25,000 in college scholarships. The  winners’ essays have been published in USA Today, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New Jersey Ledger, Quilette, and EdWeek.

Choose one of these prompts for your 500 word essay:

Have you ever had an experience that made you wish you didn’t have social media? What did you learn from it? 

Some people say young people should be shielded from controversial books, ideas or speakers. Do you agree? Why or why not? If yes, who would you let decide what you could be exposed to? 

Write about a time you and your friend disagreed about something important. What did it take to remain friends? 

Write about a time you could have taken offense at something someone said about you or an issue but decided not to. 

Write about a time you didn’t speak up — or almost didn’t — for fear your idea might be unpopular. What did you learn from this, and would you do the same thing again?


Winners, 2021

FIRST PLACE, $5000 SCHOLARSHIP:

Cherie Fernandes, West Windsor, NJ,

The Day I Discovered My Own Prejudice…in My Teenage Book Club” (Published in the NJ Star Ledger)

RUNNERS-UP, $1000 SCHOLARSHIPS:

Nana Afia Boadi-Acheampong, Malden, MA

Madeline Christensen, Puyallup, WA, “Where Would I Be Without Censored Books?” (Published in hard copies of the Orange County Register/Los Angeles Daily News)

Daksha Pillai, Lexington, KY, “Why High School Kids Should Read ‘A Clockwork Orange‘ and Other Disturbing Books” (Published in the Lexington Herald-Leader)

Winners, 2020

Danyere Francis, Stratford, Ct: “Texting the Kid Who Assaulted Me.” (Published in the NY Daily News)

Lola Jean Benjamin, Salem, OR: “Black and White in the Classroom.” (Published in Quillette)

Maggie-Isabel Seabrook, Greenwich, NJ: A Teenager Spends Time with The Breakfast Club.” (Published in the NJ Star Ledger)

Zewditu Nora Herring, Oakland, CA: “When Is A Black Student Not Black?” (Published in the San Francisco Chronicle)

Winners, 2019

Eilise McLaughlin, Tucson, AZ: “A Student’s Plea: Don’t Shield Me from Problematic Conversations.”(Published in Education Week.)

Carter Moore, Anchorage, AK. “A High School Lesson in Seeing Beyond Political Differences.” (Published in The New York Post.)

Madison Scroggins, Decatur, TX. “An Early Lesson in Fighting Political Polarization.” (Published in The New York Daily News.)

Elande Abate, Olathe, KS.

And here are the winning essays from the 2018 contest.

Let Grow will award one $5,000 and three $1,000 college scholarships to U.S. high school students who exemplify independence of thought in their everyday lives.

Past Scholarship Winners

Elande Abate, Olathe, KS

“Sometimes you have a moment and something just hits you, and that’s what happened to me…I was a black girl. He was a white male. Instead of debating, I felt compelled to listen.”

Carter Moore, Anchorage, AK

“The hateful rhetoric surrounding political discussion in our country has gone too far. I have experienced firsthand how it can ruin a relationship.”

Eilise McLaughlin, Tucson, AZ

“The only way to properly form an opinion on an issue is to have all the information. This can sometimes mean being exposed to unpleasant or controversial issues.”

Winning Essays Have Been Published in:

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