Conducted nationwide, this VFW-sponsored youth essay competition gives students an opportunity to write essays expressing their views on an annual patriotic theme. We invite you to join the more than 138,000 students who participated last year in this contest. The national winners will receive at least $500. The first place national award is currently $5,000. The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has again approved this contest for its National Advisory List of Contests and Activities.
Who can enter?
Patriot’s Pen is open to 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade students enrolled by the Oct. 31 deadline in public, private or parochial schools in the U.S., its territories or its possessions. Home-schooled students also are eligible. Although U.S. citizenship is not required, students must be lawful U.S. permanent residents or have applied for permanent residence (the application which has not been denied) and intends to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law. (Foreign exchange students and former winners that placed in the National contest are excluded from the contest.)
What are the rules?
- Essay length: 300-400 typewritten words (+ or - 5 words max)
- You must write your own essay
- All essays should be typed in English with no color or graphics and cannot be less than 300 words or greater than 400 words in length. (Essays under or over these word amounts will be eliminated.)
- Every word is counted regardless of length. The essay title (theme) or added footnotes do not contribute to the word count.
- At any time during the contest additional participant personal information (i.e. SSN, photo, etc.) could be requested by the VFW.
- In no way may contestants identify themselves within their essay (including, but not limited to, your name, school, city, state, race or national origin.) Do not put your name on your essay. The entry form is your essay’s cover sheet.
- Secure the Official Student Entry Form with a staple or other fastener on top of your essay. Contestants are allowed to enter only once each year if otherwise eligible (one Post competition). Contestants found in violation of this rule will face elimination from the competition and will be required to return any and all prize money awarded or received.
- The essay must be the contestant's original work and a product of the contestant’s own thinking. The approach to the Patriot’s Pen theme should be positive and clearly focused.
- Poetry is not acceptable. Quotations may be used sparingly if plainly identified wherever used. A contestant’s teacher, counselor or parent may check the essay for punctuation, grammar and/or spelling, but the content must remain the contestant’s.
- Contestants will be judged on the basis of their essay alone and are not required to present the essay orally. All essays become the property of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The VFW retains non-exclusive rights to use your essay and likeness in the promotion and execution of the organization’s programs and activities.
The 2022-2023 program is currently OPEN. Applications for the program can be found here.