Submit by March 11, 2022








The winners have been announced! You can view them here.

Every year, we hold an essay contest to give your students an opportunity to express themselves and win great prizes. This year, we’re opening up that opportunity even more—and giving away over $12,000.

For the first time, we’re not limiting students to a single topic. Students will have three topics to choose from, allowing them to write on the subject that speaks to them the most.

We’ve also added a Middle School Division. Younger students have impressed us over the years, and now they have a better opportunity than ever to win big.

Our contest is open to students age 10-18, grades 5-12, residing in North America or Hawaii.  The deadline to submit is 11:59PM Eastern on Friday, March 11, 2022. Students may submit their essays to us directly, or have them submitted by a teacher or parent.

Winners will be announced in May 2022. For topics and complete rules, see below.

FIRST PLACE – High School Division: $2,500

FIRST PLACE – Middle School Division: $2,500

SECOND PLACE – High School Division: $1,000

SECOND PLACE – Middle School Division: $1,000

THIRD PLACE – High School Division: $500

THIRD PLACE – Middle School Division: $500

10 FINALISTS – $200 each (5 finalists from each division)

10 SEMI-FINALISTS – $100 each (selected from among the top 10 essays in each division)

25 HONORABLE MENTIONS – $50 each (selected from among the top 25 essays in each division)

Every time one of your students enters our contest, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win one of 20 $25 Amazon gift cards, or a signed copy of John Stossel’s book, No They Can’t—your choice.

The more of your students who enter, the better your chance to win. And entries in our Video Contest count, too!

Beyond the Hashtag

Activists and changemakers have used slogans as a call to action on a wide array of social, economic, or political causes. In today’s world, hashtag activism has enabled causes to gain viral reach, but not all of the messengers, including influencers, celebrities, politicians, or regular social media users, have fully explored the intended and unintended consequences of the initiatives they support.

Whether it’s #ClimateJusticeNow, #CancelStudentLoans, #CancelRent, #DefundThePolice, or others, choose the hashtag or slogan of a cause and write a 500-1,000 word essay on hashtag activism.

What are the benefits or harms of spreading the hashtag? Who benefits and who suffers if the action called for is implemented?

Life Keeps Getting Better

Historian Johan Norberg reminded John Stossel that, despite our difficulties, we have many reasons to be grateful.

Norberg’s book, The Story of Human Progress, cites decreases in global poverty, child mortality, illiteracy, and undernourishment. He notes that medical, technological, and scientific discoveries over the past 50 years helped produce a vaccine in record time and increased remote work options during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Write a 500-1,000 word persuasive essay in which you argue that life is or is not getting better.

Liberty, in Order to Live

Over the years, John Stossel has interviewed individuals who have lived under authoritarian regimes, such as Somali activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, North Korean author Yeonmi Park, and Iraqi-American activist Faisal Al Mutar, among others.

Write a 500-1,000 word essay on how authoritarian regimes affect individual liberty and why individual liberty is or isn’t valuable for individuals to flourish. We encourage you to share personal or historical examples that support your position.

Spark students’ creativity with these topic-related videos.


All essays should specifically address one of the three Essay Topics listed above.

Eligibility – The contest is open to writers in grades 5-12, (ages 10-18 at some point during the contest period September 13, 2021-March 11, 2022). No more than one submission will be accepted for each essay writer. Writers must be located in North America or Hawaii, and all submissions should be in English. Employees of Stossel in the Classroom, Stossel TV, and Center for Independent Thought, or any person or organization involved in the operation and/or setup of the contest, and their immediate family members are not eligible for this contest. Previous winners of a Stossel in the Classroom first place prize are not eligible for prizes in our subsequent contests.

Essay Length – Essays must be 500-1,000 words in length. Submissions that do not meet this requirement, or that exceed it, will be disqualified. If an essay exceeds the word limit due to a “Works cited” page or bibliography, it will not be disqualified.

Deadline – Essays must be submitted no later than 11:59pm Eastern Time, March 11, 2022.

Plagiarism – All essays must be the original work of the student whose name is listed on the submission form. Plagiarism will result in immediate disqualification.

Taxes – Winners will be solely responsible for any federal, state, or local taxes on winnings.

Judges – Essays will be judged on their ability to answer the topic question in an articulate, clear, and organized manner. Stossel in the Classroom will evaluate essay submissions in a fair and unbiased four-round judging system, in which judges all use the same criteria. Judges will be selected by Stossel in the Classroom based on their backgrounds and expertise in education, writing, and the subject matter. Decisions of the judges are final.

Ownership and Use – The ownership of any submission remains the property of the writer, but entry into the competition constitutes the entrant’s permission and consent, without compensation, with or without attribution, for Stossel in the Classroom, Stossel TV, and Center for Independent Thought to use, reproduce, transmit, post, distribute, adapt, edit, and/or display the submission.


  • Proofread your essay before it’s submitted. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar count.
  • Be mindful of the 500-1,000 word requirement.
  • Be original. To win the top prize, your essay needs to stand out among thousands.
  • Cite your sources and check your facts.

If you have any questions about our contests, please email us at

We look forward to reading your essay. Good luck!