Build peace through an essay

Deadline: April 3 Award: up to $2,500


United States Institute of Peace (USIP) partners with the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) on the annual National High School Essay Contest. The contest each year engages high school students in learning and writing about issues of peace and conflict, encouraging appreciation for diplomacy’s role in building partnerships that can advance peacebuilding and protect national security. 

The winner of the contest receives a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to meet U.S. Department of State and USIP leadership, and a full-tuition paid voyage with Semester at Sea upon the student’s enrollment at an accredited university. The runner-up receives a $1,250 cash prize and a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference. 

2023 National High School Essay Contest Topic

In 2024, the U.S. Foreign Service will celebrate its 100th birthday. The Foreign Service is an important element of the American approach to peacebuilding around the world. Over the last century, U.S. diplomats have been involved in some of the most significant events in history — making decisions on war and peace, responding to natural disasters and pandemics, facilitating major treaties, and more.

As AFSA looks back on their century-long history, we invite you to do the same. This year, students are asked to explore a topic that touches upon this important history and sheds light on how vital it is for America to have a robust professional corps focused on diplomacy, development and peace in the national interest.

In your essay, you will select a country or region in which the U.S. Foreign Service has been involved in at any point since 1924 and describe — in 1,500 words or less — how the Foreign Service was successful or unsuccessful in advancing American foreign policy goals, including promoting peace, in this country/region and propose ways in which it might continue to improve those goals in the coming years.

Download the study guide for the 2023 National High School Essay Contest. This study guide provides students with a basic introduction to the topic and some additional

study guide provides students with a basic introduction to the topic and some additional context that can assist them in answering the question. It includes the essay question, prizes and rules for the contest; an introduction to diplomacy and peacebuilding; key terms; topics and areas students might explore; and a list of other useful resources.

Learn more about the contest rules and how to submit your essay on the American Foreign Service Association’s contest webpage.