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Essay Contest

The 2016 ISI Essay Contest: “What Is Conservatism?”

You’re invited to submit a 1,500- to 2,000-word essay answering the question “What is conservatism?” Please reflect on and respond to this statement by the celebrated National Review editor Frank S. Meyer in the classic book What Is Conservatism?:

Truth withers when freedom dies, however righteous the authority that kills it; and free individualism uninformed by moral value rots at its core and soon brings about conditions that pave the way for surrender to tyranny.

Register today to participate in this contest, and you’ll receive a complimentary copy of What Is Conservatism? on which to base your essay.

  • 1st Place: $5,000 and an invitation to attend ISI’s 2016 Dinner for Western Civilization, all expenses paid
  • 2nd Place: $3,000
  • 3rd Place: $1,000
  • Honorable Mention (two): A complimentary Kindle Liberty—a new Kindle Paperwhite that ISI has loaded with a carefully curated selection of fifty conservative classics, from Aristotle and Cicero to Hayek and Kirk
How to Enter

Registration is open to any undergraduate residing in the United States.

You must register prior to submitting an essay. Upon registration, qualified entrants will receive a complimentary copy of ISI’s new edition of the classic book What Is Conservatism?, which features essays by such great conservative thinkers as F. A. Hayek, Russell Kirk, and ISI’s first president, William F. Buckley Jr.

After you have registered, send your completed essay to Essays must be submitted in Microsoft Word format.

Submissions should not exceed 2,000 words in length. Your essay should be based on your reading of What Is Conservatism?

Essays will be judged on both their style and their sound reasoning. Ideal essays will be well organized and clearly, eloquently, and logically written.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Competitors must register for the contest no later than March 1, 2016
: Essays must be submitted by email no later than March 14, 2016


Questions? Please contact