American Atheists celebrates activism by awarding scholarships to students who engage in atheist activism in their communities and schools.

What are the Student Activist Scholarships?

The Student Activist Scholarship program was founded by Life Members Barbara J. Baldock, Dr. Phillip Butler, Lillian B. Ramsden, Rice O’Dell, and Irving Yablon. American Atheists awards two $1,000 O’Hair Scholarships and four $500 President’s Scholarships to atheist students in the United States. You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to be awarded a scholarship, but you do have to attend a U.S.-based institution.

American Atheists is also proud to award two $500 Chinn Scholarships for LGBTQ Atheist Activism that recognize atheist activism in the area of LGBTQ equality. Members of the LGBTQ community and allies are welcome to apply.

Who can enter?

Scholarships are open to current college or vocational students and to high school students entering college in the upcoming year. Full-time graduate and law school students are also eligible. Applicants for all awards must be atheists and must have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher in academic subjects. Applicants of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations are encouraged to apply.

Membership in American Atheists is not required to submit an application, but scholarship winners must be members to accept the awards. All applicants are offered a free one-year membership to American Atheists.

How to Apply

Applicants fill out the Scholarship Application Form and include an essay of 500–1,000 words detailing your activism in the past year, supporting documents that show evidence of your activism, and copies of your most recent school report card or transcript showing a GPA of at least 2.5.

Essays and supporting materials should summarize activism in the last year and show your activities, motivations, and commitment to atheist activism. Please note that merely writing an essay is not sufficient. This is about activism, and your essay should be about your actions for the cause of atheist civil liberties, defending the separation of religion and government, or promoting a positive view of atheism to the general public and your fellow students and faculty.

Applicants should include relevant information about, and evidence of, your activism in the previous year, such as:

  • Photos from events
  • Letters printed in newspapers
  • Letters to politicians about key issues with replies from those politicians
  • Testimonials from teachers, friends, or other activists
  • Evidence that you sponsor an atheist podcast, blog, etc.
  • Student essays

Photos and scans should be an appropriate resolution and size. All attachments should include your first and last name in the file name, like: JessExampleson-Application.pdf, JessExampleson-Essay.doc, JessExampleson-Transcript.pdf.

Files can be uploaded via the application form or sent by email. Applications submitted through other channels, incomplete applications, and materials received after the deadline will not be accepted.

Who decides the winners?

Winners are selected by American Atheists staff and/or the delegates they choose who are employees or officers of American Atheists.

A scoring rubric is used to assign points for activities related to activism. American Atheists reserves the right to choose scholarship recipients as we see fit. We also reserve the right to withhold a scholarship after announcement if there is evidence of conduct by an awardee which would reflect poorly on American Atheists or on the atheist community as a whole. Runner-ups may be chosen if a winner’s award is withheld.

How are awardees selected?

American Atheists is an organization of activists, and applicants are evaluated based on their actions as atheists and activists.

Special consideration is given to students who engage in activism at their schools and with other students, including those who start atheist groups or who fight against violations of the separation of religion and government within their schools.

The application deadline for 2021 Student Activist Scholarships is June 1, 2021.

Applicants will be notified of the results and scholarship winners will be announced after the selection process.

Contact Information

Please email [email protected] or call (908) 276-7300 with any questions about the Student Activist Scholarships.