Hoover Institution Distinguished Undergraduate Essay Competition

The Hoover Institution sponsors an annual competition for distinguished essays written by undergraduates as part of their coursework at Stanford University. Essay submissions are expected to come from different disciplines and address widely varying topics that evince a concern with the values and institutions of liberty, including the impact of policies on human freedom.


Essays may be submitted online at any time during the academic year prior to the deadline of April 17, 2024. Eligible essays should have been written for a Stanford course during the previous twelve months. Essays should be no fewer than 4,000 words and no more than 7,500 words (including notes and bibliography), be styled in any standard format (Modern Language Association/MLA, American Psychological Association/APA, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.), and be provided as Word documents. Submissions must include a separate cover letter explaining the assignment for which the paper was written and a concise summary.

Applications are now open for the 2024 contest. Please click the button below to apply:



Essays will be judged in terms of the quality of writing and the validity of argument. Winners will receive a cash award, and honorable mentions will also be recognized. A reception honoring the students will be held during the Fall Quarter of 2024.

A committee of Hoover fellows will select the winning essays in these categories:

  • Best essay written by a first-year student
  • Honorable mentions by first-year students
  • Best essay written by a sophomore, junior, or senior
  • Honorable mentions by sophomores, juniors, and seniors

To learn more about the contest, view photos from the award ceremony, or see the topics of previous award-winners, please read our coverage on Hoover.org about past years of the Distinguished Undergraduate Essay Competition.

2023 Distinguished Undergraduate Essay Competition Award Winners

2022 Distinguished Undergraduate Essay Competition Award Winners


Essay submission deadline: April 17, 2024 (11:59 pm PT)
Notification of decisions: by end of Spring Quarter 2024
Award recognition reception: Fall Quarter 2024 (Date TBD)

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