How to Apply Successfully for the VFW Scholarship

Besides the Folds of Honor Scholarship, there are plenty of scholarships out there for students who are dependents of U.S. military personnel, like the VFW Scholarship called Voice of Democracy.

If you’re a high school student and need some financial help for college down the road, it’s a good idea to consider applying for this scholarship.

We’ve put together a guide below on how you can up your chances of winning, covering everything from eligibility to the application process. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

The VFW Scholarship: An Overview

VFW Scholarship
Photo: Freepik

Established in 1947, the Voice of Democracy, or simply the VFW Scholarship, is an annual audio-essay scholarship program provided by the VFW. It is designed to encourage and recognize high school students’ patriotic and democratic values by inviting them to participate in a national essay competition.

Each year, the VFW announces a specific patriotic theme for the essay contest. The theme changes annually and typically relate to democracy, patriotism, and American values.

The Voice of Democracy program serves as a platform for young people to express their thoughts on important patriotic and democratic topics, develop their public speaking and communication skills, and earn scholarships to support their education. It aligns with VFW’s goal to promote patriotism and engage with the community, particularly the younger generation.

Meanwhile, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is a prominent and longstanding veterans service organization in the United States. It was founded in 1899 and is dedicated to providing support, advocacy, and assistance to veterans who have served in foreign wars and conflicts.

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Some may question: Does the VFW really help veterans? Yes, the organization is dedicated to helping veterans in various ways. VFW benefits include community service, scholarships, advocacy for legislation, and more.

Basically, the VFW’s mission is to ensure that veterans are properly cared for, receive the benefits they deserve, and have access to resources to help them reintegrate into civilian life successfully.

Program Benefits

The student who wins first place at the national level of the Voice of Democracy competition receives a scholarship worth $35,000. This scholarship is intended to financially support the recipient’s higher education and is paid directly to the university, college, or vocational/technical school that the student plans to attend.

The program also awards scholarships to other national finalists, not just the first-place winner. These scholarships can range in value from $1,000 to $21,000. The specific amount awarded to each finalist may vary based on their ranking in the competition.

At the state level, which is often referred to as the VFW Department level, the first-place winner from each state in the United States is awarded a scholarship of at least $1,000. This scholarship is a recognition of their achievement in winning their state-level competition.

Eligibility and Requirements

Below are the eligibility criteria for participation in the Voice of Democracy audio-essay program or the VFW Scholarship:

  • Grade Level: Students in their freshman through senior years of high school are eligible.
  • Deadline: Eligibility is determined based on the student’s grade as of the October 31st So, you must be in grades 9 through 12 as of that date to participate.
  • School Enrollment: Eligible participants must be enrolled in a high school in the United States, its territories, or possessions. This includes students in public, private, or parochial (religious) high school, as well as those in home study programs. Additionally, students who are dependent of U.S. military or civilian personnel in overseas schools are eligible.
  • Citizenship Status: While U.S. citizenship is not a strict requirement, participants must be lawful U.S. permanent residents (green card holders) or have applied for permanent residence with an application that has not been denied. Additionally, you must have the intention to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by U.S. immigration law.
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The following groups of students are ineligible to participate in the program:

  • Foreign exchange students
  • Students age 20 or over
  • Previous Voice of Democracy first place state winners
  • GED or Adult Education Students

How to Apply to the VFW Scholarship

To enter the VFW Scholarship, you are required to create an original audio essay that is 3 to 5 minutes in length. This essay should express your thoughts and ideas on the specified theme of the competition. The essay should be recorded onto a flash drive or another electronic device.

This year’s theme is: “What are the greatest attributes of our democracy?”

Next, you must submit three items for judging: the recorded audio essay, a typed version of the essay, and a completed entry form. These items should be provided to the designated entity for judging, which could be your school, a group competition, or a local VFW post.

Keep in mind that the essay must be your sole work. This means that the content of the essay should be entirely your own creation, and you should not receive assistance from others in writing it. Also, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools or AI-generated content is not allowed in the creation of the essay.

The recording of the essay must be in your own voice, and it should be delivered in English. It should not include music, singing, poetry, sound effects, or any other additional elements.

The body of the essay should not contain any information that identifies you in any way. This includes not including their name, school, city, state, race, or national origin within the content of the essay itself. However, the recording and typed essay should be labeled with your name to indicate ownership.

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Your essay will be judged based on the following criteria:

  1. Originality (Worth 30 Points): You are encouraged to approach the theme in a way that showcase your creative thinking and the ability to engage the audience with a fresh perspective or unique angle.
  2. Content (Worth 35 Points): Content refers to the substance and quality of the ideas presented in the essay. It assesses how well you communicate your thoughts in an organized manner.
  3. Delivery (Worth 35 Points): Delivery evaluates how effectively you present your essay when recording and speaking it. Judges will award up to 35 points based on clarity, credibility, and overall presentation.

Closing Date

All required materials, including the recorded audio essay, typed essay, and completed entry form (download here), must be submitted for judging on or before midnight of October 31st.

Contact Details

If you have questions, need clarifications, or require more information about the Voice of Democracy program, you can send an email to or dial 816 756 3390 to reach the VFW’s contact center.

Official VFW Website

The VFW maintains an official website where you can find detailed information about the organization, its programs, and the VFW Scholarship. The website may provide resources, eligibility criteria, entry forms, and contact information. Visit the VFW’s official website at for comprehensive information.

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