The contest is open to United States high school students in grades nine through twelve attending public, private, parochial, or home schools; U.S. students under the age of twenty enrolled in a high school correspondence/GED program in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, or the U.S. territories; and U.S. citizens attending schools overseas. Past winners and finalists are not eligible to participate. Employees of John Hancock Financial Services and members of their families are not eligible to participate.
- The 2017 contest deadline was January 4, 2017.
- The 2018 contest will open for submissions on September 1, 2017.
- Essays can be no more than 1,000 words but must be a minimum of 700 words. Citations and bibliography are not included in the word count.
- Essays must be the original work of the student.
- John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy are not eligible subjects for essays.
- JFK Centennial Year 2017 Contest Topic: Essays must describe an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917, the year John F. Kennedy was born. The official may have addressed an issue at the local, state, or national level. See Contest Information and Topic Guidelines and Helpful Tips for Writing Your Essay for more information.
- Essays about past recipients of the Profile in Courage Award will be disqualified unless they describe an act of political courage other than the act for which the award was given.
- Essays must have a minimum of five sources.
- Essays with fewer than five listed sources will be disqualified.
- All participants must cite sources they used to research their topic throughout their essay. Please use parenthetical citations within the text. We can not accept citations in footnote form.
- Essays must include a bibliography. Accepted formats include APA, MLA, or Turabian. You must use a minimum of five selected sources. Please refer to Guidelines for Citations and Bibliographies.
- Students have the choice of either submitting their essay online (preferred) or of mailing their essay. All students must complete and submit a registration form online for student and school information. For instructions on how to submit your essay, see Registration and Submission.
- Mailed in essays for the 2017 contest must have been postmarked by January 4, 2017.
- All students must list the name of their nominating teacher on the registration form. The role of a nominating teacher is to provide students with support and advice during the writing of their essay. Nominating teachers are also asked to read students' essays to make suggestions for improvement before they are submitted to the essay contest. As part of this review process, the nominating teacher reviews the essay for syntax, grammatical, typographical and spelling errors and ensures the essay meets the contest requirements listed above. The first place winner and his/her nominating teacher, as representatives of their school, will be invited to receive awards at the annual Profile in Courage Award ceremony held each May at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.
- Nominating teachers can be former or current teachers, but must still be teaching at the same high school as the essay participant. Usually students ask their English or History/Social Studies teachers. In very few cases, we will make an exception if a student is unable to ask a teacher from their high school to be their nominating teacher. The parent or legal guardian responsible for the instruction of home schooled students can also serve as a nominating teacher.