The Coolidge Scholarship application includes three essays. Essays two and three both have required readings which can be found below.

Please note: while the below readings are required, you are certainly permitted to reference other sources when preparing your essays — a good place to start is our About Coolidge page and the Coolidge Virtual Library.

Essay 1

You have learned and achieved much up to this point in your life. What are the next intellectual frontiers you hope to explore in your college years and how do you envision you might use the knowledge you gain?

Note: for this essay we are not simply asking what you hope to major in during college and what job you want as a career. Instead, please write about the ideas that interest you most, what you still have to learn about them, and what you envision you might do with the knowledge you gain in college. Please limit your essay to 400 words.

Essay 2

Today when natural disasters strike, Americans often expect the president to leap into action, providing relief and federal support to impacted states and communities. In 1927 two major natural disasters struck — both floods — one in the Mississippi River valley and the other in President Coolidge’s home state of Vermont. In both cases the destruction was immense, and, in both cases, Coolidge pushed back against efforts for extensive federal involvement. The President did not visit either flood site. The year after the floods, proposals were introduced in Congress calling for the federal government to address flood control. Coolidge resisted many components of these proposals, though he did eventually sign the Flood Control Act of 1928.

What concerns did Coolidge have about extensive federal involvement during and following these floods? How did he imagine the problems presented by the floods would be solved absent a strong federal government response? Why might Coolidge have preferred solutions from outside the federal government? Please write an essay of 400 words or fewer responding to the questions above. To aid you in your research, please study the materials available at the links below. You may augment these resources with research of your own. Note: although personally you may not agree with Coolidge, try to get inside his head and explain his reasoning.

Required Readings

  • One of the required readings for Essays 2 and 3 is the Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge. The Coolidge Foundation recently published a new edition of the Autobiography, which includes a new introduction and additional supplemental material. The new edition can be purchased from the Coolidge Foundation’s online store at this link. Older editions of the Autobiography are also acceptable for you to read, and can be found at most libraries. A free version of an older edition of Coolidge’s Autobiography can also be accessed here from (Note: is a third-party site and is not affiliated with the Coolidge Scholars Program.)
  • The Reign of Law – excerpt of President Coolidge’s Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery; May 30, 1925
  • States’ Rights and National Unity – excerpt of President Coolidge’s speech at the College of William and Mary; May 15, 1926
  • Select presidential press conferences relating to the 1927 floods and flood relief legislation; April 22, 1927 – May 8, 1928 (excerpts)
  • President Coolidge’s appeals to the American people for donations to the American Red Cross for flood relief; April 22 & May 2, 1927
  • 1927 Budget Message – excerpt of President Coolidge’s 1927 budget message; December 5, 1927
  • Fifth Annual Message to the Congress of the United States excerpt of President Coolidge’s fifth annual address to Congress; December 6, 1927

Essay 3

The federal individual income tax seems a permanent fixture of American life today. But the income tax was relatively young in the 1920s — having been made permanent only in 1913 by the Sixteenth Amendment. Income tax rates initially started low, with the highest rate originally set at 7 percent. During World War I, however, the federal government increased rates dramatically — all the way up to a top individual income tax rate of 77 percent.

Tax reform to reduce rates was a major policy priority of President Calvin Coolidge and his Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. The first tax cut of the 1920s, the Revenue Act of 1921, was signed by Coolidge’s predecessor, Warren G. Harding. Subsequent tax reforms were signed into law by President Coolidge in 1924, 1926, and 1928. During this period, tax rates were reduced significantly, with the top rate on the federal income tax falling to 25 percent. Rates for Americans in lower income brackets were reduced as well.

The 1920s represent an early experiment in tax reform. In this essay you are tasked with analyzing this experiment. What was the logic behind President Coolidge and Secretary Mellon’s tax cuts? What did they expect would be the benefits of lower rates? What might have been pitfalls? Reviewing the evidence from this decade, what is your evaluation of the impact of the 1920s experiment in tax reform? Please find resources available at the links below to assist in your research. You may augment these materials with additional research if you like. Your essay may not exceed 600 words.

Required Readings & Research