This time of year you can almost feel the collective anxiety of students across the country who already have or will soon graduate and face the job market. And this year, of course, nerves are a little more frayed than usual. As short story writer Donald Ray Pollock said , as he accepted the PEN American Center 's $35,000 PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship a couple nights ago, “This is a big deal for me. And it couldn’t come at a better time. I’m getting ready to get out of graduate school, and there are no jobs out there."
It may not be worth as much as Pollack's new fellowship, but the Nation  has a contest that will help a couple winners out with a thousand dollars each—and, perhaps more important, publication in a weekly magazine with a circulation of around 180,000. This year's Nation Student Writing Contest , sponsored by the BIL Charitable Trust, aims to "recognize and reward the best in student writing and thinking." Matriculating high school students and undergraduates at American schools, colleges, and universities—as well as those receiving either high school or college degrees in 2009—are invited to submit essays of no more than eight hundred words that answer the following question:
How has the recession affected you, your family, or someone you know?
Two winners, one from high school and one from college, will receive a thousand dollars and a subscription to the Nation; five finalists will receive two hundred dollars and subscriptions. The winners will be published in the magazine and online; the finalists, only online.
The deadline is May 31. The winners will be announced September 15. Click here  for complete guidelines.