BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is inviting Vermont high school students to enter his annual State of the Union essay contest.

The eighth annual contest calls on students to write about what they see as the major issues facing the country and how they would solve them. It coincides with the president's address to Congress next year.

Sanders, an independent, says, "Our students are the future of our country and they must be involved in the discussion about where our nation needs to go."

The deadline to submit 250-to-500-word essays is Jan. 10, 2018. The submissions will be judged by a panel of Vermont teachers, who will pick a winner.

Sanders will have a round-table discussion with the finalists, whose essays will be entered into Congressional record.