The Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest Winners

While other, more practical students spent their summers entering realistic and potentially profitable scholarship contests, I spent the month of August reading Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.

As anyone familiar with the book will be able to tell you, this was no weekend read. 1,069 pages of tiny print—and, at one point in the novel, a fifty-page-long speech on the light topic of objectivism.

What lured me into such an ambitious commitment? An Atlas Shrugged*essay contest I found amongst my Fastweb scholarship matches, of course.

I entered this reading marathon with two convictions—the first, that I would read the novel slowly and painfully and thoroughly abhor it—the second, that my perseverance in the face of a thousand pages would be rewarded with the ten thousand dollars offered as first prize.

After all, I figured, how many people actually bothered to read this thing?

My first surprise came when, twenty pages in, I realized that I was enjoying the read. Just as the back cover had promised, Atlas Shrugged was “unlike any other book” I had ever read.

I found myself eagerly reading through my thirty-six-page-a-day quota. The prose were well-written, the characters interesting and unexpected, the plot line surprisingly fast-paced and Ayn Rand’s ideas challenging and thought-provoking. In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

My second surprise came when I bothered to skim through the past winners of the essay contest. I found students—college students—from places like Princeton and Harvard—taking second and third place. Then I actually read some of the winning essays—and realized that my chances of winning were slimmer than I had thought.

I am actually taking a break from my Atlas Shrugged essay in order to write this article. Just as the novel was “unlike any other book” I had ever read, the essay is proving to be unlike any other essay I have ever written. The competition is forcing me to write with clearer, more articulate wording and maintain stronger organization than ever before.

My point in all of this? You don’t always get the sort of experiences you expect. I might not win any sort of scholarship, but the experience I gained from entering this contest has prepared me for the more challenging work I will hopefully find in my college years and has sparked my desire for deeper, more meaningful reading.

Contrary to popular belief, scholarships can be about more than money. (Though it would be nice if I could win something, too.)

*Note: the deadline for the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest was September 17, 2013, but there are plenty of other scholarships you can apply for – just check out your scholarship matches on Fastweb!

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Ayn Rand offers  an array of educational programs to enable students at all levels of knowledge to learn about Ayn Rand’s philosophy and novels. Ayn Rand was an American novelist and philosopher and the creator of Objectivism, which she called “a philosophy for living on earth.” The essay contest is open to 12th graders, college undergraduates, and graduate students. The contest offers opportunity to learn about Ayn Rand’s philosophy and novels. This year they will award over 500 prizes totaling more than $90,000.

Ayn Rand has inspired individuals around the world to discard convention and pursue a better life. They offer an array of educational programs to enable students at all levels of knowledge to learn about Ayn Rand’s philosophy and novels.


In order to participate in the essay contest, entrants must meet the following criteria:

  • No application is required. Contest is open to students worldwide, except where void or prohibited by law. Essays must be written in English only.
  • Entrant must be a 12th-grader, college undergraduate or graduate student at the time of the current contest deadline. Verification of school enrollment will be required for all winning entrants.

How to Apply:

Applicants must write an essay you can choose one of following three topics, Essay must be no fewer than 800 and no more than 1,600 words in length, double-spaced.

  • Francisco d’Anconia says that the “words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.” What does he mean? What are today’s prevalent moral attitudes toward money? Do you agree with Francisco’s view? Explain why or why not.
  • Atlas Shrugged is both a celebration of business and a defense of it against widespread attacks. Judging from the novel, as well as from Ayn Rand’s essay “What Is Capitalism?” and her speech America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business,” why does she think business should be defended and championed? What does she think is a proper defense of business, and why?
  • Ragnar Danneskjöld says he loves that which has rarely been loved, namely, human ability. What do you think he means? How does his position relate to the idea: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”? Do you agree or disagree with Ragnar’s attitude? Explain.

Applicants must submit their essay online through the given link:

Supporting Documents:

  • Your name and address
  • Your email address (if available)
  • The name and address of your school
  • Topic selected (#1, 2 or 3 from the “Topics” tab)
  • Your current grade level and
  • (Optional) the name of the teacher who assigned the essay if you are completing it for classroom credit.

Submitting Details:

You can mail your essay with stapled cover sheet to:

Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest
The Ayn Rand Institute
P.O Box 57044
Irvine, CA 92619-7044

Financial Aid and Award Money:     

Award amount for all schools located in the state of California

  • 1st Place: 1 winner will receive $3,000
  • 2nd Place: 2 winners will receive $1,000
  • 3rd Place: 10 winners will receive $500

Award amount for all schools located in the states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin

  • 1st Place: 1 winner will receive $2,000
  • Finalist will receive $500

Award amount for all schools located in the state of Colorado

Application Deadline: 

Entries for the essay contest will be submitted by April 28, 2017.

Link for More Information:

Contact Information:

If you have any question you can ask at


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