Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

Select ONE of the following three topics:Topics

  1. What do you think Eddie Willers’ role is in the story? How does he help convey the novel’s theme? Why do you think his fate is left open in the last chapter?
  2. Why does John Galt go on strike when the Starnes heirs take over the Twentieth Century Motor Company? Do you think he is right or wrong to start a strike? Explain.
  3. Choose the scene in Atlas Shrugged that is most meaningful to you. Analyze that scene in terms of the wider themes in the book.

 Eligibility: 12th Graders, College Undergraduates, and Graduate Students

Entry Deadline: September 17, 2012

FIRST PRIZE: $10,000
5 THIRD PRIZES: $1,000
25 FINALISTS: $100


Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

The winning applicant will be judged on both style and content. Judges will look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized. Winning essays must demonstrate an outstanding grasp of the philosophic meaning of Atlas Shrugged. Essay submissions are evaluated in a fair and unbiased four-round judging process. Judges are individually selected by the Ayn Rand Institute based on a demonstrated knowledge and understanding of Ayn Rand’s works. To ensure the anonymity of our participants, essay cover sheets are removed after the first round. Winners’ names are unknown to judges until after essays have been ranked and the contest results finalized. The Ayn Rand Institute checks essays with Ithenticate plagiarism detection software.


  • No application is required. The Contest is open to students worldwide, except where void or prohibited by law.
  • Entrant must be a 12th Grader, College Undergraduate, or Graduate Student. To avoid disqualification, mailed in essays must include a stapled cover sheet with the following information:
    1. your name and address;
    2. your e-mail address (if available);
    3. the name and address of your school;
    4. topic selected (#1, 2 or 3 from list above);
    5. your current grade level; and
    6. (optional) the name of the teacher who assigned the essay, if you are completing it for classroom credit.
  • Essay must be no fewer than 800 and no more than 1,600 words in length, and double-spaced.
  • One entry per student. No purchase necessary to win. Essay must be postmarked no later than September 17, 2012, no later than 11:59 PM, Pacific Standard time.The Ayn Rand Institute has the right to provide contest deadline extensions when deemed appropriate.
  • Essay must be solely the work of the entrant. Plagiarism will result in disqualification. Essays must not infringe on any third party rights or intellectual property of any person, company, or organization. By submitting an essay to this Contest, the entrant agrees to indemnify the Ayn Rand Institute for any claim, demand, judgment, or other allegation arising from possible violation of someone’s trademark, copyright, or other legally protected interest in any way in the entrant’s essay.
  • Decisions of the judges are final. Employees of the Ayn Rand Institute, its board of directors and their immediate family members are not eligible for this contest. Past first-place winners are not eligible for this contest.
  • All entries become the property of the Ayn Rand Institute and will not be returned.
  • Winners, finalists, semifinalists and all other participants will be notified via e-mail by November 28, 2012.
  • Winners are responsible to provide their mailing addresses and other necessary information under the law in order to receive any prizes. Contest winners agree to allow the Ayn Rand Institute to post their names on any of ARI’s affiliated websites. The winning first place essay may be posted in its entirety on any of these websites with full credit given to the author. Winners will be solely responsible for any federal, state or local taxes.

To Enter

Submit your essay online

Or mail your essay with stapled cover sheet to:

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

Please do not submit duplicate essays!

If submitting your essay electronically, you will be sent an email confirming our receipt. If you have not received an e-mail notification within 24 hours, please If you are submitting by mail, please paperclip a stamped, self-addressed postcard to the your essay and we will return it to you.

To learn more about Atlas Shrugged, go to:

Comments or Questions

Comments or questions about the essay contests are welcome. Please write

Protected by Ithenticate Plagiarism Detection Software

Essay Contests Contest FAQ

I’m a home-schooled student, can I still enter the contest?

Yes! Home-schooled students may enter our essay contests. Please enter the contest for your current grade level. Instead of writing your school name and address on your coversheet, just write “Home-schooled.” If you’re not sure which contest you’re eligible for, please write to the Education Department
I’m a foreign student, can I still enter the contest?
Yes! Foreign students may enter our essay contests. We have no citizenship requirements. Please enter the contest for your current grade level. If you’re not sure which contest you’re eligible for, please write to the Education Department
How can I verify that my essay was received?
If you send your essay by mail, you should paperclip a self-addressed, stamped postcard to your essay. When we receive your essay, we will drop your postcard in the mail. Alternatively, you can send your essay to us via registered mail or by using Priority Mail Delivery Confirmation. If you send your essay via e-mail or via our web form, posted here, we will reply to your message and notify you that we received your essay.
How can I submit my essay via e-mail?
If you wish to submit your essay via our web form, please follow the guidelines posted here.
I included a self-addressed, stamped postcard with my essay, but I haven’t received it back in the mail yet. What should I do?
Please note that it could take up to three weeks to receive your postcard from the date you sent your essay. If you are concerned that your essay was lost by the post office, please write to
Can I send my essay in before the deadline?
Can I send my essay in after the deadline?
We cannot accept essays postmarked after the deadline. If you have a valid reason why your essay could not be postmarked by the appropriate deadline, please write to
I entered one of your contests in a previous year; can I enter again this year?
Yes, as long as you were not previously a first-place winner. In fact, some students have won prizes two years in a row!
I am not in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade; may I still enter the Anthem contest?
Unfortunately, we cannot accept entries from students who are not in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade.
I am not in the 11th or 12th grade; may I still enter The Fountainhead contest?
Unfortunately, we cannot accept entries from students who are not in the 11th or 12th grade.
If I win, do I have to apply the prize money toward college?
No. All awards are cash prizes. We place no restrictions on how the prize money is spent. Prize winners simply receive a check from us in the amount of their award.
Do I need to include a bibliography or do I need to reference page numbers?
You do not need to reference page numbers for quotes from the essay topics. However, if you use any quotes from Anthem or The Fountainhead, you should cite the page numbers and place quotation marks around the quoted material. You do not need to include a bibliography unless you quote from a source besides the novel you are writing on. (Please note that you do not need to reference any additional material other than the assigned novel to write your essay. See the next question.)
Should I cite other sources besides Anthem or The Fountainhead?
You do not need any additional source material other than the novel you are writing on. However, you may quote and reference other sources if you like. If you do, please cite your sources and include a bibliography with your essay.
Can I have a friend/teacher/parent proofread my essay? Is that plagiarism?
Yes, you may have your essay proofread. It is not plagiarism to have someone check your essay for spelling and grammatical or structural errors. However, it is plagiarism to have someone else write your essay for you, or if you use someone else’s words as if they were your own (see above regarding citing outside sources).
What exactly is plagiarism?
Plagiarism is using someone else’s words as if they were your own. It is not plagiarism as long as you cite your sources.
How do I know if I’ve won a prize in one of the contests?
We will contact all the high school contest entrants by July 27. We will contactAtlas Shrugged entrants by November 22.
Where can I see who the winners, finalists, and semifinalists are?
The list of winners, finalists, and semi-finalists.
Can I write more than one essay for a contest?
No. You may enter one paper for each contest each year.
I am eligible to enter more than one contest. Can I submit essays to more than one of your contests?
Yes! You are welcome to enter multiple contests.
Can I write on more than one topic?
No. The contest guidelines ask that you select ONE of three topics. Please select only one topic.
Can I write on a topic other than the three listed in the contest rules?
No. Essays not written on one of the three topics will be disqualified.
Where can I find Anthem or The Fountainhead?
All of Ayn Rand’s novels can be purchased online from the Ayn Rand Bookstore. They should also be available in your local bookstore or library.
Where can I learn more about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism?
Additional information about Ayn Rand and her philosophy is available at the Ayn Rand Institute. There you will find biographical information on Ayn Rand and additional information about her philosophy, Objectivism.
Is it necessary for me to know about Objectivism to write my essay?
No. Judges look for essays that show a clear understanding of the novel, so no additional knowledge about Ayn Rand’s philosophy is required.
I disagree with Ayn Rand’s philosophy; how will this affect my chances of winning?
This will have no effect on your chances of winning. Judges look for writing that demonstrates an understanding of the novel, not whether the student agrees with it.
Are graduate students eligible for the Atlas Shrugged contest?
Yes, graduate students are welcome to participate in the contest.
Are community college students eligible for the Atlas Shrugged contest?
Yes, community college students are welcome to participate in the contest.
Do I have to have a declared major to enter the Atlas Shrugged contest?
Is there an age limit for the Atlas Shrugged contest?
Are trade/certificate schools accepted?
Can someone who is in the military, but who is enrolled school, enter the essay contests?
I have additional questions not answered in this FAQ; what should I do?
Please send your comments or questions about the essay contests In most cases, we should be able to respond within two to five business days.



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