Atlas Shrugged
Essay Contest

Students     >     Essay Contests     >     Atlas Shrugged

   Open to all high school, college, and graduate students worldwide.


Annual Grand Prize

June 14, 2024

Summer Entry Deadline

1072 pages

Book Length

Interested in participating?

Fill out the contact form below, and we’ll email you with more information about this year’s contest—including instructions on how to enter.

Thank you for signing up!

We’ll email you more information about this year’s contest—including instructions on how to enter. In the meantime, please let us know at if you have any questions. We’re happy to help.

What is Atlas Shrugged?

The astounding story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world—and did.

Tremendous in scope, breathtaking in its suspense, Atlas Shrugged is unlike any other book you have ever read. It is a mystery story, not about the murder of a man’s body, but about the murder—and rebirth—of man’s spirit.

How It Works

Seasonal Prompts

Every three months there is a new seasonal entry round, with its own unique essay prompt. You may compete in any or all of these entry rounds.

Seasonal Winners

The top three essays from each season will be awarded a cash prize. The first-place essay from each season will advance to compete for the annual grand prize.

Annual Grand Prize

The first-place essay from each season will be eligible to contend for the annual first-place title, with the opportunity to secure a grand prize of $25,000.

Essay Topics

Each entry round features a unique topic designed to provoke a deeper understanding of the book’s central themes and characters.

Essays must be written in English only and be between 800 and 1,600 words in length.

Questions? Write to us at

Over the course of the novel, Hank Rearden struggles to resolve a dramatic internal conflict. What are the conflicting premises or ideas in his soul, and how does he eventually resolve this conflict? In what way does Rearden’s conflict represent the conflict within the best of American businessmen, and a central conflict in American culture? Judging from how Rearden resolves his conflict, how do you think the author might propose resolving the cultural conflict?

The essay prompt for our fall entry period has not yet been determined. We will post it here as soon it’s available.

The essay prompt for our winter entry period has not yet been determined. We will post it here as soon it’s available.


3 per year


3 per year


2 per year


1 per year

3rd Place

2nd Place

1st Place

Annual Grand Prize

Grand Prize


1 per year

1st Place


2 per year

2nd Place


3 per year

Master Our
Grading Standards

Essays are judged on whether the student is able to justify and argue for his or her view, not on whether the Institute agrees with the view the student expresses. 

Our graders look for writing that is clear, articulate, and logically organized. Essays should stay on topic, address all parts of the selected prompt, and interrelate the ideas and events in the novel. 

Winning essays must demonstrate an outstanding grasp of the philosophic meaning of Atlas Shrugged.








On Topic

Contest Timeline

  • Mar. 11

  • Jun. 14

  • Jun. 21

  • Jun. 28

  • Aug. 30

  • Sep. 20

  • Sep. 27

  • Oct. 4

  • Dec. 6

  • Dec. 27

  • Jan. 4, 2025

  • Mar. 14, 2025

Discover the Power
of Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged is a mystery novel like no other. You enter a world where scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and inventors are inexplicably vanishing—where the world is crumbling.

And what you discover, by the end, is an uplifting vision of life, an inspiring cast of heroes, and a challenging new way to think about life’s most important issues.

Learn more and request a free digital copy of the book today.

Play Video

Learn from
Past Winners

Curious to know what makes for a winning essay in the Atlas Shrugged contest? Check out some of the essays written by our most recent grand-prize winners. 

To varying degrees, they all display an excellent grasp of the philosophic meaning of Atlas Shrugged.

Click here to see the full list of 2022 contest winners.


Jacob Fisher

Graduate Student

Stanford University

Stanford, California

United States

Read Winning Essay


Mariah Williams

Graduate Student

Regis University

Denver, Colorado

United States

Read Winning Essay


Nathaniel Shippee

Graduate Student

University of Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

United States

Read Winning Essay


Samuel Weaver

Graduate Student

St. John’s College

Annapolis, Maryland

United States

Read Winning Essay


Patrick Mayles

Graduate student

Universidad Nacional de Colombia



Read Winning Essay


Christina Jeong

College Student

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana

United States

Read Winning Essay
Previous slide
Next slide

Improve Your Writing Skills

Other than endorsing perfect punctuation and grammar in English, the Ayn Rand Institute offers no advice or feedback for essays submitted to its contests. However, we do recommend the following resources as ways to improve the content of your essays.

The Atlas Project

An online, chapter-by-chapter discussion of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, exploring the novel’s intricate plot and abstract themes through online discussion and live interactive video. This course was originally recorded in 2018.

Writing: A Mini-Course

Learning to write requires not only an understanding of the proper principles, but also the ability to apply those principles to one’s actual writing. These lectures feature exercises on six different aspects of good writing.

Sign Up for Contest Updates!

Want to stay up-to-date on any new developments to the contest? Sign up to our email list below.

We’ll send you periodic reminders about the contest deadlines, as well as helpful resources to ensure you get the most out of your experience reading and writing about Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.