Ayn Rand
Essay Contests

Enter one of our contests today for a chance to win up to $10,000!


Participating Students


Prize Money Awarded to Date


Program Founded

Essay Contests

For nearly four decades, the Ayn Rand Institute has hosted annual student essay contests on Ayn Rand’s novels. These contests encourage students to seriously engage with Rand’s ideas through reflection on her profound and influential novels. Students who participate will need to read the book they have selected carefully, grapple with its complex themes, and push the boundaries of their writing ability. By doing so, we hope students will achieve a deeper appreciation for Rand’s literary works and develop a curiosity for the philosophy that underlies them.


Open to all 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students worldwide.

Deadline to enter: May 31, 2024

The Fountainhead

Open to all middle & high school students worldwide, ages 13 and older.

Deadline to enter: September 13, 2024

Atlas Shrugged

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

Deadline to enter: September 20, 2024


Read an Ayn Rand novel

Select the book according to your level of education, and begin reading. Pay attention to the themes and character motivations, and be thinking about how you might answer the essay topic questions.

Write an essay on the book

As you start to write, be thinking about how to answer the essay question you have chosen to write on. Be sure to give yourself enough time to construct a coherent outline, find supporting evidence, and revise your draft a couple times.



Submit for grading

Submit your essay online using ARI’s application portal. Be sure to check that the information you provide in your application is correct, and that your essay satisfies our requirements.

Wait for the results

Grading for all submissions begins once the deadline has passed. Essays go through three separate grading stages, and the final results are announced approximately three to four months after the entry deadline.


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 the novel.








On Topic


How can I obtain copies of Ayn Rand’s novels?

Students can receive free digital copies of all of Ayn Rand’s novels at aynrand.org/freebooks. All you have to do is say a few words about who you are and why you want to read the book, and we’ll send you a copy within one business day—no strings attached. If you would prefer to read a physical copy, you may purchase them via the links on our website. They are also likely available at your local bookstore or library.

Can I enter a contest if I’m in a different grade level than what is listed?

You may participate if you are in a lower grade than what is listed, but not if you are in a higher grade. Please email us at essays@aynrand.org if you have any questions about your eligibility status. (Note: Students must be at least 13 years of age or older in order to participate. We make no exceptions to this rule.)

Do I need to reference page numbers or include a bibliography in my essay?

Yes, please cite the page number(s) and place quotation marks around any material you choose to include from the novel you are writing on. A bibliography is only necessary if you choose to include secondary source material in your essay.

Can I submit multiple essays to a single contest?

No. You may submit one essay per contest, per year—provided you meet the grade-level requirements and are eligible to enter.

Can I submit an essay to multiple contests?

Yes! You are more than welcome to enter multiple contests, provided you do not exceed any of the grade-level restrictions.

I participated in one of your previous contests. Can I enter again this year?

Yes, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements for the contest and were not previously a first-place winner. In fact, some students have won prizes multiple years in a row!

If I win, do I need to apply the prize money toward college?

No. All awards are cash prizes. We place no restrictions on how the prize money is spent by recipients.

I disagree with Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Will this affect my chances of winning?

No, this will have no effect on your chances of winning. Judges look for writing that demonstrates a clear understanding of the novel, not whether the student agrees with it.

Have a different question?

Write to us at essays@aynrand.org. We typically respond within two to five business days.

Start Your Essay Today!

The Ayn Rand Institute has hosted annual essay contests on Ayn Rand’s fiction since 1985, awarding over $2.2 million in total prizes to students worldwide. 

Enter one of our contests today for a chance to win up to $10,000!