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Atlas Shrugged
Essay Contest

Students     >     Essay Contests     >     Atlas Shrugged

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

$10,000

Top Prize

TBD

Entry Deadline

1072 pages

Book Length

Interested in participating?

Fill out the contact form below, and we’ll email you with more information about the 2024 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 essays@aynrand.org 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.

Learn

Improve your ability to write and think effectively. This contest will require you to reflect on philosophic themes, form your own opinion, and argue a thesis with evidence and clarity.

Compete

Test yourself against talented students from around the world and the high grading standards of our faculty. On average, only the top 5–10% of essays are awarded prizes each year.

Earn Cash

Win cash prizes among five placement categories. This is an excellent way to earn money for college and higher education. We place no restrictions on how the money is spent by recipients.

Choose Your
Essay Topic

Select one of the following three prompts about Atlas Shrugged and write an essay in response to it.

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

Questions? Write to us at essays@aynrand.org.

We are still working to finalize the essay topics for the 2024 contest. 

Please check back later this month for more information, or join our email list to receive updates as soon as the topics are made available.

1
In his speech about money, Francisco says: “Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. . . . Paper [money] is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’” Explain what Francisco means by this and how it serves the purpose of his speech. Then explain how his statement can be seen as applying to our economic world today.
2
In his radio speech, John Galt names a principle that Rearden and Dagny have struggled to discover for themselves: “The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it. . . . Do not try to live on your enemies’ terms or to win at a game where they’re setting the rules. . . . One cannot hope to maintain one’s life by accepting bribes to condone one’s destruction.” Explain what Galt means by this and how the issue plays a role in the plot of the novel. Describe an issue or event from current events (whether in your country or in its relations with others) to which you think this principle applies. How might events have unfolded differently if this principle of the sanction of the victim were taken more seriously?
3
The bum in the diner says to Dagny, “It doesn’t take any morality to turn out a ten-ton truck on an assembly line.” In important ways, the events of the novel go on to address this and other claims the bum makes in this scene about the nature of morality. What do they suggest is right about the bum’s conception of morality? What do they suggest is wrong about it? How, in particular, does Rearden start from the bum’s point of view and develop a new view over the course of the story?

$500

5 Winners

$2,500

3 Winners

$10,000

1 Winner

3rd Place

2nd Place

1st Place

1st Place

$10,000

1 Winner

2nd Place

$2,500

3 Winners

3rd Place

$500

5 Winners

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.

01

Clarity

02

Organization

03

Understanding

04

On Topic

Entry Deadline
To Be Determined
All essays must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time the night of the entry deadline. ARI reserves the right to provide deadline extensions on a case-by-case basis when deemed appropriate. Start your entry today.
Phase 1 Grading
November, 2024
The first round of grading typically takes us 3-4 weeks to complete. Be sure to add essays@aynrand.org to your contacts list to ensure you receive our upgrading-stage-dates regarding the status of your essay—including whether or not it is still in contention for a prize.
Phase 2 Grading
December, 2024
The second round of grading typically takes us 4-6 weeks to complete. This is when the finalist and semifinalist prize winners are determined.
Phase 3 Grading
January, 2025
The third (and final) round of grading typically takes us 2-3 weeks to complete. This is when the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prize winners are determined.
Final Results Announced
February, 2025
The final results of the contest will be revealed online via a special livestream event. Our faculty will discuss the common challenges students faced in answering this year's essay contest questions, and highlight some of the exceptional responses we received.
Students will also be notified of the final results via email shortly after the conclusion of the webinar.

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.

2022


Jacob Fisher


Graduate Student

Stanford University

Stanford, California

United States

Read Winning Essay

2021


Mariah Williams


Graduate Student

Regis University

Denver, Colorado

United States

Read Winning Essay

2020


Nathaniel Shippee


Graduate Student

University of Illinois

Chicago, Illinois

United States

Read Winning Essay

2019


Samuel Weaver


Graduate Student

St. John’s College

Annapolis, Maryland

United States

Read Winning Essay

2018


Patrick Mayles


Graduate student

Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Bogota

Colombia

Read Winning Essay

2017


Christina Jeong


College Student

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana

United States

Read Winning Essay
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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 deadline, as well as helpful resources to ensure you get the most out of your experience reading and writing about Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.