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Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

Enter today for your chance to win up to $10,000!

The Atlas Shrugged essay contest is open to all high school, college, and graduate students worldwide. If you are unsure about your eligibility status or have other questions about this year’s contest, please email us at essays@aynrand.org.

We hope to see your essay among this year’s entries!

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, and we place no restrictions on how the money is spent by recipients.

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's masterwork

With adoring fans, fiery critics and very few in between, why does Atlas Shrugged evoke such impassioned responses? Because it grapples with the fundamental problems of human existence — and presents radically new answers.

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s last novel, is a dramatization of her unique vision of existence and of man’s highest potential. Twelve years in the writing, it is her masterwork.

Is the pursuit of profit a noble enterprise or the root of all evil? Is sexual passion an exalted spiritual virtue or a dirty, animalistic vice? Is reason an absolute or is faith an alternative source of truth? Is self-esteem possible or are we consigned to a life of self-doubt and guilt? In what kind of society can an individual prosper, and in what kind of society is he doomed to the opposite fate?

Rand’s worldview emerges in the compelling plot turns of a mystery story, centered on the question “Who is John Galt?”

Win Cash Prizes

1st Place
$10,000

1 Winner

2nd Place
$2,500

3 Winners

3rd Place
$500

5 Winners

Finalist
$100

25 Winners

Semi-Finalist
$25

50 Winners

Decide What to Write

Select ONE of the following prompts as the topic of your essay. Your essay must be between 800 and 1,600 words in length.

1 In the world of Atlas Shrugged, material goods that many of the characters take for granted become increasingly difficult to obtain as the plot progresses. Identify several examples of such goods, and explain how the novel accounts for their disappearance. Describe the economic and the moral-philosophical forces at work in their disappearance. Are there significant parallels with the shortages our world has witnessed in the last few years? Explain any similarities and differences (using contemporary examples).

2 Throughout Atlas Shrugged, there are both literal and figurative references to motors and motive power. Describe three examples of this that occur in the novel, and explain their meaning in the context of the scenes they are taken from. How does this meaning relate to the wider philosophical themes of the novel?

3 Among the many advocates of the “morality of death” he targets in his radio speech, John Galt reserves special criticism for the “mystics” who declare that man’s duty is “to crawl through years of penance, atoning for the guilt of his existence to any stray collector of unintelligible debts.” Name and describe at least two of the doctrines about human nature that Galt says these mystics use to encourage this moral outlook. Then illustrate their impact by choosing a character from Atlas Shrugged who struggles with these doctrines. (If one character struggles with both doctrines, you need only discuss one character.) What types of behavior do the doctrines encourage? What are the consequences for the character(s) in question? How is this struggle resolved?

Dates to Remember

Entry Deadline

September 26, 2022

Grading Phase 1

October, 2022

Grading Phase 2

November, 2022

Final Grading

December, 2022

Winners Announced

January, 2023

Learn from Past Winners

Mariah Williams

2021

Graduate student
Regis University
Denver, Colorado
United States

Watch last year’s winner announcement ceremony, in which our faculty celebrated and discussed the top essays!

Nathaniel
Shippee

2020

College Student
University of Illinois
Chicago, Illinois
United States

Sam
Weaver

2019

Graduate student
St. John’s College
Annapolis, Maryland
United States

Patrick
Mayles

2018

College Student
Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Bogata, Colombia

Christina
Jeong

2017

College Student
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana
United States

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 your essay content.

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, Dr. Peikoff explains, 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.

Enter the 2022 Contest Today!​

When you finish writing your essay, submit it to the contest by completing our brief online form.