The Fountainhead
Essay Contest

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


Annual Grand Prize

Sept. 13, 2024

Fall Entry Deadline

694 pages

Book Length


Word Count

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.

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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 The Fountainhead?

This modern classic is the story of intransigent young architect Howard Roark, whose integrity was as unyielding as granite…of Dominique Francon, the exquisitely beautiful woman who loved Roark passionately, but married his worst enemy…and of the fanatic denunciation unleashed by an enraged society against a great creator.

As fresh today as it was then, Rand’s provocative novel presents one of the most challenging ideas in all of fiction—that man’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress.

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 between 800 and 1,600 words in length, double-spaced.

Questions? Write to us at

In conversation with Peter Keating, Roark says “to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences.” What evidence is there in the story that Roark loves the doing? What are the secondary consequences he does not prioritize? How does his love for his work guide his major life decisions? How does Roark’s approach to his work relate to the overall theme of the novel? To answer all of these questions, give specific examples from the novel.
Steven Mallory tells Roark that he fears there is something like a “drooling beast of prey” that is hanging over the world. What do we learn from the rest of the book about what is the object of Mallory’s fear and in what way is it like a beast of prey? How does Roark help Mallory and others learn to overcome it? How does Roark’s success in helping his friends combat this fear relate to the theme of the novel? To answer all of these questions, give specific examples from the novel.

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 The Fountainhead.








On Topic

Contest Timeline

  • Mar. 11

  • Jun. 7

  • Jun. 14

  • Jun. 21

  • Aug. 23

  • Sep. 13

  • Sep. 20

  • Sep. 27

  • Nov. 29

  • Dec. 20

  • Dec. 27

  • Mar. 7, 2025

Discover the Power
of The Fountainhead

What motivates a creative thinker?

Is it a selfless desire to benefit mankind? A hunger for fame, fortune, and accolades? The need to prove superiority? Or is it a self-sufficient drive to pursue a creative vision, independent of others’ needs or opinions?

Ayn Rand addresses these questions through her portrayal of Howard Roark, an innovative architect who, as she puts it, “struggles for the integrity of his creative work against every form of social opposition.”

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 Fountainhead 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 The Fountainhead.

See the full list of winners from our most recent contest here.


Jada Manaloto

12th grade student

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

New York, New York

United States

Read Winning Essay


Anna Lai

12th grade student

John F. Kennedy High School

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

United States

Read Winning Essay


Soo Yeon Chun

12th grade student

Deerfield Academy

Deerfield, Massachusetts

United States

Read Winning Essay


Cora Usurela

11th grade student

Thornhill Secondary School

Thornhill, Ontario


Read Winning Essay


Jitae You

12th grade student

Shepherd International Edu.

Gangdong-gu, Seoul

South Korea

Read Winning Essay


Lucas Pringle

12th grade student

Repton School

Repton, England

United Kingdom

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 Fountainhead

This video lecture course is an introduction to Ayn Rand's classic novel that includes background material on Rand and the era in which she wrote, an overview of the story, an analysis of the principal characters and detailed discussion of the main themes.

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 The Fountainhead.