The Fountainhead
Essay Contest

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   Open to all high school students worldwide.


Top Prize

April 25, 2024

Entry Deadline

694 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 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.


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.


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 The Fountainhead and write an essay in response to it.

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

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


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.


In her introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand writes that she removed a quotation by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche from the head of her manuscript because of “profound” disagreement with his philosophy. How can we see her repudiation of Nietzsche’s worldview illustrated in the story of The Fountainhead? How can the plot be interpreted as illustrating the reasons for which she rejects the Nietzschean ideas she claims to reject (in this introduction and elsewhere)? How does Rand’s rejection of Nietzsche’s philosophy relate to the novel’s theme? Explain your answers by reference to particular characters’ specific actions and their consequences.


5 Winners


3 Winners


1 Winner

3rd Place

2nd Place

1st Place

1st Place


1 Winner

2nd Place


3 Winners

3rd Place


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 The Fountainhead.








On Topic

Entry Deadline
April 25, 2024
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
May, 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
June, 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
July, 2024
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
August, 2024
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 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.


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 deadline, as well as helpful resources to ensure you get the most out of your experience reading and writing about Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.