The Fountainhead Essay Contest

Enter by April 27 for your chance to win up to $5,000!

The Fountainhead essay contest is open to all high school students worldwide. If you are unsure about your eligibility status or have other questions about this years contest, please email us at essays@aynrand.org.

We hope to see your essay among this years entries!

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.


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

The Fountainhead, Individualism in One's Soul

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.”

Initially rejected by twelve publishers as “too intellectual,” The Fountainhead became a best seller within two years, purely through word of mouth, and earned Rand enduring commercial and artistic success.

The novel was also a personal landmark for Rand. In Howard Roark, she presented for the first time the uniquely Ayn Rand hero, whose depiction was the chief goal of her writing: the ideal man, man as “he could be and ought to be.”

Win Cash Prizes

1st Place

1 Winner

2nd Place

3 Winners

3rd Place

5 Winners


25 Winners


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 Mallory says the following about Roark: “You know how people long to be eternal. But they die with every day that passes. . . . They change, they deny, they contradict—and they call it growth. . . . How do they expect a permanence which they have never held for a single moment? But Howard—one can imagine him existing forever.” Give examples of characters in the novel who change in the way Mallory suggests. In what respects is Roark unchanging through the book? Are there any respects in which his character develops? How do these issues of characterization relate to the theme of the novel?

2 Toohey tells Keating the following: “I’m the most selfless man you’ve ever known. I have less independence than you, whom I just forced to sell your soul.” Drawing on Toohey’s own explanation and on his actions in the story, explain your understanding of what Toohey means by this. Does the author agree with Toohey’s assessment of his own motivation? Do you? Explain your answers.

3 In The Fountainhead, we can see how Roark is guided by his own creative vision, whether in the way he develops his skills as an architect, in the terms on which he’ll work for employers, or in the standards he uses for accepting or rejecting new clients. Judging from examples of these aspects of his decisions and actions, do you think he would be a supporter or opponent of free-market capitalism? Explain your answer, being sure to define relevant terms.

Dates to Remember

Entry Deadline

April 27, 2023

Grading Phase 1

May 2023

Grading Phase 2

June 2023

Final Grading

July 2023

Winners Announced

August 2023

Learn from Past Winners

Anna Lai


12th grade student
John F. Kennedy High School
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
United States

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

Soo Yeon


12th grade student
Deerfield Academy
Deerfield, MA
United States



High school student
Thornhill Secondary School
Thornhill, ON



High school student
Shepherd International Edu.
Gangdong-gu, Seoul
South Korea



High school student
Repton School
Repton, England
United Kingdom

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 Fountainhead Course

This video lecture course is an introduction to this 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, Leonard 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.

Sign Up for Contest Updates!