Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest

For ALL students in grade 12, college, and graduate school

Entry Deadline: November 7, 2022

Cash Prizes

1st Place


1 Winner

2nd Place


3 Winners

3rd Place


5 Winners



25 Winners



50 Winners


Select ONE of the following three topics:


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).


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?


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?


Essays will be judged on whether the student is able to argue for and justify their view—not on whether the Institute agrees with the view the student expresses. Judges will look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized. Winning essays must demonstrate an outstanding grasp of the philosophic meaning of Atlas Shrugged.

Essay submissions are evaluated in a fair and unbiased four-round judging process. Judges are individually selected by the Ayn Rand Institute based on a demonstrated knowledge and understanding of Ayn Rand’s works.

To ensure the anonymity of our participants, winners’ names are unknown to judges until after essays have been ranked and the contest results finalized.

The Ayn Rand Institute checks essays with Ithenticate plagiarism detection software.


  • The Ayn Rand Institute’s (ARI’s) Atlas Shrugged essay contest is open to all students worldwide, except where void or prohibited by law.
  • Entrants must be enrolled as a 12th grade, undergraduate, or graduate student during the school year in which the contest is held. ARI reserves the right to make exceptions to this rule, on a case-by-case basis, for international students or for students with nonstandard school years. Verification of school enrollment will be required for all winning entrants.
  • Students are permitted to submit one entry to the contest each year, provided they meet the eligibility requirements outlined above and have not previously won first-place in the contest.
  • Essays must be written in English only, and be between 800 and 1,600 words in length, double-spaced. Spelling errors and/or written corrections (by anyone) found on the essay will count against the final grade and should be omitted before submission.
  • Essays must be solely the work of the entrant. Plagiarism will result in automatic disqualification.
  • Essays must not infringe on any third-party rights or intellectual property of any person, company or organization. By submitting an essay to this contest, the entrant agrees to indemnify ARI for any claim, demand, judgment or other allegation arising from possible violation of someone’s trademark, copyright or other legally protected interest in any way in the entrant’s essay.
  • Essays must be submitted electronically through ARI’s online application portal. If you are unable to submit your essay electronically, please contact us at
  • Essays must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time of the entry deadline. ARI reserves the right to provide contest deadline extensions on a case-by-case basis when deemed appropriate.
  • All entries become the property of ARI and will not be returned.
  • All entrants will be notified of the final results via email by February, 2023.
  • Winners are responsible for providing their mailing addresses and other necessary information under the law in order to receive any prizes. Prizes must be claimed within six months of the results being announced.
  • Winners agree to allow ARI to post their names and school information on any of its affiliated websites. The first-place essay may be posted in its entirety on any of these websites with full credit given to the author.
  • Winners agree to record a short video testimonial about their experience reading Atlas Shrugged, and consent to ARI’s sharing of said video with donors who make the essay contest possible.
  • Winners consent to participate in interviews and allow ARI to use quotes and take photographs, movies or videotapes of them.
  • Winners also grant to ARI the right to edit, use and reuse said products for non-profit purposes including use in print, on the internet and all other forms of media.
    Winners release ARI and its agents and employees from all claims, demands, and liabilities whatsoever regarding the above.
  • Winners will be solely responsible for any federal, state or local taxes.
  • Employees of ARI, its board of directors and their immediate family members are not eligible to participate.

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To Enter

Submit online

You will receive an e-mail acknowledging receipt of your entry within 24 hours. If it has been at least 24 hours, and you still have not received e-mail notification, please first check your junk or spam folders and then e-mail us at Please do not re-submit your essay.

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