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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
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College Scholarship: Ayn Rand “Atlas Shrugged” Essay Contest

As college costs continue to soar, more and more students find themselves looking for additional ways to fund a college education. More than 85% of college students now receive some type of financial aid, but for many families, this still isn’t enough to cover college expenses. In fact, CNBC estimated in 2018 that 70% of students were graduating with student debt, and that the average graduate has $37,172 in student loans. One way to help defray these costs is through college scholarships.


About the Ayn Rand “Atlas Shrugged” Essay Contest


Students who have read Ayn Rand’s prolific novel “Atlas Shrugged” know that the book provides commentary on a number of complex philosophical themes, ranging from objectivism to capitalism and individualism. For over 30 years, the Ayn Rand Institute has held worldwide essay contests for students based on Ayn Rand’s fiction. In 2019, they will award over 230 prizes, totaling more than $70,000.


Participants submit an essay that addresses one of three prompts based on “Atlas Shrugged”. The prompts for 2019 are:


  • Atlas Shrugged depicts a society of diminishing economic freedom. What is the philosophical motivation behind these controls and what is the practical result? What is hero John Galt’s answer, both practically and philosophically? Use the events in the novel to support your answer. In your answer, consider what Ayn Rand says in the lecture “Faith and Force.”


  • Dagny says to Rearden: “If I’m asked to name my proudest attainment, I will say: I have slept with Hank Rearden. I had earned it.” Why is she so proud, and what does she mean by having earned it? How and why does Rearden’s attitude differ from hers? How do their attitudes toward sex relate to the wider themes of the novel? Consider also what Ayn Rand has to say in her essay “Of Living Death.”


  • Atlas Shrugged is a story that portrays a dramatic conflict of characters and their values. What is the most significant conflict in the story? Is it the conflict between the creators and the looters? Is it the conflict the creators experience in their own souls? Is it something else? Explain your answer.


Essays are judged on the student’s ability to justify and provide evidence for his or her statement, not on whether the Institute agrees with the student’s perspective. Judges look for writing that is “clear, articulate and logically organized [and] winning essays must demonstrate an outstanding grasp of the philosophic meaning of ‘Atlas Shrugged’.”


The first place winner receives $25,000. Two second place winners receive $2,500, five third place winners receive $500, and 50 finalists receive $100 each.

“Atlas Shrugged” Essay Contest Requirements


Entires are open to students worldwide, but the essay must be written in English. All entrants must be 12th graders, college undergraduates, or graduate students.  All essays must be between 800-1600 words in length. Essays can be submitted by mail or online. If submitted by mail, be certain to include all of the elements outlined on the Contest Rules page. Submissions need to be submitted online or postmarked by September 19, 2019, no later than 11:59 p.m., Pacific Standard Time. Winners will be notified by January 2020. Be sure to see the complete Contest Details for all requirements.


Tips on Applying for the Ayn Rand “Atlas Shrugged” Essay Contest


Follow the directions


It can be difficult to juggle the requirements of multiple scholarship applications, but it is absolutely paramount that you follow all directions for each scholarship exactly. Remember, most scholarships receive thousands of applicants, and it can be difficult to choose a single winner. Failure to follow directions gives the contest evaluators or scholarship judges good reason to pass you over.





Proofreading is an essential piece of every scholarship application, but it is especially important for essay contests. Judges want to hear from students who can express themselves articulately and intelligently. Lapses in spelling or grammar may at best indicate that you rushed through your work, or at worst be a sign that you don’t know the proper spelling or grammar to begin with.





Research is an especially helpful part of the “Atlas Shrugged” Essay Contest. This is because the Ayn Rand Institute provides a number of resources to guide entrants. For one, they provide the actual essays of past winners. Read these carefully to learn more about the type and level of work expected from a winning entry. In addition, don’t miss the countless resources provided under the Resources tab. Although the Institute is careful to say that beyond “endorsing perfect punctuation and grammar” they offer no specific advice for the essay, they do provide a number of tools to help frame your thinking and enhance your essay content. Read these carefully before beginning.



Enlist Help


While your essay must absolutely be 100% your own work, there’s not doubt that having another set of eyes and ears to review your work is very helpful. Talk with a teacher, mentor, or friend about your essay content before you begin writing. You may get some helpful feedback to help shape the direction of your work. Then, once you’re done with the writing part, be sure to have someone else give your essay a good proofread and edit. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes will find typos that blended in when you reviewed your work.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.