Nearly a decade ago, I stumbled across the Atlas Shrugged Scholarship. I had never heard of the author, Ayn Rand, but I needed money for college and this essay contest offered a $10,000 top prize, so I headed to my local library to grab a copy. When I finally located it on a shelf, I could not believe the size of the work – 1075 pages. Whoa! The scholarship deadline was in three weeks, and I seriously doubted my ability to absorb so much material in so little time. Fortunately, the characters in the novel were so compelling that I found it hard to put away and finished it in a matter of days. Although I did not win the scholarship, the novel’s underlying themes stayed with me, challenging what I believed to be essential truths about being human and how one should treat others. Ayn Rand was the creator of Objectivism, a philosophy she described as, ‘…the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.’ Most of her work introduces you to the tenets of this philosophy, but even if you disagree with many of its points, her novels do make you think about your role in the world.
Although Rand died in 1982, the Ayn Rand Institute continues to open minds, and doors, for students through its many scholarship programs. Each year, over 600 students receive awards to help further their academic studies, with prizes ranging from $25 to $10,000. Here is a short overview of each program and who is eligible to participate.