Atlas Shrugged, and Then Offered a Scholarship
Contrary to popular belief, scholarships can be about more than money.
September 16, 2013
While other, more practical students spent their summers entering realistic and potentially profitable scholarship contests, I spent the month of August reading Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.
As anyone familiar with the book will be able to tell you, this was no weekend read. 1,069 pages of tiny print—and, at one point in the novel, a fifty-page-long speech on the light topic of objectivism.
I entered this reading marathon with two convictions—the first, that I would read the novel slowly and painfully and thoroughly abhor it—the second, that my perseverance in the face of a thousand pages would be rewarded with the ten thousand dollars offered as first prize.
After all, I figured, how many people actually bothered to read this thing?
My first surprise came when, twenty pages in, I realized that I was enjoying the read. Just as the back cover had promised, Atlas Shrugged was “unlike any other book” I had ever read.
I found myself eagerly reading through my thirty-six-page-a-day quota. The prose were well-written, the characters interesting and unexpected, the plot line surprisingly fast-paced and Ayn Rand’s ideas challenging and thought-provoking. In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
My second surprise came when I bothered to skim through the past winners of the essay contest. I found students—college students—from places like Princeton and Harvard—taking second and third place. Then I actually read some of the winning essays—and realized that my chances of winning were slimmer than I had thought.
I am actually taking a break from my Atlas Shrugged essay in order to write this article. Just as the novel was “unlike any other book” I had ever read, the essay is proving to be unlike any other essay I have ever written. The competition is forcing me to write with clearer, more articulate wording and maintain stronger organization than ever before.
My point in all of this? You don’t always get the sort of experiences you expect. I might not win any sort of scholarship, but the experience I gained from entering this contest has prepared me for the more challenging work I will hopefully find in my college years and has sparked my desire for deeper, more meaningful reading.
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What scholarship experiences have surprised you?