ARI Essay Contest Changes a Life

In 1997, Lisa Kostova, a high school student in Bulgaria, submitted an essay on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Thanks to the prize she won, she was able to travel to the United States to further her education and establish a promising career. Lisa recently wrote to ARI to tell us her story.

Hello, dear friends at Ayn Rand Institute.

Twenty years ago last month, I was a high school student in Bulgaria who had just been admitted on full scholarship to an American university. The country was going through a really difficult time and we barely had money for food. I had no idea how I would afford my plane ticket and what money I would have when I landed in the U.S.

That’s when I got a call one day. The person on the other line was American and sounded surprised. He asked me where he was calling since he didn’t recognize the phone number. I told him “Bulgaria” and he let out a gasp of surprise. He told me that I was the first winner of the Ayn Rand Institute high school essay contest outside the U.S. I was a third-place winner and, as such, I had won $500, which to me at that time was an indescribable fortune. Thanks to that prize money, I was able to come to the U.S. and start my life in this country.

I owe a lot to the Ayn Rand Institute and to Ayn Rand, and I’ve been thinking about contacting you guys and expressing my heartfelt gratitude. This year, on the 20th year anniversary, the timing felt just right. Thank you, Ayn Rand Institute, and thank Ayn Rand for so positively influencing my life!

My life has unfolded in unimaginable ways in the U.S. I ended up graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a dual degree and then got my MBA at Harvard. I currently live in San Francisco and I am an executive in technology. I feel so blessed and inspired by Ayn Rand’s example and I’m grateful for the assistance provided through your Institute at a critical juncture in my life.

I would love to keep in touch with the Institute and be of any help going forward. Thank you once again from the bottom of my heart.


ARI has held worldwide essay contests for students on Ayn Rand’s fiction for thirty years. This year, we will award over 750 prizes totaling more than $130,000. Make a difference in the life of a young person like Lisa Kostova today by supporting this and other ARI programs.

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