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“An appetite for risk,” says New York Times journalist Ron Lieber.  This quality distinguishes outstanding essays from the average.  Why is risk so desirable in a college application essay?


Risk in its most authentic spirit, reflects something deeply human in us all.  When Ana M. Castro writes of her broken heart, “…Because that boy experienced a level of poor I never knew,” she reminds us that innocence lives in the risk of loving.  Ana risked the content of her heart in her college essay.


Risk in its most cowardly spirit, however, abandons personal integrity in favor of insult, narcissism, or ignorance.  A tendency toward this kind of risk falls flat, or worse, offends admissions deans. 


Navigating the subtleties of risk, Art of the College Essay helps acknowledge the integrity in each teen, whether that involves a fresh discovery process or encouraging an already self-aware teen to trust himself on the page.


When a teenager discovers the power in articulating her integrity, a hunger for good risk may arise.  Art of the College Essay can help her channel risk into innovation, compassion, humor, and self-respect in her essay process.  These qualities reveal character strength. 


Each of the New York Times’ essay finalists shows character by contrasting or supporting their personal beliefs with larger cultural ideas.  Lyle Li paints a picture of his own privilege in contrast to his Chinese parents’ life-long sacrifices.  “Instead of diplomas and accolades, my parents’ room emits a smell from the restaurant uniforms they wear seven days a week, all year round,” he writes.


Throughout his essay, Li uses storytelling techniques like contrasting, showing-not-telling, and reflection to create a unique perspective on being a first-generation immigrant.  Art of the College Essay helps develop these essential writing skills through examples and freewriting.


Like Li, a writer needs to draw on storytelling techniques to express his experiences.  Certainly, being an avid reader helps.  Readers tend to have a natural ability to weave in storytelling techniques and strengthen them with good pacing and interesting vocabulary.  Reading books improves writing skills!


Overall, students become better writers by understanding and committing to the process.  A draft never reaches its potential without undertaking a rigorous revision process.  Art of the College Essay helps motivate students toward complete follow-through in the essay process.  Each step is a challenge with its own rewards: accomplishment, new skill, authenticity, and power.  Take the first step with us! Contact







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