Risky College Application Essays

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A man looking at a letter looking unhappy

Sometimes college application essays can certainly be a function of risk and reward. Like the stock market and the basic governing laws of economics, the greater the risk you take, sometimes may also reap greater rewards. Everything from what you write in the essay to how you write that personal statement matters when it comes to college admissions. The topic alone isn’t enough to do justice to form a “great” personal statement – how you reflect your thoughts and demonstrate that level of introspection is a critical piece of the puzzle here. So do risky college application essays work?

When we consult with students, we ensure the risk that they are taking doesn’t hurt their candidacy and that their risky college application essays pay off. Rather, you want to take risks that would give your candidacy an upward swing, especially if you have a low GPA and subpar test score because it’s a risk worth taking. If you are already a very strong student, taking such risks is often unnecessary and we would much rather write a solid, albeit slightly normalized and standard, essay that reflects your core values.

A person having a cup of coffee while writing.

We won’t comment on exactly what our students write as it is personal and also our intellectual property, but those are some factors to consider when crafting your college admissions essay. We can tell you there are some students who take massive risks in their essay in their quest to be “unique,” only for such topic or style of writing to actually be detrimental in their application.

Whether it’s using colloquial language to showcase your personality, or writing about sensitive topics from religion to politics, it’s very important to tread fine waters here as you don’t want to take a risk that would hurt your candidacy. Rather, you want to demonstrate the core values that define and shape the person who you are – showing that inner thinker in you that makes the reader impressed by how you approach the world around you. 

And if you can accomplish that, then you’re in good hands. The problem is many consultants and friends and family offer high level advice based on general feel and tone of the essay, and you end up getting bombarded with 10 different opinions when you ask 10 different people for their feedback. If you’re going to write one of those risky college application essays, it needs to be done well.

That’s why it’s really important to find someone who understands with crystal clarity what makes a good essay and what makes a poor essay, why some writing is good and others are bad – and have the reasoning to support their views. Because without that objective feedback, it’s really hard to write a personal statement that would get your foot in the door.


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