She got her early-decision acceptance today. She is thrilled — as are we! I think her essay was such an important part of her application, and you were so instrumental in helping her find and tell her story. I remember how excited she was after she came home from your first meeting — that NEVER happens when we’re talking about writing assignments. It was amazing. We can't thank you enough for all of your help.
Cambridge, MA
Allan has fantastic instincts about and empathy for students. I so applaud his sensitivity and keen skill at directing the writing and at drawing my son out to a place of believing in himself. 
Newton, MA
We can't thank you enough for helping to unlock what's inside him and tell some of his "true story" for his college applications. Your con-versations with him are the ones that really got him feeling good and inspired about showing himself. 
New York, NY

The stand-out essay develops from acts of imagination, honesty,
precision, and revision — and through a specific writing process.  

The Uncommon Essay
is a uniquely designed private course
in college-application essay-writing comprising the following:



After a coaching schedule is established at sign-up, Hillside reaches out to the student with the first Discovery step, the Ten Sentences Exercise, which helps the student confront the common emotional predicament of "What can I possibly write about?" with an instructive, low-stress method for collecting experiences. The follow-up online Exchange about specific material, prior to the first meeting, sets the stage for exploratory conversation that isolates details for authentic, meaningful writing. The Ten Sentences Exercise & Exchange is also a valuable resource after a student has completed his or her main application essay and is turning to college-specific supplement essays. 



Discovery is bolstered by specifically prompted input from parents, who are of course a rich source for details of a student's life experiences. Hillside reaches out to parents with a set of reflective questions. By placing the responses alongside a student's Ten Sentences, Hillside identifies promisingly uncommon topics to pursue in the first coaching session. 



Four private, one-hour meetings guide a student from exploratory conversation to paragraph-by-paragraph draft design and ultimately through two intensive draft-review sessions. Fine attention to a student's words, both spoken and written, not only supports the writing but builds a relationship that inspires a student's confidence and energetic ownership of the project. Each session is preceded by up to an hour of review of student progress in order to customize the coaching to the student's needs. 


Promptly following Session One, Hillside records and sends a specific and personal recap of the exploratory conversation. The audio recap highlights important emergent details, provides preliminary reflections on how the essay might be structured based on the discovered material, and reiterates the writing directions for the next step. Students frequently respond with appreciation for the chance to reconnect to the launch session simply by listening. Hillside shares the audio file with parents as well in order to encourage fruitful discussion on the home front.



Each coaching session closes with an assigned goal, a defined next step, but support between sessions remains available to the student. If a student seeks interim guidance, Hillside responds — usually within 48 hours — on a shared online document or through e-mailed audio coaching notes and keeps the student moving forward.


After completing the Common App essay, most students must turn their attention to college-specific supplement essays. Hillside provides all Uncommon clients a guide for addressing the most common supplement-essay prompt: Why are you applying here? Students learn how to prepare themselves to build the authentic and credible bridge from their past experiences to opportunities at specific colleges. Applicants wishing to sign-up for supplement-essay coaching sessions may do so here

Before my first session, I did not think I had a story worth telling, but Allan found that story, and I envisioned my essay before I ever put any words on paper. I thought myself a strong writer before I met Allan, yet I never could have realized how much he could help me bring to life all that I hoped to say.
Needham, MA
Hillside uses a completely individualized approach, encouraging the student to find a topic that has personal meaning. This made the writing less onerous because the topic was always authentic and relevant to who my daughter is as a young person and as a college applicant.
Providence, RI
I got in! I literally stared at the screen for a minute before I believed it was real. Thank you so much for all of your help, support, and encouragement. It meant a lot to know that you believed in me and in what I had to say. I will always laugh at that pessimistic kid who walked into your seminar last summer and said he did not have anything to write about.
Lexington, MA