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The Atlantic & College Board Writing Prize

2016 Writing Prize Winner Announced

The College Board and The Atlantic want to thank all students who submitted entries for the 2016 Writing Prize. We’re encouraged by the positive response of students who, through this exercise, learned the importance of analytical and reflective writing, essential skills for college and career success, while thoughtfully engaging with a variety of artworks. Entries were judged by 24 college professors of art history and composition who read over 1,600 submitted essays from the U.S. and 43 other countries. They were impressed by the intelligence and passion shown by students in describing their engagement with great works of art. 

This year’s winner, selected by a panel of College Board and Atlantic staff, is Thanh Nguyen, a student at Hanoi-Amsterdam High School for the Gifted in Hanoi, Vietnam. His essay — on School of Athens by Renaissance artist Raphael — stood out for his rich interpretation of the painting and his thoughtful and engaging description of its relevance to his life in contemporary Hanoi. For his accomplishment, Mr. Nguyen was recognized at The Atlantic Education Summit in Washington, D.C., on May 17th. He received a $5,000 prize, and his essay will be published in the September 2016 issue of The Atlantic.

Two finalists each received $2,500 prizes. Alejandra Canales attends John B. Alexander High School in Laredo, Texas. She was recognized for her powerful writing about culture and identity in her analysis of Frida Kahlo’s painting Autorretrato en la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos. Her fellow finalist, Rahul Malayappan, is from Danbury High School in Danbury, Connecticut. His essay was selected for its sophisticated analysis of M. C. Escher’s lithograph Waterfall and for its exploration of reality versus perception and the limits of perspective.  

The Importance of Writing

Teacher Resources

The new online module Writing About Art offers strategies to help students transform their analysis and interpretation of art to writing.

Writing is one of the most important skills to master. Not only is writing essential for college and career, but learning to write clearly also helps students develop their thinking skills. To be successful at analytical writing, students must support their arguments with evidence found in the text and clearly convey information to the reader. It is this kind of writing that allows students to build knowledge, deepen understanding, and develop informed opinions.

With this in mind, The Atlantic and the College Board have collaborated to create this annual contest. The focus of this contest will change each year to align with the introduction of a newly redesigned AP course and exam.