College essays 102: The Write Like a Pro process

Before anything, build a strong foundation

Guess what? We snuck this in when you read Elijah’s essays.

The pros always take the time to know their audience, intention, and role.

Know your audience

If you don’t know what your audience cares about, the kind of language they use, what information and knowledge they already have, their mindset, and more, there’s a good chance you won’t be successful. 

We like to pick an individual and write directly to that person. It’s a lot easier than trying to write for everyone. If you do a good job, anyone kinda like that person will be happy. 

Your audience for the college essay is a bored college admissions officer who just wants to get to know you.

Like Jacob.

Jacob may be only 24 years old—he graduated college a couple of years ago. He was a friendly college tour guide in school and got a job in the admissions office. That’s how a lot of admissions officers get their start.

Know your intention

An intention is something that you say will happen, and you mean it right now, in the present moment. It helps you know what to do next and is a critical touchstone to make sure you’re on track. 

Sometimes your intention starts general, like this one. As you go through the program, you’ll get specific about what you want Jacob to know about you. 

For your Common Application, Coalition Application, or ApplyTexas essay, your intention is to write an engaging, authentic short story that shows who you are. That may shift a bit later on when you write supplemental essays or the Personal Insight Questions for University of California schools. We’ll let you know when to start thinking about that.

Know your role

Do you know that you’re always playing a role? One moment you’re an attentive student, and the next moment, a teammate on the field. As a teenager, sometimes you’re a responsible young adult helping around the house, and suddenly you’re back to being a little kid, begging Mom to make you a sandwich. 

As a writer, you need to find a role that will help you fulfill your intention so you can succeed with your audience. 

An academic, sales, bragging, or marketing role won’t get you to the kind of engaging, authentic short story that will show Jacob who you are. 

Just be yourself. A teenager—hanging out around a campfire, at a coffee shop, or at home—telling your story to your friends.

We have more to share!

Over the next few days, we'll send you College Essays 102, more sample essays, and activities to help you find stories you never knew you could write about.  

We want you to write your best college essay!

EssayQuest Page Source

Got it! Check your email!