College Essays 102: The Write Like a Pro process

Pro tips from students like you

We spent eight years developing and refining EssayQuest in partnership with our students. As they went through the process, they helped us make it better. They told us what made their journeys easier and more effective.

These are the pros we’re talking about: high school students, just like you, who used EssayQuest to write their college essays.

1

Always know where you are.

If you’re lost in the woods without a map, compass, or cell phone, you may be in trouble.

The same with writing. Professionals regularly check to see that they’re heading in the right direction. Are they still writing to their audience? Are they getting closer to fulfilling their intentions? And are they playing a role that will get them where they want to be? 

As you work, you’ll ask yourself targeted questions to see if you’re on track. Then, we’ll tell you how to get reoriented when you’re off track.

We’ll also make it easy for people to give you great feedback. They probably aren’t experts in college essays, so we’ve created simple feedback forms for each of the three phases of the process. 

By making regular course corrections, you’ll keep moving closer and closer to the engaging, authentic short story that an admissions officer like Jacob will love.

 

2

Go step-by-step.

We’ve broken down the process of writing into small, simple steps. 

Sometimes you may think we’re asking you to do something silly. You may not see how an activity could be necessary or that it will lead you to a better essay.

We get that. And…

Do it anyway.

Each activity sets the stage for something coming down the road you haven’t seen yet. Again, we developed EssayQuest in partnership with students like you and found that these steps, in this order, work.

3

Be nice to your brain.

Feeling stuck? Don’t know what to do? Can’t think?

Yeah. Our brains don’t always cooperate.

Maybe you’re just at a stopping point and need to do some processing in the background.

Or, even more basic, maybe your brain is in no shape to do work. Do you need some sleep? Food? Water? Exercise? Socializing?

It’s ok to take a break when you need one—whether for a few minutes or a few days.

4

Don’t go it alone.

The best writers in the world seek out fresh perspectives. You know the place in books where they thank people? They’re acknowledging the support that helped them do a great job.

You may have people who can give you support or a fresh perspective throughout the process. Friends may help you think of ideas to write about. Your parents or a neighbor might help you get through a spot where you’re struggling.

Anyone who gives you support or feedback needs to read the guidance we share. You’re using a different process than what they’re probably used to, and they need to give you support that makes sense for where you are in your writing journey.

5

Always listen to Stephen King.

He’s sold 350 million books. He knows what he’s talking about.

He says there are two things you must do to be a writer:

you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

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!

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