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, you are now a Storyteller.

This is where you create your message, structure, and strategy.

Congratulations! You’ve written a lot of thoughts and ideas and know that you have enough raw content to write an engaging, authentic, short story that will show admissions officers who you are.

In other words, you’ve made lots of baby chicks. Now, you have to choose which ones stay and which go.

There’s no right answer for this. No one has ever assembled your brood of baby chicks.

You’re going to have to get curious: Who are these chicks? What do they show about you?

And, you’ll play and experiment: What happens when you put these three chicks together? Or those four?

That’s your mission as a Storyteller: to get curious and play with your raw content and ideas – that’s how you’ll create your message, strategy, and structure.

But before we move on, let’s check in again.

How do you feel about what you’ve accomplished and starting the Storyteller phase? 

Pretty good

Hooray. You deserve to feel good. Maybe even great. You’ve accomplished a lot, you’ve learned a lot, and you’ve done a lot of good work, and you’re well on your way to an essay you can be proud of.

To get there, just keep going through the steps of the Write Like a Pro process. Using these tools and practicing these skills that will lead you to a great essay.


Hey, you’re not alone. Most people feel a bit mixed at this point. You’ve made a lot of progress, and you can see there’s more to go to get to the essay you will be proud of.

Remember, writing well takes real effort, especially when it’s a new kind of writing and the stakes are high. To get the essay you hope for, you’ll need to put in the time and work.

Just keep going through the steps of the Write Like a Pro process. By doing each step, you will gain the tools and skills that will lead to a great essay. 

Don't ask

Ugh. We get it. We’ve been there. Don’t get discouraged. We know you’re on the right track. Really. Good writing takes a lot of time, effort, and focus, especially for this kind of personal writing that you’ve probably never practiced before.

Have you ever noticed there are so many people who say “I want to be a writer” but really aren’t? Now you know why.

It helps to remember that you’re learning the tricks and tools that successful, professional writers use to be successful professional writers.

It’s your college essay and you wouldn’t be here unless you want to do a good job. You can have confidence knowing that thousands of students like you have successfully used this process.

Just keep going through the steps of the Write Like a Pro process. Each step builds up to the next step, which will lead to a great essay. Even if it’s hard to see how now, we know you’ll get there.

Now, read this comic

Remember the baby chicks?

Well, The Oatmeal also does a great job of illustrating what it means to be a Storyteller.

(Errr, it’s not entirely safe for work…just a tiny bit off-color. But we know you can handle it.)

[[[note: the comic we’re using is here]]]

We’d like to thank The Oatmeal for his brilliant comics, and for letting us share them with you.

Check out his website and online store (with games and books you may love).

As a Storyteller, your mission is to draw the construction lines.

The construction lines for a college essay are:

  • Your message: What you want Tina Fey to know about you no matter what.
  • Your strategy: The content that goes with each of your essays (Common Application, supplemental essays, etc.).
  • Your structure: A rough draft of your main essay (in other words, your baby chicks arranged in the right order).

As a Storyteller, you’re working with a virtual pencil. You’ll mess around – and probably mess up, move backward, move forward, get confused, get inspired, and then start over again.

But you’re in luck. We’ve broken this phase down into bite-size, step-by-step activities. They’re pretty simple (ok, one is a little tricky) and as you do them, you’ll get closer and closer to your best essay. 

The Thinker steps

1. Discover what you’ve got

First, you’ll get to know your raw material, see possible stories, and maybe even learn some (more) things about yourself. You’ll see surprising connections and patterns in your stories, and in yourself.

2. Create your personal intention

You’ll get specific about your message — what you want to communicate and what you want the college to know about you no matter what. You’ll design your college essay to deliver on your intention.

3. Create essay options

You’ll combine your stories and events in different ways to see what happens. Making several quick options will help you choose what to include in your essay and supplementals.

4. Create your strategy

If you have multiple essays to write, you’ll map out how you’ll use your stories most efficiently. You’ll choose the option for your main essay and will cluster supplementals to reuse content.

5. Delete what you don't need

With this cool tool, you’ll rip out ideas and content that don’t contribute to communicating your intentions and writing an engaging story. You’ll be left with the content you need for your best essay.

6. Create your essay structure

Now that you have the content for your essay, it’s time to play around to find the structure. Where to start? What comes next? Where to end? This will be the rough draft of your college essay!

Once you get this far, you’ll do a deeper review than you’ve done previously. You’ll make sure that you’re on track, discover what’s missing (if anything), get a fresh perspective (if you want), and decide how to move forward and make it even better.

When you’re done, you’ll have clear intentions for what you want colleges to know about you, a strategy for all of your essays, and a rough draft of your main essay that you’ll polish in the Writer phase.