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EssayQuest Guide Handbook 

Thank you for giving feedback and support.


The student who shared this page is using our Write Like a Pro process to write their best college essays.

If you want to give effective feedback and support, please take five or ten minutes to learn how our process works and the role you can play as a guide. You may send this kid off in a funny direction if you don’t have at least a big picture understanding of what they’re doing and why.


We’ll be adding more to this page in the next week.
If you’re reading this, the student is one of the first to register for EssayQuest. We wanted to get EssayQuest to rising seniors as soon as it was ready for them to use — but we still have some polishing to do and some final pages like this to finish. By July 13, there will be much richer content on this page.


To learn about college essays and our process:

  1. Click around on the overview tabs below to get a sense of how the program flows.
  2. Take our virtual workshop, College Essays 101. (If you were at a live or video workshop, this is the same material.)
  3. Read the overview of our Write Like a Pro process.


The best advice we can give you (based on conversations with hundreds of parents over the years):

  •  Understand what a college essay is and isn’t: if you don’t know what the student is writing, you won’t be able to give support that moves the student along.
  • It’s the student’s essay, not yours. Your ideas and language will stick out like a sore thumb to a college admissions officer. Let the student do the thinking and work. It should be 100% theirs.
  • Understand the process and know where the student is in the process. It’s not what either of you is probably used to.
  • If you’re talking with the student, take the time to read the overview and instructions for the activity they’re on — the support and feedback you give needs to be consistent with what they’re doing.
  • Their work may look like a disaster. That’s ok! It’s part of the process. By the end, it’ll be their best work. We promise!
  • Let them struggle, ponder, and work through issues. It’s part of writing, and it’s ok if they get stuck at times.
  • Have fun. We do. And so do our students!

 If you have any questions or feedback, please let us know.

EssayQuest has four sections, plus support material.

If you’re giving written feedback, the student should have given you one of our feedback forms. It’s critical that you use this form. Please do not give feedback without it.

If you’re talking with the student, please read the Write Like a Pro page and the instructions for the step the student is working on.


The EssayQuest Write Like a Pro process has four parts: the Foundation, three phases (Thinker, Storyteller, Writer), plus bonus support material for adults to help you along.

Build a Strong Foundation

Before you start out on your journey, you need to know where you’re going and how you’ll get there. Any good journey starts with solid preparation, and that’s what this section is all about.

Completing the assignments in this part will take about an hour.

Don’t skimp here, like anything else the better you prepare, the better the outcome.

When you’re done, you’ll have a clear picture of what makes a great college essay, how they’re used, and the process we’ll guide you through.

Main Foundation page


be a Thinker

In the Thinker phase, you’ll put your focus on generating a lot of ideas and raw content.

This part will take you about 4 to 6 hours, best if spread out over 2 to 4 weeks.

(Pro tip: When you give your ideas time to ‘breathe’ and roll around in the back of your held while not working on them directly or trying to cramp them all in one sitting, it kick-starts your creativity.)

When you’re done, you’ll have the raw content and ideas you’ll need to write a great main college essay, plus some of your supplemental essays.

Main Thinker page

be a Storyteller

In the Storyteller phase, you’ll focus on choosing and refining your message, structure, and strategy. 

This part will take you about 4 to 6 hours, best if spread out over 2 to 4 weeks.  

Like in the Thinker phase, when you give your ideas time to ‘breathe’ and roll around in the back of your held it kick-starts your creativity, and you’ll come up with better ideas to work with. 

By the end of this phase, you’ll have a rough draft of your college essay and a strategy for completing your supplemental essays. 

Main Storyteller page

You’ll be able to start the Storyteller phase 2 weeks after the date you registered for EssayQuest.


be a Writer

In the Writer phase, you’ll focus on refining and perfecting your tone and language. This is where you really pay attention to each word, and revisit your essay over and over to polish and perfect what you’ve written.

Be prepared to spend 6 to 12 hours on this part, again, best spread over 2 to 4 weeks.

By the end of this phase, you’ll have written your best college essay and will have all the tools and skills you need to write your best supplemental essays as well.

Main Writer page

You’ll be able to start the Writer phase 4 weeks after the date you registered for EssayQuest.