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, you are now a Storyteller.

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

Congratulations! In the Thinker phase, you wrote a TON of raw content—you should now have lots of baby chicks. Now, you’ll choose which ones stay and which go.

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

As a Storyteller, your mission is to get curious and play with your raw content and ideas. When you’ve gone through all the Storyteller activities, you’ll have a rough draft of your college essay!

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

How do you feel about what you accomplished in the Thinker phase and about starting the Storyteller phase? 

Pretty good

Hooray! You deserve to feel good. Maybe even great. You’re 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. By doing each step, you will gain the tools and skills that will lead 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 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.

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 your best essay.

Don't ask

Ugh—we get it because 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 done before.

Remember that you’re learning the tricks and tools that successful, professional writers use (even when they’re frustrated and convinced that they can’t write!). 

This isn’t just another school paper. You’re writing your college essay, and you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want to do a good job.

Keep going through the steps of the Write Like a Pro process. Each step builds to the next step, which will lead you to a great essay. Even if you can’t see it 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.)

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, posters, 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 (for example, the main Common Application essay,  supplemental essays, or University of California essays).
  • 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 maybe 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 Storyteller steps

1. Discover what you’ve got

First, you’ll get to know your raw content, see possible stories, and maybe even learn something new 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 options for your essay

You’ll combine your stories and events in different ways to see what happens. You’ll create several quick options for essays and see how they could become engaging, authentic short stories that show who you are.

4. Create your strategy for writing multiple essays

If you have multiple essays to write, you’ll map out how to use your stories most efficiently. You’ll choose the raw content for your main essay.

5. Take out 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. 

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 before. You’ll make sure that you’re on track, see what’s missing (if anything), get a fresh perspective (if you want), and do the work to move on.

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.