In a Nutshell: Statistics show that people with college degrees tend to earn higher salaries than those without a college education. The College Essay Guy™ helps those who are applying to colleges navigate the tedious and sometimes intimidating applications process, and supplies tips to ace the personal statement essay. Ethan Sawyer established himself as the College Essay Guy in 2004 and his website includes a wealth of free resources to assist students in writing essays. Sawyer also offers several in-depth courses for students and counselors. We spoke with Devon Sawyer, Ethan’s brother and the President of College Essay Guy, who gave us some quick tips students can digest right now on how to approach writing their personal statements.
But getting into college is not a given, and for many potential higher education students, the application process can be a highly stressful experience. Many colleges require personal statement essays along with the (often tedious) applications.
Writing a personal statement isn’t exactly the type of thing that crops up very often throughout life. So, it’s certainly understandable that when a 16, 17, or 18-year-old high school student sits down to pen this all-important essay, he or she would draw a blank.
Besides not knowing how to write a personal statement, students are often burdened by the added pressure of thinking one single document can potentially make or break their future careers.
That’s why the College Essay Guy™ provides a wealth of resources to help college applicants nail those all-important personal statements and take some of the stress out of navigating the application process.
You wouldn’t expect the College Essay Guy — aka Ethan Sawyer — to be, well, the College Essay Guy by looking at his resumé. Sawyer received his undergraduate degree in speech from Northwestern University with aspirations of becoming a screenwriter. He then studied to become an actor by earning an MFA from UC Irvine, and also earned two counseling certificates from the university.
But, as Sawyer describes on his website, his expertise in writing, speaking, and counseling — combined with a distinct set of core values — make him uniquely qualified to be the College Essay Guy. So, in 2004, Sawyer established his new persona and set out to help future college students find their way as they sought to embark on the next phase of their education.
“My goal is to bring more ease, joy, and purpose into the college admissions process,” Sawyer wrote on his website. “How? By providing personal statement and college application tips and step-by-step help, I’ve helped thousands of students on their journey to college.”
We recently spoke to Devon Sawyer, President of College Essay Guy and Ethan’s brother, to learn more about the wealth of resources college applicants can gain access to on the College Essay Guy website.
A Wealth of Free Resources to Guide Parents and Students Through the Admissions Journey
Ethan has been honing his role as the College Essay Guy, refining the website, and staying on top of the latest trends and practices for 15 years. The College Essay Guy website is rife with valuable information college applicants, parents, and admissions office employees can access for free.
Devon said nearly all the content on the blog College Essay Guy is free and available to anyone.
“Students are Googling examples of great college essays, and we’ll usually be the first result that comes up,” he said. “They’ll generally be directed to a post of 12 examples of essays that worked for applicants.”
A lot of students come across the College Essay Guy’s free content through Google searches that lead them to the blog, he said.
The College Essay Guy also hosts a robust YouTube channel with more than 100 videos offering general advice on the college applications process and quick tips on how to compose an impressive essay and avoid common mistakes.
Ethan also hosts the College Essay Guy podcast.
“I interview deans of admissions, financial aid experts, and veterans of the admissions field to extract, then distill their advice into practical steps for students and those guiding them through the process,” Ethan wrote on his website.
Devon said although the website must include some monetized elements to continue providing high-quality content and pay the staff, the team believes it is also important to reach as many students as possible with free resources because many college students have limited funds.
The College Essay Guy website also featured a Free Resources section, which includes samples essays and handy documents such as “The Free Guide to Writing the Personal Statement,” “100 Brave and Interesting Questions,” and “4 Qualities of an Amazing College Essay.”
Online Courses Provide Even More In-Depth Expertise to College Applicants
For those looking for more in-depth guidance, the College Essay Guy offers online courses for students and counselors, as well as one-on-one services.
“We have three main courses for students,” Devon said. “One covers the main personal statements, one covers the other components of the application process, and the other course focuses specifically on the University of California schools.”
He said for each of the student courses, the College Essay Guy offers a similar course for counselors as well.
Students and counselors can access the online courses through the College Essay Guy’s website. Each course goes into detail on the topic to provide maximum value to the course-takers.
For example, the student personal statement course includes more than a dozen video lessons, sample essays, a 45-page workbook, and insights into techniques.
“Whether you’re using the Common Application, Coalition Application, or applying to one of the hundreds of public state colleges or universities, this course will give you the tools to write an essay that demonstrates your core values and how you’ll make meaningful contributions to your future college campus,” according to the website.
For counselors, the College Essay Guy also offers numerous workshops and opportunities for school partnerships. Devon said that, while a student applying for college may consult the College Essay Guy for 12 to 18 months until he or she is accepted to college, counselors use the resources year-in and year-out to help students.
And each year, the College Essay Guy and his team work privately with a handful of students in customized one-on-one settings. Anyone interested in securing one-on-one services can follow the instructions on the College Essay Guy website and schedule a meeting.
Expert Tips for Students to Consider When Writing Those Important Admissions Essays
Before we ended our chat with Devon, we couldn’t help but ask if he could share a few of the most important tips a student should know when beginning the college application process. He was kind enough to offer up some expert insights.
“Ethan says at the heart of the great college essay is the brainstorming process and figuring out what students are going to be writing about,” Devon said. “He says there are certain topics that can provide more opportunity than others for students to share something about who they really are.”
Ethan refers to this as tilling the soil, Devon said, to uncover potential content, ideas, images, objects, or values that may help the essay deliver more insight into the student.
He said many students want to write about a challenge in their lives and what they experienced during the challenge. But admissions officers would rather learn more about who the students are, the impact the challenge had on them, and the valuable skills they developed from their experiences.
“Again, brainstorming is at the heart of that process,” Devon said. “And we have a free one-hour guide that can walk students through brainstorming and structuring. It’s pretty comprehensive as far as free resources go.”
Additionally, Devon said students should make sure the topic they choose to write about will give them a lot of opportunities to communicate their core values.
Students can even gain some insight into core values from Ethan’s description of his own values on the College Essay Guy website. He details how his education and background combined with his own personal values to help him develop the College Essay Guy. The values he highlights are practicality, efficiency, vulnerability, patterns and connections, insight, and inspiration.
College Essay Guy’s Second Book is Scheduled to be Published Next Year
“Those who want to go beyond the free one-hour guide can get College Essay Essentials, which is one of the top books on college essays on Amazon right now,” Devon said.
Ethan published the book, which is rated at 4.5 stars, in 2016.
Devon said his brother is set to publish his second book on college essays in 2020, and students should keep an eye out for it because it will also be a very valuable resource as they dive into college applications and essays.
The College Essay Guy is a great resource for students planning to attend college to get ahead in their careers and boost them into a higher salary range.