How we work with our students

Each student that works with the College Essay Guy Team will receive guidance from:

Ethan Sawyer (The College Essay Guy)
Erica Flener (Head Counselor and List Specialist)
College Essay Specialist


Students who work with us find that our process is more fun, effective, and life-changing.  

Here's how it works:


You (the student) complete a few hours of pre-work that includes a college preferences questionnaire, a Personality, Aptitudes, and Interests test, a few brainstorming exercises for your essays, and your Common App Activities List and Additional Info section.


Then, you meet with Erica Flener, our Head Counselor, to craft your college list, get recommendations on test prep planning, strategize your teacher recommendations and summer plans, and anything else you need to get on track.  Meanwhile, you'll research and finalize your college list. Here are some details of what we'll cover:



  • Review follow up college research and decide on a near-final list of 8-10 colleges
  • Followup discussion on test prep, summer plans, and extracurricular activities
  • Discuss Senior Year course selection


  • Review your Aptitudes and Interests Assessment
  • Discuss College Preferences Questionnaire and get resources for researching college list
  • Review standardized tests (ACT/SAT, SAT-Subject tests, etc.) and develop test prep plan
  • Brainstorm summer plans and strategy for enhancing involvement in extracurricular activities


  • Review your college list research and discuss additional options 
  • Strategize teacher and counselor recommendations
  • Follow up on plans for test prep, upcoming summer, extracurricular involvement, etc.




Next, you meet with Ethan to craft your story and brainstorm and outline your main statements (Common App and/or UC prompts) and your supplemental essays. During this time, you'll keep in touch with Erica to make sure the rest of your application is on track.



  • Work with Ethan to craft your overall application strategy and search until we find your deepest story
  • Find your unique hook to help you stand out among thousands of other applicants
  • Brainstorm and discuss topics for your main Common App statement and (if applicable) your UC Personal Insight Questions


  • Finalize outlines for your Common App statement, UC PIQs, supplemental essays to begin a drafting the supplemental essays
  • Polish and finalize your Activities List and discuss your Additional Info section


  • Outline a structure for your main Common App statement and UC Personal Insight Questions
  • Begin to brainstorm topics for your supplemental essays to best display your awesomeness, (Including the "Why Us," extracurricular, and community service essays or any other school-specific topics.)




Once you have solid drafts for your essays, you'll meet with one of our amazing college essay coaches for roughly 6-12 sessions (or as many times as needed) to further draft and polish your essays. Throughout this process, Ethan and your essay coach will meet weekly to discuss your progress.  


Finally, Ethan will take a look at all of your essays and give suggestions as you work with your essay coach to polish your essays and tweak your extracurricular activities list and additional info section.  Once it's perfected and good to go, you're ready to submit! 

Along the way, we'll provide you with a whole suite of resources for crafting a resume, getting awesome teacher recommendations,  nailing your college interview, and securing scholarships. 

Goal completion date for Early Action/Early Decision schools is September 15th. Goal for having all applications done is end of November, so that all may enjoy a quiet December while your friends work frantically to submit applications that you have already completed.


Ready to join us?



Erica Flener

Erica Flener began her journey in education by serving on the Sacramento City Unified School District. She then went on to assist students with disabilities at UC Berkeley, worked as a college counselor for Americorps and continues to work with students professionally throughout the world.

Erica also:

  • Graduated from UC Berkeley with High Distinction, before pursuing an MA in Counseling.
  • Spent 7 years as Assistant Director of Admissions & Undergraduate Studies at UCLA.
  • Consulted for the Admissions Offices of Pepperdine University and Chapman University.
  • Advised undergraduate students, taught academic readiness and life skills courses, and has facilitated workshops on serving students with learning differences.
  • Reads freshman applications for UC Berkeley
  • Serves on the California Alumni Association Scholarship Committee, where she evaluates and interviews scholarship applicants.

Ethan Sawyer is a nationally recognized college essay expert and sought-after speaker. Each year he helps thousands of students and counselors through his online courses, workshops, articles, products, and books, and works privately with a small number of students.  

Ethan also:

  • Graduated from Northwestern University and holds an MFA from UC Irvine.
  • Has 12+ Years experience as a teacher, curriculum writer, community organizer, voice actor, and truck driver (true story.)
  • Wrote the #1 best-selling book College Essay Essentials
  • Is a certified Myers-Briggs® specialist.
  • Completed two counseling certificate programs, including one at UC Irvine and another through the Interchange Counseling Institute, and is certified in hypnotherapy.


Here are two things you should know about our team

1. More than 80% of the students we work with gain acceptance into one of their top choice schools, and 98% of those who have applied to the Top 50 schools have been accepted. 

2. But we don't base our success solely on our students' college acceptances.

Why? Because there are so many other things that our students have done well (GPA, SAT/ACT, Extracurriculars, Life) before meeting us that have prepared them to write a great personal statement. Instead:

We measure our success in other ways...

  • Each time a student tells us that working with us has made him a better writer
  • Each time a student tells us we've helped her gain confidence
  • Or when we receive a testimonial like this:
Ethan you are truly a unique soul, and the things you have taught me about life, the future, writing, communicating, and people are some of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my whole life. I couldn’t have picked a better leader to guide me through my college application journey and my first semester of Senior year. If I could go back and change any aspect of my experience with you I would not change a single thing, and I mean that literally. I grew so much from this process with you, and I truly feel as though we have become friends. Today in class, our assignment was to write down our top 5 heroes, and you were on my list. Why? Because you have spent a majority of your life helping others discover what makes them special and different. You not only guide students through the application process, but help motivate us to become the leaders of tomorrow. You never judged me and are always optimistic. I admire your values Ethan, and I will always look up to you as a role model. Thank you for all of your help.

That's how we know we've made a real impact. And that's why we love our work.

But we also don’t mind bragging a little. And, because parents are sometimes curious, we’ve compiled a list of acceptances from the past year (2015):

Click here for 2015-2016 Acceptances and Testimonials

more Testimonials:

“Working with you on college essays was an unforgettable experience. You taught me how to find myself in a whole new way and made me feel like my story mattered."

- Zuleyma G.

“Mr. Sawyer, it has been incredible working with you. Your expertise was immediately apparent from your knowledge of many universities, to your organized planning through online documents, and your meaningful insight that was personal, not just objective. You have taught me not only how to write powerful essays that catch the best colleges’ attention, but also cogent papers for all my future writing. You also helped me through some very tough times and you seemed to truly understand my struggles in a way that not many could. For all this, I sincerely thank you. You have done more for me than I could have imagined.”

- Grant K.

“Through this process you have helped me shape my story and, in a way, it has been a healing process. You were an indispensable asset through my college application process. Thank you for loving what you do.”

- Adriana S.

Parent references available upon request. Just ask.

Unlimited 1-on-1 Packages

Each of the "Unlimited Packages" below includes work with Erica, me (Ethan), and my essay coaches. The 3 school package, however, does not include college list development help.

COMMON APP LITE + 3 SCHOOLS unlimited PACKAGE – $3,500

Complete your entire Common App application plus help with three schools, including:

  • Guidance in standardized test prep, getting teacher recommendations, and planning your summer
  • Personality, Aptitude and Career Testing and feedback
  • Common App Main personal statement (650 words)
  • Common App Activities List
  • Common App Additional Info statement
  • Supplements for any THREE schools
  • Complete Guide to Writing the "Why Us" Statement
  • Complete Guide to the Interview
  • Complete Guide to Getting Great Teacher Recommendations
  • As many sessions as needed.

See above for a detailed breakdown of this process.

Note that students applying to the Univ. of California (UC schools) can opt to trade out two schools for the UC application (which is a separate application). This would then include the Common App, supplements for ONE school, plus: 

  • UC Personal Insight Question 1 of 4 (350 words)
  • UC Personal Insight Question 2 of 4 (350 words)
  • UC Personal Insight Question 3 of 4 (350 words)
  • UC Personal Insight Question 4 of 4 (350 words)
  • UC Activities List
  • UC Additional Info statement

COMMON APP + 6 SCHOOLS unlimited PACKAGE – $4,500

Complete your entire Common App application, PLUS the supplements for six schools, including:

  • Customized college list guidance
  • Guidance in standardized test prep, getting teacher recommendations, and planning your summer
  • Personality, Aptitude and Career Testing and feedback
  • Common App Main personal statement (650 words)
  • Common App Activities List
  • Common App Additional Info statement
  • Supplements for any SIX schools
  • Complete Guide to Writing the "Why Us" Statement
  • Complete Guide to the Interview
  • As many sessions as needed.
  • Complete Guide to Getting Great Teacher Recommendations
  • As many sessions as needed

Note: UCs count as 2 schools, as UCs require a separate application with four 350-word essays.

COMMON APP + 10 Schools unlimited Package – $6,000 (MOST POPULAR)

Complete your entire Common App application, PLUS the supplements for ten schools. Includes everything listed in the COMMON APP + 6 SCHOOLS package above.

Note: Additional charge of $1,000 if applying to UC or UT schools, as each requires a separate application, and UC application would count as one of three schools in package.

if you'd like to work only with ethan: 

Please inquire for rates:


Do you cover all aspects of the college application process (not just essays)?
Yes. Though the company is called College Essay Guy (because that's what Ethan has become known for in the industry), we have a good deal of expertise (a combined 30+ years experience) counseling students through the process, as well as counselors on our team with experience working in college admissions offices. In short: we can do it all.

Can I see what it’s like to work with Ethan?
Sure. Here’s a 45-min private YouTube video in which Ethan gives 45 tips on their entire college application process and this 1-hr video is a great introduction to his style and process.

Where do sessions take place?
Online via Skype, email and Google docs.

Where have your students been accepted? 
All the Ivies, as well as many other amazing schools. Click here for 2015-2016 Acceptances and Testimonials. It's important to note that our services are advisory in nature and we can't (of course) guarantee admission to a highly selective school. But we can put together the best application and essays to demonstrate your gifts, skills and values.

Do you write essays for students? 
No. The essays submitted will be the original work of the student. 

What if I (student) am not a good writer?
The process may take a bit longer. That’s okay with us.

What advice do you have as I begin the process?
We highly recommend developing a balanced college list. Most students, for example, fixate on 1 or 2 highly selective (usually Ivy-League) schools, but we find the students who are most happy with the process are those who helped develop a wide range (usually nine schools) with around 3 reach, 3 maybe, and 3 likely.

Do you help students develop college lists?
We do! We work with an extremely experienced college list specialist and the fee for this service is included in the rates above.

Can I see some essays from past students? 
In terms of sample essays, here are the essays written by the four students at the top of the 2015-2016 Acceptances and Testimonials page.

Can my son/daughter meet Ethan to make sure they will get along?
Absolutely. I (Ethan) am available for 15-min get-to-know-you Skype calls with those serious about working together one-on-one. You can email me directly at:

Scope of Services

A. College Essay Guy responsibilities include providing the services indicated in the selection option(s) above.

B. Parent and student responsibilities include:

  1. Disclosing in a timely manner all student’s academic and psychological history, including report cards, official score reports from standardized tests, and reports of any disciplinary actions 

  2. Maintaining regular communication with College Essay Guy Team (henceforth “CEG”) 

  3. Meeting CEG deadlines for submission of essays and completion of assigned tasks 

  4. Responding to emails and contact from CEG Team within 48 hours and notifying team of any potential delays in communication (we will be extending the same courtesy)
  5. Scheduling of and making college visits (if applicable) 

  6. Maintaining communication with the student’s high school counselor and following the requirements of the student’s high school guidance office 

  7. Sending official test scores to colleges 

  8. Securing academic and personal recommendations 

  9. Completing and sending applications (or waitlist/appeal statements) in a timely manner 

  10. Monitoring status of application and advising colleges of enrollment intentions 

  11. Writing for the application must be the student’s own original work

C. Payments

For your convenience, a three-payment option is available, with 1/3 due at the start of the process, 1/3 due one month later, and 1/3 due one month after that. If less than two months left before deadline, full payment is due one week before the final application deadline. 

PAYMENT MAY BE MADE VIA CHECK (preferred) made out to “College Essay Guy” and sent to: 

Ethan Sawyer
4036 Goodwin Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Payment also possible by direct bank transfer or PayPal, but client (you) will be responsible for fees.

D. Important Note

Since the services provided by CEG are advisory in nature and the final decision on selection of colleges rests with the student and family, it is understood that neither Ethan Sawyer nor any member of the CEG Team guarantees acceptance to any particular college. Fees are not accepted from institutions or programs for referral or placement of a client. The primary obligation of CEG is the welfare of the student.

Although we have had gratifying success, no guarantees are implied. Since the only person who can impact the college’s ultimate decision is the student, designated fees are payable whether or not the student gains acceptance to the college of choice.