Why I’m Here (A Note to Counselors)

A Note to Counselors from Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy

Hi, my name's Ethan. And I want to help you help your students write better essays. Why?

I have a lot to say about college essays. They are my passion and my forte. Weird, right?

Here's my story in three sentences. I studied screenwriting in college and moved out to LA in 2003 to become a screenwriter but when I started working part-time with students on their college essays I started seeing all these connections between movies and their essays and I realized that students were basically writing short movies. So I started teaching students what I'd learned about film structure and they started producing some beautiful essays, some of which (I'd like to think) helped them gain acceptance into great schools, but more importantly, I saw how the writing exercises were helping them dig deep into their own lives, discover a lot about who they were and ultimately were helping them produce works that reflected their most profound, beautiful and powerful selves. In the years that followed I enrolled in and graduated from two counseling programs and began to see more and more how the college essay writing process could and can be an affirming, life altering, even therapeutic process and that, with the right tools, any student who is willing to work hard can produce a personal statement that reflects his or her deepest, most authentic self.

And that's what I'm committed to: helping students reflect their deepest, most authentic selves.

I've found that the personal statement works the same kind of magic on counselors. When counselors are given the right tools, when they listen musically, when they're bringing their full selves to the counseling experience, they have the potential to change not only their students' lives, but their own lives as well. And that's the other thing I'm committed to:

I'm committed to providing counselors with resources that will not only help them become more creative in their approach, more confident when offering feedback, and more efficient when working with large caseloads, but will also help them discover their own voice as a counselor. I want to help them discover their own deepest values, their own deepest story, in short, their answer to the question:

Describe the world you come from and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

How do I do these things? A few ways.

1. I offer students a step-by-step process that helps them find their college essay topic and structure in about 45 minutes. No joke. Have your student go through the process and the first draft will be measurably better. This resource is free.

2. I also offer students free resources on everything from How to Write the ‘Why us’ Essay to 5 Ways to Make Your Activities List Awesome.

3. I offer counselors free resources on everything from How to Encourage Openness During Brainstorming to How to Develop a College List (for Free).

4. I speak at events and travel to schools. Interested? Email me. And from time to time:

5. I offer counselor workshops and webinars. Speaking of which:

This summer, I conducted a live workshop series called Everything You Need to Know to Guide a Student through the College Essay Process. In this six-part series, I taught counselors how to help students write their personal statements using what they intuitively know from the movies they've grown up with. And each week I gave away a PDF with resources that counselors could print, copy and use with as many students as they liked.

Want to know what else I did? I recorded those videos and am making them available on my site for $99. To find out more, click here.

My goal is to make your life and the lives of your students better by making the college essay process more fun, more fulfilling, and ultimately more transformative. Why? Because it gives me immense pleasure to do so.

I ask in return that you use these resources and continue to do your amazing work in the world.

Finally, I want to say thanks.

Thanks for listening to that student for that extra half hour, even when you were supposed to be someplace else. Thanks for staying up to revise that essay even though it was 11pm and the student--not you!--had waited until the last minute. In short, thanks for caring so darn much.

It was worth it.

It still is.

With gratitude,
Ethan Sawyer
The College Essay Guy