How we work with our students

Each year, my team and I work with a few dozen students on their college applications. 

Students meet one-on-one with me, and then one of my trained college essay specialists, who works closely with me to help you develop your best possible college application. 

After your initial session with me to help you map out your overall application strategy and choose topics, your essays are personally reviewed by me each week throughout the process and I offer feedback through your coach. So, even though your drafting sessions take place with them, you basically get two experts (and perspectives) instead of one. All my coaches have at least 10 years experience helping students with college applications and essays. (These are the folks I'd send my daughter to.)

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

Here's what one student shared in 2018:

"I cannot stress enough how much I recommend working with College Essay Guy. They took my experiences and helped me transform them into an application I was proud of which told a compelling story. With his help, I got into my dream school, and can't thank them enough!”

Here's how our process works:


You (the student) complete a few hours of pre-work that includes a college preferences questionnaire, a Myers-Briggs assessment, a few brainstorming exercises, and your Common App Activities List and Additional Info section.


Then, you meet with our your college counselor to craft your college list, strategize Early Action or Early Decision strategy, get recommendations on test prep planning, strategize your teacher recommendations, and anything else you need to get on track.  Meanwhile, you'll research and finalize your college list in between session. Here's a look at what those first few sessions might look like:


  • Discuss your College Preferences Questionnaire and get resources for researching college list
  • Review your transcripts and discuss your academic performance in context of your school's offerings, personal life, and future goals
  • Review standardized tests, if needed, including ACT/SAT, SAT-Subject tests, etc.) and develop test preparation strategy 
  • After this session, we'll send you a customized list of colleges to begin researching


  • Review your college list research and discuss additional options 
  • Discuss early and regular decision application strategy
  • Strategize teacher and counselor recommendations
  • Follow up on test preparation planning and upcoming test dates
  • Discuss enhancing involvement in extracurricular activities over the next few months
  • Ensure senior year course selection is on track




  • Continue to 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
  • Finalize early and regular decision application strategy
  • Ensure teacher recommendation strategy is on track




Want to work just on the application and essays?

Ask us about our applications-only package at a reduced price.

We'll jump straight into brainstorming for your application and essays, starting with Session 4 (below)

Next, once your college list is close to being finalized, you meet with me for a 90-minute strategy session to craft your application strategy, brainstorm main essay topics, and discuss outlines for your main essays.

Here's what that session might look like: 


  • Review your brainstorming activities and Myers-Briggs assessment
  • Craft your application strategy, discover your deepest story, and discuss how you might stand out among thousands of other applicants
  • Brainstorm topics for your main Common App statement and/or your UC Personal Insight Questions drafts (we work with many students from CA, which is why this is here!)
  • Brainstorm topics for your main supplemental essays, depending on schools
  • Discuss initial structures and outlines for your essay, if needed

Then, you'll meet with your essay specialist to continue the process, while I meet with your coach in the background each week and offer feedback. Here's what those sessions might look like:


  • Review your first Common App and/or UC Personal Insight Question drafts
  • Brainstorm your 10+ supplemental essays, including the "Why Us," extracurricular, and community service essays as well as any other school-specific topics.
  • Revise your Additional Information section to provide appropriate context for your high school career, including crafting language to discuss any anomalies in your transcripts and course selection, dips in grades or extracurricular involvement, changes in personal life that may have influenced decisions in high school, etc.


  • Continue work on main personal statements
  • Review previous drafts of supplemental essays
  • Brainstorm next set of supplemental essays
  • Revise Activities List and Additional Info section to ensure colleges have a complete picture of who you are, what you've accomplished, and what you've contributed to your community
  • Continue work on your Activities and Awards List to assure that your extracurricular involvement and achievements are highlighted in the right places
  • Write, write, write!



Note: Sessions 1-3 and 4-6 can happen concurrently, if needed.


SESSION 7 and beyond (I.E. until YOU're done)

You'll continue to meet with your essay coach, according to your schedule and theirs, as many times as needed to draft and polish your essays. Most students take between 8-10 drafts on the main personal statement, with fewer drafts on the supplements, but the number of sessions depends on a student's writing abilities and (honestly) appetite for re-drafting. 

In addition, you'll stay in contact with your counselor throughout the process to ensure the other aspects of your application are on track, including college list, standardized testing, course work, and teacher and counselor recommendations.

I'll continue to meet weekly with your coach to discuss your progress and make sure you meet your deadlines. 


When you and your coach feel the essays are finalized, I'll take one last look to make sure you're ready to submit and, if necessary, you'll meet with your coach for a session or two to make final tweaks. So basically you'll feel really good about what you're submitting (unless you wait 'til the last second; please don't do that).

Along the way, we'll provide you with timely resources for crafting a resume, getting awesome teacher recommendations, nailing your college interview, and securing scholarships. You can even ask us questions about the larger application process, including questions on your Early Action/Early Decision strategy, which standardized tests to submit, teacher recommendations, interview prep, and food recommendations while you're visiting Occidental College (two words: Taco Zone).

Goal completion date for Early Action/Early Decision schools is September 15thGoal for having all applications done is November 1st, so that all may enjoy a quiet and peaceful December as our friends work frantically to submit applications you have already completed. (You will have access to your essay coach for revisions until November 15th of your application year. If interested in extending that for an additional fee, please let us know.)


Ready to join us?





Ethan Sawyer AKA College Essay Guy 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.
  • Has a certification in hypnotherapy
  • Completed two counseling certificate programs, including one in College Counseling at UC Irvine and another through the Interchange Counseling Institute.

MEET Your College Counselor

Stacy Professional with Computer.JPG

Stacy Hernandez began her career in education as an admissions counselor at Northeastern University and then Johns Hopkins University. She spent almost twelve years on the college side reading thousands of college applications, making admissions decisions, traveling the United States to recruit students, and more. Additionally, she has worked on the high school side as the Director of College Counseling at a private K-12 school in the Boulder-area of Colorado. Currently, she works as a independent college counselor guiding students through the college admissions process and volunteers for a few non-profit organizations to help more students gain access to college. 

Stacy also: 

  • Graduated from Northeastern University with a Bachelors of Science in History and a Masters in College Student Development and Counseling.
  • Has 17+ years of college admissions experience in the college/university, secondary education, and independent college counseling arena.
  • Has read thousands of college admissions applications. 
  • Continues to work with high school students from all over the world to help guide them through the college admissions process. 

Li-Hsiang (Lisa) Chung brings almost 20 years of experience as an educator. With her infectious enthusiasm and dedication, Lisa thoughtfully supports her students to reach their full potential.  In one of her first years as a college and career counselor, she assisted 5 out of the 6 students who were admitted to Harvard from her school. A believer in collaboration and ensuring equity and access for all students, Lisa loves to share innovative tools and resources to help each student navigate the college admission process.

Lisa also:

  • Graduated from University of California, San Diego with a Psychology BA and Minor in Chinese Studies.
  • Obtained her Masters in Education Counseling at the University of Redlands.
  • Presents at national college counseling conferences as a Senior Learning Skills Counselor with the University of California, San Diego.
  • Successfully guided thousands of students as an academic guidance counselor, then as a college and career counselor at the largest charter school in the nation for 12+ years.
  • Served as an adjunct professor for the Graduate School of Education at Cal Lutheran University where her Education and Career Planning course earned the highest evaluation of all Cal Lutheran graduate courses.
  • Lives in Burbank, California where she continues to counsel students at a large comprehensive high school renowned for the performing arts.
Hannah Portrait 7-12-2018.JPG

Hannah began her work in education at Whitman College where she conducted admissions interviews, led campus tours, and sat on the Board of Trustees Enrollment Committee. She went on to work in the admissions department at Beloit College, before returning to her alma mater to work in Residence Life. Most recently, she worked for three years in the college counseling office of a private school in Seattle.

Hannah also:

  • Graduated from Whitman College with Honors with a degree in Psychology.
  • Is earning her Masters in School Counseling at Seattle University (graduating June 2019).
  • Has helped hundreds of students through the college admissions process including college list guidance, interview preparation, and essay revision.
  • Has the unique experience of having worked on both the high school and college side of the admissions process.

Hannah also works as an essay specialist with College Essay Guy. 






Kate graduated from NYU with a B.S. in Communications and a minor in Creative Writing. She continued on to be accepted as a Princeton University teaching fellow in Asia and has also worked with students in standardized test preparation. Kate funnels her passion for storytelling as a coach for college essays where she helps students to develop their most powerful narrative as well as to build the foundation for their evolving, individual ideas. Kate has worked with hundreds of students who have gone on to be accepted to dozens of excellent institutions, including but not limited to Columbia University, Stanford, NYU, Brown, Berkeley, UPenn, USC, The New School, and the American University of Paris. 

  New York University (BA)  Communications, Creative Writing  Princeton University teaching fellow  Works with students via Skype, email and Google Docs.

New York University (BA) Communications, Creative Writing
Princeton University teaching fellow
Works with students via Skype, email and Google Docs.

  University of Virginia (BA) UC Irvine (MFA) Fulbright Scholar   Works with students via Skype, email and Google Docs

University of Virginia (BA)
UC Irvine (MFA)
Fulbright Scholar

Works with students via Skype, email and Google Docs

Amanda is a veteran educator, writer, and storyteller, and expert in helping students reach their full creative potential. She is a professor of Performance Studies at California State University, Northridge, where she teaches students to find their committed, creative voice and to actively pursue their passions through writing and performance. As a tutor and college admissions coach she has worked with hundreds of high school students to tell their truest stories. Her students have been accepted to some of the country’s best schools, including Harvard, Duke, Rice, USC, and UPenn. In her other life, she is an award-winning theater director and Artistic Director of Fugitive Kind Theater. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of California, Irvine, and a Fulbright scholar to New Zealand. She lives and creates in Los Angeles in a colorful house full of tiny interesting objects.


Josh is a longtime teacher, college counselor, and journalist who counsels students on college applications and consults with education companies on international outreach. Josh is the former Director of International development for ArborBridge, a Los Angeles-based tutoring firm that prepares students around the world for the SAT and ACT. Specializing in the teaching of nonfiction writing and personal essays, Josh previously served as Lead Editor for Application Boot Camp and, before that, taught at the Archer School in Los Angeles. Josh’s students have gained admission to the most selective colleges in the United States, including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale, and they have gone to countless other fantastic colleges that don't always grab headlines. Josh writes on cities and urban planning, primarily as contributing editor to the California Planning & Development Report. Josh studied urban planning at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Princeton University.

  Princeton University (BA)   Harvard University (MA)  Works with students via Skype, email and Google Docs.

Princeton University (BA)
Harvard University (MA)
Works with students via Skype, email and Google Docs.

  Stanford University (BA) Konstfack University (MFA)  Works with students via Skype, email and Google Docs

Stanford University (BA)
Konstfack University (MFA)

Works with students via Skype, email and Google Docs



Bonnie grew up in the Pacific Northwest and graduated from high school in Norway. She holds a BA in History from Stanford University and an MFA from the Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Sweden. For eight years, she was a senior editor for the Stanford Storytelling Project, where she produced audio stories and advised undergraduates in the production of a weekly podcast. In addition to her work with high school students, Bonnie is collaborating with a research team at the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center to study the benefits of storytelling for cancer patients and their caregivers. Bonnie approaches the college application process as a rite of passage and a vehicle for creative self discovery. Her goal is to help students become better writers by coaching them in the craft of narrative and persuasive writing. She lives in beautiful Seattle. 


Devon Sawyer serves as President at College Essay Guy.

He began his career in education as a senior test prep instructor and college counselor for students in the US and overseas.  He went on to develop a college counseling curriculum for domestic and international students applying to top American colleges and managed a team of counselors that helped students gain admission to top schools, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, University of Chicago and dozens of other great schools.

Devon also:

  • Has 5+ years experience counseling students on college admissions to highly selective schools
  • Has 5+ years experience teaching test prep and developing curriculum for the SAT, ACT, AP exams, and SAT Subject tests as well as humanities seminars and academic readiness courses
  • Graduated from Grove City College with a BA in History and Philosophy
  • Has counseled dozens of students applying to colleges, 85% of which were accepted to their first choice school (All of his students that applied to a Top 50 school were accepted.) 
  • Delivered workshops and seminars in the US and China on college admissions preparation.
  • Is an active member of the National Association for College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) and the Western  Association of College Admissions Counselors (WACAC)

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 few years:

Click here for 2015-2016 Acceptances and Testimonials

Click here for 2016-2017 Acceptances and Testimonials

more Testimonials:

“I cannot stress enough how much I recommend working with College Essay Guy. They took my experiences and helped me transform them into an application I was proud of which told a compelling story. With his help, I got into my dream school, and can't thank them enough!”

- Hattie B..

"Working with the College Essay Guy team, I discovered who I am as a person, what I value, and how I specifically developed and express my values. Knowing who I am as a person was essential in genuinely presenting myself to college admissions representatives. My essay coach, Mr. Simpson, met with me over Skype and was free to meet as much as I could keep up. He coached me on how to write my essays, but did it in a way where my voice was maintained. The best part about the College Essay Guy team is that I was constantly pushed to strive for even better essays. They do not want to just get you an essay, they help you present yourself in the best possible way you can...I learned a lot about what I value as a person. I learned about my different qualities and characteristics that I have used in the past, and will continue to use in the future. I really enjoyed reflecting on specific experiences that led me to develop these values... I enjoyed working with the College Essay Guy team."

- Kirk D.

"I loved Ethan's positive attitude and willingness to listen. I felt like he really cared about what I wanted and where I wanted to be. He helped me find my voice and tell a consistent story. He also helped me coordinate my essays and common app information so I was able to highlight different aspects of my experience and personality, which I was having trouble doing myself.
I had a great experience with Ethan and the College Essay Guy team! They really listened to me and helped me to compile a complete and convincing application. I got into my dream school, thank you so much!"

- Aarav M.

Parent references available upon request. Just ask.


Each of the "Unlimited Packages" below includes work with me (Ethan) and unlimited sessions with one of my essay coaches.  In addition, the 6 and 10 school packages also include work with our college counselor to develop a college list, review application strategy, and the topics listed in sessions 1 - 3 above.

3 SCHOOLS UNLIMITED PACKAGE (application Only) – $3,500

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

  • Personality, Aptitude and Career Testing and feedback
  • Common App Main personal statement (650 words)
  • Common App Activities List
  • Common App Additional Info statement (650 words)
  • Supplements for any THREE schools (Can be anywhere from 5 - 15 essays depending on schools selected)
  • Guidance in standardized test prep and getting good teacher recommendations
  • Access to:
    • The Complete Guide to Writing the "Why Us" Statement
    • The Complete Guide to the Interview
    • The Complete Guide to Getting Great Teacher Recommendations
  • As many sessions as needed with my expert essay coach

See above for a detailed breakdown of this process.

Important Note: The 3-school package does not include work on college list development. (i.e. The first three sessions noted above.) If we have concerns about discrepancies between a student's profile and the list of schools being applied to, however, we will offer suggestions of schools to consider.

Note: Students applying to the University of Texas (UT) or Univ. of California (UC schools) can opt to trade out two schools for those applications (which are a separate application with separate requirements). This would then include the Common App, supplements for ONE school, plus the the ApplyTexas essays or (if applying to the UC schools):

  • 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


Develop a college list and complete your entire Common App application, PLUS the supplements for six schools, including:

  • 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
  • Advice on standardized test prep and getting good teacher recommendations
  • Access to:
    • The Complete Guide to Writing the "Why Us" Statement
    • The Complete Guide to the Interview
    • The Complete Guide to Getting Great Teacher Recommendations
  • As many sessions as needed with my expert essay coach

Note: If applying to UC or UT schools, each requires a separate application, so each system would count as two schools of the total package number. Alternately, UC or UT may be added for $1,000 per application.


Develop a college list and complete your entire Common App application, PLUS the supplements for ten schools. Includes everything listed in the COMMON APP + 6 SCHOOLS package above.

Note: If applying to UC or UT schools, each requires a separate application, so each system would count as two schools of the total package number. Alternately, UC or UT may be added for $1,000 per application.

if you'd like to work directly with ethan through the whole essay process: 

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 50+ 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.

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. See links at the top of this page our most recent acceptances. 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.

How do you assign essay coaches?

After I (Ethan) have a chance to meet with students, I like to assign coaches based on each student's individual personality and writing style. This helps ensure that through their partnership with their coach, students write the best possible essays.  Also, all of the coaches I work with are amazing at what they do, so they are in great hands no matter who they work with.

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 to ten schools) with around 3 reach, 4 maybe, and 3 likely.

Do you help students develop college lists and college counseling?
We do! This process is included as a part of our 6 and 10 school packages 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: [email protected]

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

Full payment is due upon signing. However, for your convenience, a three-payment option is available for an additional service fee of $200, 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: 

College Essay Guy, LLC.
PO BOX 250876
Glendale, CA 91225

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.