Matchlighters volunteer counselor guidelines and commitments


Thanks for your interest in being a Matchlighters volunteer. Your wisdom, guidance, and time will be a long way in helping a young person reach their goals.

Don't believe us? Hear what a few had to say:


Getting to know Matchlighters team has been one of the best experiences in my life. I would never be where I am right now - getting excited to attend my dream college with my studies fully funded - if it wasn’t for you. I am so grateful for all of your kindness, thoughtfulness and always available support.
— ML Scholar, 2017/2018
Denise is the nicest human being on the face of the earth! she has been such a huge help to me throughout the entire college applications process, she has made herself readily available to me at all times, and she has even face-timed with for hours at a time! Denise helped me edit and brainstorm supplemental essays as well as advise me on schools that I had little to no knowledge about that I was applying to.
— ML Scholar, 2017/2018
I was looking for some help with the college application process because there are no such services where I am from and there was no one at my school who could guide me through the process. With a bit of help from Google, I found the Matchlighters team, sent in my documents, and in a couple of weeks started working with my counselor. Fast forward a couple of months, I am accepted to a highly competitive college and my counselor is visiting me for the holidays. I guess it is fair to say that the Matchlighters experience was more than just essay writing.
— ML Scholar, 2017/2018
Hope. Yep, CEG kindled hope when I thought I was losing it. All the deadlines, rejections can be really overwhelming, but you guys make things easier. Thanks
— ML Scholar, 2017/2018

Before agreeing to be a scholar, we ask that volunteers commit to these things:

Commitments of volunteer counselors

  • Work with at least one student for at least the six hours, at least four of which will be spent on essay revision and at least two of which will be spent on college list development, unless a different agreement is made in writing with the Program Director.

  • Respond within two business days to emails from the Program Director to work with a student and requests for feedback from Scholars, unless written prior notice of unavailability is given to the Program Director or Scholar.

  • Make a reasonable effort to reach out to students. Our goal is for this program to be student-driven and that they take ownership over it. With that in mind, we prefer to make the first contact and we also know that some gentle nudging and a quick email check-in from a counselor every two weeks or so can be helpful and motivational, especially as the senior year course load kicks in.

Why the above? We think these guidelines are important and the minimum commitment needed for Matchlighters Scholars to have a solid experience.  Responding to emails promptly will allow us to connect students with other counselors if you're too busy, and responding to emails from students will allow you to schedule sessions more effectively.

In rare cases, we've had counselors who have stopped responding to student emails, gotten too busy to continue helping, and have not notified us. Most of the time, students don't reach out to us know they've lost contact. We want to avoid this as much as possible.

While we understand that life gets busy, we'd prefer that counselors only commit to work with students if they can agree to be available for the full 4-6 hours. 

Sound good? If so, read on. :)


We take newcomers with college counseling certificates or seasoned veterans! We do ask that you commit to responding to your student’s emails within 48 hours, that you meet your student “face-to-face” via Skype/FaceTime/Zoom (or whatever platform works for you) and that you can feasibly offer your student at least six hours of assistance.

If it’s too busy of a season for you, let us know and we can contact you next year. We fall in love with these scholars (you will, too!) and we want to make sure they receive the assistance they’ve earned.


Nope! However, in your interest form we’ll ask you if you have any experience with any of the following groups:

  • International students

  • Undocumented/DACA students

  • Student-athletes

  • Student-artists

  • Transfer students

  • Students with disabilities

  • LGBTQ+ students

  • Gap-year students

  • General graduate school applicants

  • MBA program applicants

  • Medical school applicants

  • Law school applicants

  • Community college applicants

  • Military/armed forces applicants

  • Trade school applicants

In the past, we’ve had a particular need for counselors with experience in the international application process — and, more specifically, with experience helping low-income international students.  


This depends on how quickly students finish their applications. During the especially hectic application months, you may hear back within a week. In slower months, you may not hear from Erika until a new group of students applies, perhaps a month or two after you submit your initial interest form. But don’t worry! Erika will always email you before connecting you to a student; if your situation has changed and you can no longer volunteer, you can let her know and she’ll remove your name from the list.


  1. You’ll have access to any and all of Ethan's free resources!

  2. A Corsava account (also for free!). You’ll be able to explore students’ preferences, create reports, and keep track of what fits. Don’t know about Corsava? Check out Ethan’s podcast episode in which he interviews the lovely creator, Anne Wager.

  3. Detailed how-tos about the college list development process, as well as the essay revision process — in case you’d like a schedule to follow. Also, if you apply as a counselor with international application experience, we can share with you a handy document of tips and tricks to get you started.

*We’re unable to grant access to College Essay Essentials, Ethan’s book, as we don’t yet have it in PDF form. If you’re willing to invest a little, you can find the book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble for a cool $10.


Any you’d like! CollegePlannerPro, Guided Path, Naviance, Trello, Google Drive — whatever works for you and your scholar. We understand that each counselor has her own style, tools, and method.

Other questions? We have more information specifically for counselors that you’ll receive along with your application. If you have any further questions, email us at


Read about the details of what we ask of our counselors here:

I’ve never worked with low-income students before. What should I expect?

Here are some key points we’ve learned from our counselors in previous years:

  1. Be flexible and give grace. Although we tell our students in the beginning to communicate with you regularly, some of them may disappear for a week or two as they attempt to juggle multiple jobs, college applications, school work, and, for many, helping their siblings while a parent isn’t home.

  2. College list development will require you to deeply consider “financial fit.” For most of our domestic — and especially our international students — the EFC will be $0. These kids will often need to seek places that meet full demonstrated financial need.

  3. Essay revision may include some on-the-spot grammar moments. Some of our students may not have their academic language proficiency in English — they may need a bit more guidance with punctuation, syntax, etc. As a former English teacher, I consider these opportunities “teachable moments” and hope you will, too.

What if I want to work with my student longer than 6 hours?

Please do! Usually counselors fall in love, and it can be difficult to bid your scholar farewell. However, if six hours is all you can give, that’s okay too! 

What if I don’t want to work with my student longer than 6 hours?

No problem! We understand that you have a life and a counseling practice beyond Matchlighters. So, we tell students up front to only expect 6 hours from you. If you feel as though you’re committing to too much after you’ve hit your 6 hours, set boundaries and gently tell your student that your work together is finished. If you need help with this or simply want to talk through it, contact us at

I’m a college counseling certificate student and I need a place to complete my practicum. Can I get my hours as a Matchlighters counselor?

Totally! That’s how our Matchlighters Director first connected with the program. Check out this Practicum Fact Sheet to get started, and if you have any other questions, just email

What if I am a mandatory reporter and I hear about abuse from a Scholar?

Being a volunteer counselor for College Essay Guy does not release you of your state or national responsibilities to report abuse as it is outlined in guidelines that legally bind you as a mandatory reporter. Typically, these reports are confidential. You are under no obligation to report the abuse to anyone at College Essay Guy. Refer to your state or national guidelines for more information on what to do in a situation where you may believe you have to make a report.