111: Using the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your College Essay



Hello friends!

Welcome to the College Essay Guy Podcast, I’m your host, Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy. What I’ll typically do in the podcast is interview folks from the admissions world and go deep into college admissions to try and generate practical and actionable steps that you can take with the goal of bringing more ease, joy, and purpose to the college application process. Now, because my specialty is the college essay, I thought I would take the mic for this podcast and share with you a presentation I started giving in 2011, called Using the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your college Essay.

In this podcast, I’ll dive into:

  • The story behind how I started connecting screenwriting and the college essay in the first place.
  • Two exercises that I love to use to generate some great content for the essay.
  • Two structures that I think can work for just about any essay.
  • Four types of college essays
  • What I believe the end of an essay should do.
  • And so much more! Enjoy.


Who is the College Essay Guy?
Where did the idea of connecting screenwriting to college essays come from? [01:36]
One of the most important ideas in screenwriting structure [04:40]
My favorite prompt and what makes it so powerful [05:30]
Two questions to ask yourself that may guide your personal statement [06:00]
Four types of college essays [06:30]
An exercise for brainstorming your “world” [07:37]
An exercise for brainstorming  your  values [12:44]
Two qualities of a great college essay topic [16:02]
Two structures based on whether you have faced challenges and/or know what you want to study in college [17:15]
How understanding the difference between “wants” and “needs” can help you write your essay [18:15]
The basic elements of narrative structure [18:45]
Two examples of narrative structure in movies [20:28]
How the elements of narrative structure play into a sample college essay [26:23]
The one question that a conclusion paragraph should answer [32:24]
How the montage structure can help you write your essay if you haven’t experienced significant challenges [35:02]
How the elements of montage structure play into a sample  college essay [36:23]
Why you might consider revealing  your potential career closer to the end of your essay [42:10]
How to use the essence objects to structure your essay [43:05]
How creating a timeline of your life can help you structure your personal statement  [43:36]
How using unusual values can make your personal statement  stand out [44:20]
Two exercises that can create a ton of content for your essay [44:57]
A guide to writing your personal statement [45:20]
One way low-income students can get support for writing their essays [45:33]