Wait. You thought College Essay Guy was just Ethan?

There's actually so much more

to CEG than just one dude


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. 

Raised in Spain, Ecuador, and Colombia, Ethan has studied at seventeen different schools and has worked as a teacher, curriculum writer, voice actor, motivational speaker, community organizer, and truck driver. He is a certified Myers-Briggs® specialist, and his type (ENFJ) will tell you that he will show up on time, that he'll be excited to meet you, and that, more than anything, he is committed to—and an expert in—helping you realize your potential. 

A graduate of Northwestern University, Ethan holds an MFA from UC Irvine and two counseling certificates. He lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, Veronica, and their amazing daughter, Zola. 


Welcome to College Essay Guy

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Adapted from the intro to the book College Essay Essentials, available on Amazon

This may sound weird, but being the College Essay Guy is my dream job. Why? Not because, as a kid, I thought to myself, “I really want to be the College Essay Guy when I grow up.” In fact, I first studied to become a screenwriter (BS Speech, Northwestern), then an actor (MFA, UC Irvine), and then a counselor (UC Irvine). And when I considered all the things that I loved to do and that I’d trained for—writing, speaking, counseling—I realized that I’d uniquely equipped myself to become the College Essay Guy. So I created this really cool job for myself.

How? To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, I followed my bliss. I kept doing what I loved until I found myself in this place. 

But things really clicked for me when I realized how being the College Essay Guy actually brought together some of my core values, and I think sharing those with you here might help you understand why I’m the only person who could have written this book.

The Matchlighters Scholarship is awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis to 50 high-achieving, low-income students who have solid grades and test scores, but just need a little help. The scholarship includes four hours of one-on-one essay help at no cost.

The Stats

Has at least one parent that completed college? (66/107 responded)
No 52% of those who responded

Female 63%
Nonbinary 0%


International student (total of 66/107 responded)
Yes 26% of those who responded

*LGTBQ+? (96/107 responded)*
LGTBQ+ 9% of those who responded

Household income
$0-25K 41%
<$50K 87%

Asian (include the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent) 49%
Hispanic or Latino or of a Spanish-speaking country 22%
Black or of African or Haitian/Caribbean descent 19%
Identify as a minority (ie. non-white/Caucasian) demographic 85%

Language spoken in the home
Any language other than or in addition to English 78%

Yes 7%

Here are some schools Matchlighters Scholars will be enrolling as freshmen this fall:

  • Agnes Scott College
  • Barnard College
  • Boston University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Collin County Community College
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • CSU - Los Angeles
  • Davidson College (2)
  • Drexel University (2)
  • Gap Year
  • Georgia Tech
  • Harvard University (2)
  • Kenyon College
  • Los Angeles Pierce College (USC Trojan Transfer Plan)
  • Los Angeles Southwest College
  • Loyola University Chicago
  • Macalaster College
  • Middlebury
  • MIT (2)
  • Mount Holyoke
  • NYU (3)
  • NYU - Abu Dhabi
  • Stanford (2)
  • UC Berkeley (3)
  • UC Davis
  • UC Irvine
  • UC Merced
  • UC San Diego
  • UC Santa Cruz
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Michigan (2)
  • UT Austin
  • University of Wisconsin - Madison
  • Vanderbilt (2)
  • Williams College
  • Yale

Here's what our students have said about the Matchlighters Scholarship

"I just want to write this email to say a big THANK YOU to you, Ethan, and Nicolas for creating such a wonderful scholarship program. Without Matchlighter and Bethany Culpepper, who is my counselor (she's an amazing counselor btw), I would have never been able to complete and compose such great essays that help me get admitted to Harvard, UPenn, Duke, JHU, Rice, and UCLA! I still cannot believe what happened this past month and all of that incredible news would not have been a reality without the CEG's Matchlighters program. I want to personally thank You for putting the effort in organizing this program and help me match up with Bethany."

-Khoa Doan

 My acceptance letter into a dual master program at Brandeis is below! I could not have done it without your class your support the one on one scholarship essay Sinziana is an absolutely amazing person! Truly so deeply grateful  for the AMAZING course and all the critical support. This was my first choice and I hope to continue onto toward my PHD. Fingers crossed

-Melissa (2017)

 I applied to 9 schools (UChicago, UW-Madison, Northeastern University, Ohio State, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Berkeley, and University of Nevada-Reno), was accepted to 5 (University of Nevada-Reno, UW-Madison, Northeastern University, Ohio State, and UC Davis), and was waitlisted by 1 (UC Irvine)! UNR, UW-Madison, and NEU all offered to pay either nearly or all of my full cost of attendance. After months of contemplation, I committed to UW-Madison the morning of April 30, 2018!

I'm sharing all of this with you because I was lost when I reached out to you all those months ago. Without you, I'm not sure if all of my acceptances would have been possible and I wanted to thank you sincerely for everything that you have done for me and supported me through. It means even more than the world to me that you took time out of your busy schedule to work, not only with me, but many other students as well. Thank you so much!"

-Shaniya Auxier, Matchlighters Scholarship Scholar, Future Badger, Incoming Class of 2022


Here's What our Counselors say about working with a Matchlighter's Student

"My student is exceptionally bright. So bright, in fact, that before I knew it, I was helping him with a lot more than the promised six hours! After I weighed in on his college list and helped him revise his personal statement, he sent me his activities resume, his student resume, and a handful of supplementals. I DID let him know that these were additional elements but that I would do my best. And I have. I roughly estimate I have given him more than 20 hours already, which has included two 45 minute phone conversations. For me, it is deeply rewarding to assist someone who works so hard (and not just for himself, but for others, too). I plan to continue helping him as he completes one application after another; and am looking forward to all the good news I anticipate he will receive! Thank you to the Sawyer brothers for introducing me to such an outstanding individual!"


Sandy (2017)


"[My student] was awesome.  I have no idea how you found her but she is am amazing young woman. I helped her with her Common App Essay and with her college list; I just feel as though I should do more!" 

-Eva (2017)

Here's what a few people have said about our courses.

"I was lost when I reached out to you all those months ago. Without you, I'm not sure all my acceptances would have been possible. thank you sincerely for everything that you have done for me!"

-Shaniya Auxier, Matchlighters Scholarship Scholar

I didn't know how to write an essay at all, but by taking this course now I really know how to write one. It encouraged me to think about the challenges I've faced in my life and their impact on me. The first exercise made me to go and look at my Scrapbook and photos and this really made me happy. This course helped me in writing an essay while bringing my memories back, which made me realize that I'm capable of reaching my goals and I'm strong.

-Ana, Student 2017

“Ethan was the finest mentor anyone could ask for.  He guided me and, more importantly, encouraged me to write the best college essays that I could possibly manage. His way of working was unique: his exercises and insights helped me perfectly incorporate my ideas in the essays. Never in any of our sessions did I feel stressed; rather he always made the path crystal clear and made me realize my most efficient plan of action. He inspired me. And as a college applicant, that’s all you really need to write great essays. Would recommend Ethan 100%!”

-Swastid, Student (2016)

I came into this webinar thinking I was a hopeless case because I didn't have any harrowing tales of struggle. I tried just being really braggy in my essay, but after working with my writing partner and having Ethan workshop it in the session, we found a real focus in my last paragraph, where I talked about a topic that meant a lot to me. I had originally thought I shouldn't talk about that topic because it was such a GOOD experience for me and I thought it would be too shallow. I learned that I could talk about what I loved as an essay topic if I could infuse it with my values.

-Jordan, Student (2017)

With the aid of Ethan’s constructive feedback, I have learnt a great deal about myself as a person and as a writer. The Application process is so much more than a number on a paper, it is a journey of self discovery. As I continue to embark on this journey, I will always be thankful for all that I have learned during my time working with Ethan.
— Salasha D, Student
Your mission to provide equitable access to the best courses on essays is what got me to where I am today, from the pay what you can system to my frequent talks with my Matchlighters counselor. You gave me the tools I needed to change my life. For that, my family, friends, and myself thank you for the bottom of our hearts.
— Ali, Harvard University, Class of 2021
You’re an amazing teacher, and I can feel the passion you have for us. I really appreciate all the work you’ve done for us. Thanks to you, I’ve been able to say what I’ve wanted to say about my life and show how it has impacted me. That’s something that I’ve struggled to do in the past. So from the bottom of my heart, I just want to say thank you!
— Jordan H, Student

This course has truly changed my life. I now feel that I am prepared to tackle my Questbridge essays, supplemental essays, and any other college essays to ensure that I've tried my best and hardest for my future. After all that this course has provided me with, saying thank you feels inadequate, but still – thank you so much, Ethan. You have truly changed my life and my perspective on writing a personal statement.

-Amenna R, Student


I came into this webinar a bit grumpy that I had sacrificed all my week nights for college essay writing, but once I got into it I felt like I hit my groove, and, with your help and advice, really got inspired to write. If I hadn't taken this course, there is no way I would have a) found my topic b) started to write yet or c) completed a pretty darn solid draft. So thank you!!! This webinar seriously rocked!

-Ava, Student (2016)

The past week, was more of a journey than a tutorial for my personal statement. Before the course, I was looking outwards for inspiration. My week with Ethan taught me to find inspiration within myself, but best of all, he provided me the tools to put it on paper.

-Jonathan, Student (2017)

"From tearing apart my essays multiple times over the one-week bootcamp, to helping me find value in the UC Essay everyone told me not to submit (the spongebob memes and tacos one if you recall), to truly helping transform my personal statement into something that is ME, I'm immensely grateful."

-Ali, Harvard University, Class of 2021

You de-stressed the essay writing process by making feel that we could relate to you. Rather than being stressed about writing my essay, I was excited for the sessions, and actually looked forward to finding my topic and then writing it. You are extremely knowledgeable and passionate, and it definitely shows. I am very appreciative. Thank you!!

-Julianne W, Student


Part 1

Part 2