The Free Stuff
FREE COLLEGE ESSAY RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS, PARENTS, AND COUNSELORS
“I can't believe you give away all this stuff for free!”
I get this a lot. It's why I started this website in the first place. Why do I give away so much? Because it feels good, and it makes me happy. And because, as someone once told me, no one's ever gone poor from giving.
The Personal Statement
THE FREE GUIDE TO WRITING THE PERSONAL STATEMENT
Kick things off with the two greatest brainstorming exercises ever, learn about the four types of college essays, check out some amazing example essays, and get on your way to writing your own killer personal statement.
From the blog: How to Write a College Essay Step-by-Step: The Ultimate Guide
We’ve compiled the one-hour guide into a clear, step-by-step process for how to write a college essay.
University of California
Get an overview of the newly updated UC application, learn about the 13 points of comprehensive review, find the best way to select your four personal insight questions, and learn two ways to answer all four of them.
Write supplemental essays for hundreds of the most competitive colleges. Follow our step-by-step guides and read our supplemental essay examples that work.
How to Write the "Why This College" Essay
Many colleges and universities require applicants to write "Why This College" application statements. After reading many bad ones and a few good ones, I’ve put together this list of DOs and DON’Ts. (Hint: schools in Southern California already know they have nice weather.)
Free Webinar Club
What Should I Be Doing Right Now?
Download this handy PDF College Prep Timeline to help you figure out what you should be doing to get ready for college during your junior and senior years in high school.
Matchlighters Scholars Program
The Matchlighters Scholars Program offers free college application counseling for high-achieving, low-income students from experienced college counselors. The program includes four hours of one-on-one essay help and two hours of college list development at no cost.
I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to you for creating such a wonderful scholarship program. Without Matchlighters and my amazing counselor, 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 Matchlighters program. I want to personally thank you for putting the effort in organizing this program and helping me match up with my counselor.
Practical, up-to-date interviews with experts in college admissions, financial aid, personal statements, test prep and more. Ethan Sawyer (aka College Essay Guy), interviews deans of admission, financial aid experts, and veterans of the admissions field to extract, then distill their advice into practical steps for students and those guiding them through the process. From creating an awesome college list to appealing a financial aid letter, Ethan skips the general advice and gets right to the action items, all in an effort to bring more ease, joy and purpose into the college admissions process.
The College Essay Guy Podcast: A Practical Guide to College Admissions Ethan Sawyer
- 4.6 • 176 Ratings
- JAN 19, 2022
Part 2: Behind the Scenes of an Admission Office w/ Tom Campbell
Tom Campbell is back for another episode in our series that goes behind the scenes of an admissions office to let you know what happens when you click submit on your application—where does it go? Who reads it? What are they thinking? How do they make decisions? At the time of this recording, Tom Campbell was Assistant Dean Of Admissions at Pomona College. Tom was formerly the Assistant Director Of Admissions at College of the Holy Cross, his alma mater, and also serves as a Group Leader, Essay Specialist and Faculty Member at the very awesome College Horizons. In part 2, we cover a ton of listener questions that we didn’t get to during the first episode (and some questions folks didn’t ask) and dig deeper on all things admissions at Pomona. We covered: What is demonstrated interest? Does Pomona track demonstrated interest? Why is it important for colleges to know how likely a student is to enroll (aka college yield)? Do’s and don’ts for students at a college fair What can folks learn about Pomona based on their supplemental essay prompts? How does Pomona decide which prompts to use? Does it matter which Common App personal statement prompt you choose? Should students stick closely to the prompt for the supplemental essays? Does it matter which major a student chooses when applying? What are some “red flags” Tom remembers that got students immediately rejected? Resources: Crash Course on Writing Pomona’s Supplemental Essays What is Demonstrated Interest? A Practical How-To Guide How to Create a Great College List How to Write the “Why this College” Essay Play-by-play: [4:20] What is demonstrated interest? [6:30] Does Pomona track demonstrated interest? [9:20] Why is it important for colleges to know how likely a student is to enroll (aka college yield)? [11:10] What is “yield”? [13:50] What student data does Pomona track compared to other highly selective schools? [15:37] How much do interviews matter at Pomona? [20:46] Why it’s important to ask questions to admissions officers directly [22:20] Do’s and don’ts for students at a college fair [27:10] What can folks learn about Pomona based on their supplemental essay prompts? How does Pomona decide which prompts to use? [39:00] In Tom’s opinion, what makes a memorable personal statement? [44:00] Does it matter which Common App personal statement prompt you choose? [45:45] Do students have a better or worse chance of getting in if they choose the “topic of your choice?” prompt? [46:40] Should students stick closely to the prompt for the supplemental essays? [50:20] Does it matter which major a student chooses when applying? [53:55] Tom reacts to a sample email from a student asking about major choice [60:45] What are some “red flags” Tom remembers that got students immediately rejected? [1:03:50] Are there ever situations where a student had amazing grades/test scores/essays, and yet they were rejected? [1:07:20] Ultimately, how much can students and families control in the admissions process?
Part 1: Behind the Scenes of an Admission Office w/ Tom Campbell
My guest this time is Tom Campbell — who at the time of this recording was Assistant Dean Of Admissions at Pomona College. Tom was formerly the Assistant Director Of Admissions at College of the Holy Cross, his alma mater, and also serves as a Group Leader, Essay Specialist and Faculty Member at the very awesome College Horizons. This is another episode in our series that goes behind the scenes of an admissions office to let you know what happens when you click submit on your application—where does it go? Who reads it? What are they thinking? How do they make decisions? In part one, we cover: What happens after you hit submit through when you receive your decision? How did the Test Optional policy impact admission decisions this year—and how are colleges like Pomona able to create a class without standardized tests? How was application reading different from past years? Essays: What do you look for in a great personal statement? How much do essays matter? Can they ever hurt your chances? Demonstrated interest: How does it really work? What does Pomona track? What do other schools track? Play-by-Play [2:00] Meet Tom [3:57] What we’re going to cover [4:48] What is Tom’s job like right now, in April 2020? [7:40] What is yield? [9:00] What happens between students clicking submit to receiving a letter of acceptance (Pomona’s entire process) [19:20] What is test-optional, and how does Pomona use test scores? [25:39] How does Pomona put together a class? What are its institutional priorities? (Also more on testing) [35:15] How were things different this year because of COVID-19? [43:10] Tom names some common essay topics [45:44] What does Tom look for in a personal statement? How much do essays matter? [49:26] Q&A - How does a student's ability to pay tuition affect their chances at Pomona? [50:35] Case study - in terms of institutional priorities, what did this student do well? [56:22] How tough is it for full-need international students to be accepted? [57:40] What does Tom have to say to students who think they must get accepted to a top university or else they’ve failed? [59:58] How much does major choice matter when applying?
Behind the Scenes of an Admission Counselor's Life w/ Kati Sweaney
This episode I'm with with Kati Sweaney, Senior Assistant Dean of Admission at Reed College. It's the first in a series of interviews with current and former college admissions officers where we go behind the scenes to let you know how things work. In this episode we get into: The life of an admission officer, including what their travel season is like Do’s and don’ts for that initial email to an admissions office What is demonstrated interest? Why it matters for colleges to predict who attends their school Some other ways students can demonstrate interest Additional info sections that made a difference How fast do admissions officers read the application? How many essays has Kati read? Kati’s do’s and don'ts for the application essays Resources: College Essay Guy Interview Guide Guide to Demonstrated Interest Ira Glass on Storytelling Play-by-play: [2:00] How Kati got into admissions [3:42] What kind of person is drawn to working in admissions? [5:30] What is travel season for admissions reps? [10:05] Why do college reps travel to so many high schools? [13:55] A little bit about college fairs [16:13] Examples of how students stood out at college fairs [19:50] Some do’s and don’ts for the initial email to admissions offices [22:44] What is demonstrated interest? [26:37] Why it matters for colleges to predict who attends their school [29:27] Some other ways students can demonstrate interest [32:00] Additional info sections that made a difference [34:50] How fast do admissions officers read the application? [39:17] How many essays has Kati read? [40:40] Kati’s do’s and don'ts for the application essays [43:50] Why those tiny details are so important in an essay [45:25] A few college essays that stood out (after reading 25,000 essays) [54:16] Kati’s advice for parents [56:54] What Kati hopes students will keep in mind throughout this process This episode was initially recorded in the fall of 2019, so you may notice some pre-pandemic language used.
- SEP 12, 2020
17 Things Students of Color (+ Their Counselors and Parents) Should Know When Applying to College
In this episode we cover, among other things: Ways that students of Color can advocate for themselves while in high school How to research Historically Black Colleges and Universities Ways to learn more about fit at colleges that are not minority-serving Where to find more financial aid after you’ve been accepted How parents can get involved to advocate for their students in high school and college How counselors can more fully serve students of Color & First steps that counselors can take to become focused on racial equity and anti-racism Resources: Shifting Narratives Toward Healing: Disrupting Trauma Exploitation in the Admissions Essay Writing Process https://www.bigjeducationalconsulting.com/resources https://www.smontgomeryconsulting.com/admissions-news-and-topics/2020/8/3/how-to-estimate-your-familys-financial-aid http://www.thehundred-seven.org/ https://hbculifestyle.com/ https://uncf.org/scholarships https://www.blackscholarships.org/p/black-student-organizations.html https://www.aises.org/ Race and Equity Resources Graduate Certificate in Anti-Racism in Urban Education The Institute for Anti-Racist Education Center for Racial Justice in Education Reimagining Education: Teaching Learning and Leading for a Racially Just Society Summer Institute Anti-Racism, Education, Programs, and Resources Checklist for Combating Racism https://www.smontgomeryconsulting.com/barrier-breakers-college-edition https://www.smontgomeryconsulting.com/break-the-cycle https://www.smontgomeryconsulting.com/blog https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV0seRFpfJU6JKEQWagqOsg/featured?view_as=subscriber https://www.antiracisted.org/ How to Write a Financial Aid Appeal Letter “When someone does a favor for you, they actually like you more” White Privilege and Multicultural Counseling Competence: The Influence of Field of Study, Sex, and Racial/Ethnic Exposure Common App Activities List Play-by-play: [1:00] Who is Sydney Montgomery? [3:00] Why does Sydney do this work? [3:45] Tip #1: Own your academic journey [6:30] #2: Strive to reach higher than just the bare minimum graduation requirements. [7:48] #3: Make sure that your college application list is tailored to your academic profile. [10:15] #4: Make sure you and your counselor have a good fit relationship [13:14] #5: Form allies outside of your counselor or teacher. [14:04] #6: Prepare a brag sheet for teachers’ letters of recommendation [15:40] #7: Parents should start to request information about FAFSA and financial aid in the 9th grade. [17:20] #8: Parents and students need to consider finances when building a college list [22:15] #9: Students should advocate for themselves in the early stages of the college application process [23:30] #10: Don’t overlook the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities [27:40] #11: Speak to students in the Black Student Union or other cultural affinity groups when on college visits. [28:50] #12: Look up a school’s profile on the Common Data Set [32:25] #13: Apply to scholarships offered by Black Sororities and Fraternities (the “Divine Nine”) [33:05] #14: Apply to scholarships with Black churches [33:30] #15: Don’t discount things like church activities and helping out at home or with younger siblings [35:20] #16: Actively pursue certain specialized programs like magnet programs. [36:15] #17: Parents can push school districts and boards of education to fund schools on an equitable basis to combat education disparities. [37:45] How counselors can more fully serve students of Color [43:30] First steps that counselors can take to become focused on racial equity and anti-racism
- OCT 7, 2019
Resources for LGBTQ+ Students from Campus Pride
Campus Pride is THE go-to resource for LGBTQ students and their families and my guest on this episode, civil rights champion Shane Windmeyer, is the one to thank for its very existence. On this episode we discuss: How Shane get involved in this work in the first place How is the college search process for LGBTQ+ students? What are some great questions to ask when visiting campuses? Common mistakes students make in the process How can LGBTQ students find scholarships? Should students come out in their essays? If so, how? Resources: The Campus Pride Index The Advocate College Guide for Lgbt Students Brotherhood: Gay Life for College Fraternities Inspiration for LGBT students and allies Out on Fraternity Row Secret Sisters The Campus Visit Scorecard The Campus Pride LGBTQ College Fair Program The P’s and Q’s to choosing the perfect campus Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse FASFA CSS Profile Gamma Mu Foundation
- OCT 2, 2019
Self-Directed Learning (Why You Can Quit HS & Be Okay)
This is the second of two episodes on homeschooling and self-directed learning. My guest is writer, speaker, and fellow podcaster Blake Boles, whose work invites students and families to re-evaluate the traditional schooling model--are the typical high school and college experiences really the best ways to spend your time? On this episode we discuss: Can you (really) quit high school and not totally ruin your life? Why is this the best time ever for self-directed learning? How can we all be more self directed learners? Why you should: Google everything, Email strangers, and Find your nerd clan The benefits of skipping college (or at least taking a gap year) How to know if you’re making a decision for you (and not your parents)? A warning: Listen too closely to this episode and it could mean that this is the very last College Essay Guy podcast episode you listen to… and that could be a very cool thing. Resources: Average is Over A Case Against Education Off Trail Learning Podcast The Self Driven Child Dumbing us Down The Teenage Liberation Handbook Unschooled Penelope Trunk Excellent Sheep The Nurture Assumption The Alliance of Self-Directed Education Not Back to School Camp Camp Stomping Ground Unschooled Adventures
This is THE best podcast for understanding these topics
Thank for such well done podcasts - they have really helped me understand both the college admissions topics and other things to think about as a parent of a soon-to-be high schooler. Also kudos for making it easy and fun to listen to!
Great, great, information!!
I’m so grateful I found your podcast!! I’m going back to school and I’m soaking up so much from you! Thank you so much!
Paradox and hypocrisy- that’s college admissions
This podcast deserves 5-stars because it is an honest and useful guide to writing essays that will get a kid admitted into a good college. The downside is also its honesty. - Be authentic, unless you’re “privileged.” (“Privilege” defined: rich, or even middle class, or god forbid a two parent home. Or, if you know what gender you are, and have never been confused about it...etc) - Make sure you visit the schools that you want to attend, to demonstrate interest and garner material for your essays. Nevermind the fact that you’re supposed to be too poor to be able to afford these visits, and should not have reliable adults in your life to take you. - Don’t include any political topics or religious topics in your essays unless you have an extreme liberal bent or unless you’re a member of a religion that is popular with liberalism. If you communicate anything in your essays that hints at anything other than classic American Liberalism— that will be a BIG red flag to colleges that you are closed minded, and they don’t want closed minds on college campuses. - Be sure to buy the “how to write college essay” books and purchase the workshops we sell— because you need all of the tips we have to offer. But definitely be too poor to buy these books. Thanks for the honesty!!
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Practical, up-to-date interviews with experts in college admissions, financial aid, personal statements, test prep and more. Ethan Sawyer (aka College Essay
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Hi! I'm Ethan Sawyer AKA College Essay Guy. My goal is to bring more ease, purpose, & joy to the college application process. Start your