68 episodes

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

    • Education
    • 4.5 • 201 Ratings

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.

    Navigating Mental Health Disclosures in the College Application: The Counselor Perspective

    Navigating Mental Health Disclosures in the College Application: The Counselor Perspective

    Welcome to our special three-part series on mental health disclosures in college applications.  To kick things off, Ethan interviews Chris Loo, Director of College Counseling at The Stony Brook School, where Chris has been working to help students navigate mental health disclosures in their applications for years. In this episode, they explore:
    Which student populations does Chris see struggle with mental health challenges? When to disclose mental health issues and when it might not be necessary How and where in their applications students can disclose, from their additional info section to the counselor recommendation letter to the personal statement Advice for counselors and an exploration of the question: "Are we discussing this too much?" This episode is informed by conversations with many admission officers over the years and by direct work with students. If you’d like to hear from an admission officer directly, check out episode two in this series with Christina Lopez, Dean of Enrollment Management at Barnard College, and episode three with Emi Nietfeld, who discusses what it was like to navigate mental health disclosures from the student perspective. 
    Chris Loo immigrated from South Korea at the age of 5 with her parents. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in American History and received her Masters in Clinical Social Work. She has also worked as a music teacher, a campus chaplain and a mental health counselor at a refugee resettlement organization. She also serves as a board director for the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC). 
    We hope you enjoy the conversation.
     
     
    Play-by-Play
    2:24 - Chris’ background in mental health and college counseling 6:11 - Should students disclose mental health challenges in their college application? 10:20 - What questions can students ask themselves to help decide? 15:08 - What is the Additional Information section and how could it be used to disclose mental health challenges? 17:20 - Chris and Ethan review an example disclosure from the Additional Information section 24:06 - What information could be shared through the counselor letter of recommendation? 24:42 - Chris shares a sample counselor letter example  34:33 - Ethan reads a personal statement sample where a student chose to disclose  47:15 - What is the role of the counselor in this process for students? 54:44 - Are we talking about mental health too much?  57:27 - Closing thoughts for students and families  
     
    Resources
    Blog post inspired by this episode: Should I Discuss Mental Health in My Personal Statement or College Application? (And If So, How)? How to Use the Common App Additional Information Section: Guide + Examples CEG Podcast Episode 507: What Colleges Want (Part 7A): Recommendation Letter Crash Course for Students and Families CEG Podcast Episode 508: What Colleges Want (Part 7B): Recommendation Letter Crash Courses for Counselors and Teachers NYTimes Article: Are We Talking Too Much About Mental Health?

    • 59 min
    511: Identity, Self-Care, and the Future of College Admission w/ NACAC CEO Angel Pérez

    511: Identity, Self-Care, and the Future of College Admission w/ NACAC CEO Angel Pérez

    In today's episode, Ethan connects with Angel Pérez (CEO of the National Association of College Admission Counselors) to discuss identity, his personal journey with self-care, and where he sees the college admission profession heading. 
    On the episode, you’ll hear Angel and Ethan discuss:
    Angel’s brainstorming work for his own imagined college essay (yes, really) What Angel’s core values have to do with his self-care journey Strategies and techniques Angel (and Ethan) use for self care How does Angel see the US college landscape (and/or admissions process) changing in the next 5 years?  Fun fact: You’ll find the YouTube video version of this podcast on the College Essay Guy YouTube channel.
    Check out last year’s conversation, CEG Podcast Episode 401: Self-care for counselors, leaders, and professionals in helping roles.
    If you haven’t met Angel Pérez, he is CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). In this role, he represents more than 25,000 admission and counseling professionals worldwide committed to postsecondary access and success. Named by a Forbes article in 2019 as the most influential voice in college admissions, he strives to build an educational ecosystem that better represents today’s society. Prior to joining NACAC in July of 2020, Dr. Pérez served in secondary and higher education leadership positions across America, most recently, as Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success at Trinity College in Connecticut. He is an advocate for counselors everywhere, an important ally in the work of increasing access to higher education, and I’m so lucky to call him my friend…
    Hope you enjoy this episode. 
     
    Play-by-Play
    2:43 - Introductions and welcome 4:15 - Values Exercise 9:13 - Social Identities Exercise 11:47 - What life experiences have influenced Angel’s identities?  19:58 - How do Angel’s core values connect to identity?  22:46 - How has self-care for Angel and Ethan evolved since their conversation last year? 27:06 - What are Angel and Ethan still working on for self-care? 33:39 - Accountability, pausing, and intention in self-care  39:24 - How does Angel see the US college landscape (and/or admissions process) changing in the next 5 years?  44:14 - How has the ban on race-conscious admission impacted students?  46:07 - Advice for students  48:20 - Is college still worth the cost? 50:56 - Advice for counselors and admission professionals 53:23 - Closing thoughts  
    Resources
    YouTube video version of this episode (511) Values Exercise Social Identities Exercise Counting Up vs. Counting Down by Duncan Sabien   30-Day Phone Breakup Course (Catherine Price) Rocket Fuel by Mark C. Winters, Gino Wickman CEG Podcast Episode 401: Self-care for counselors, leaders, and professionals in helping roles CEG Podcast Episode 406: Why You Don’t Have to Write about Trauma in Your College Essay to Stand Out—and What You Can Do Instead  

    • 55 min
    What Colleges Want (Part 9): A Crash Course in Standardized Testing

    What Colleges Want (Part 9): A Crash Course in Standardized Testing

    Today’s episode concludes our 9-part “What Colleges Want” series, where we’ve been walking through the results of the report released by the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) regarding the factors that colleges deem important. Ethan is joined by Jay Rosner (Executive Director of The Princeton Review Foundation) to talk about standardized testing. 
    In this episode they get into: 
    What are the origins of the SAT? What’s changed in the testing landscape in the last year or two?  Does test optional really mean test optional? How much standardized tests matter for colleges? How do students figure out their preparation timeline and which test to take?  Why might testing be considered problematic? As the Executive Director of The Princeton Review Foundation, Jay Rosner has developed programs jointly with such organizations as the NAACP, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, College and Graduate Horizons (serving Native American students) and the Asian Pacific Fund. Jay's career has combined education and law, with an emphasis on student advocacy. He has testified before state legislative committees in California, Texas, Illinois and New Jersey, and as an expert witness in cases involving testing. Before attending law school, Jay was a public high school math teacher. Jay holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, a JD from Widener University, and is the proud father of two grown daughters.
     
    Hope you enjoy! 
     
    Play-by-play
    2:16 - How does Jay know so much about standardized tests?  4:23 - What are the origins of the SAT? 6:40 - How has standardized testing changed in recent years? 11:25 - Is test-optional really optional?  13:26 - How much do standardized tests matter in the application review? 14:49 - Who should take standardized tests? 20:24 - Is it better to take the SAT or the ACT? 23:30 - What are the benefits of quality test prep?  27:10 - How can students reach their best score?  33:54 - How do students know if they should submit their scores or not?  38:40 - Advice for counselors working with students in marginalized populations   42:05 - Why do some folks find standardized testing to be problematic? 45:00 - Closing advice for students and counselors   
    Resources
    List of test-optional and test-free schools CEG's Crash Course to Standardized Testing Add’l Info Sample on Testing   

    • 48 min
    What Colleges Want (Part 8): Extracurricular Activities Deep Dive: How Getting Involved In and Out of School Can Boost Your Application

    What Colleges Want (Part 8): Extracurricular Activities Deep Dive: How Getting Involved In and Out of School Can Boost Your Application

    On today’s episode, Tom Campbell (CEG’s Community Manager) is joined by Carolyn Starks, a former Pomona and Bates admissions officer and Associate Director of College Counseling at Oakwood School (North Hollywood, CA) at the time of recording, to talk about extracurricular activities and the activities list on college applications.
    They get into, among other things:
    What are some of the benefits of getting involved in your school community? How can students explore activities outside of their high schools? How do admission officers evaluate a student’s activities list? Frequently asked questions about activities and summer programs And more!  But first, let’s meet Carolyn: 
    Carolyn Starks followed her father’s footsteps and attended Rhodes College in Memphis, TN where she studied English and Africana Studies. After graduation, she moved to Portland, ME to work at Bates College where she focused on supporting first-generation-to-college, BIPOC, and/or low-income students through the admissions process. After two years, she landed a job at Pomona College’s Office of Admissions where she joined the Access Team, ran the College’s diversity fly-in programs, and learned to be justice oriented in her approach to educational equity. Though at the time of recording Carolyn was Oakwood School in North Hollywood’s Associate Director of College Counseling, she will soon be moving to serve as Co-Director of College Counseling at Santa Fe Prep in Santa Fe, NM. In her free time, Carolyn enjoys indulging in local cuisine and watching Bravo with her husband and her dog, Ms. Pecan Pie. 
     
    We hope you enjoy the episode. 
     
    Play-by-Play
    4:48 - What is Carolyn’s background?  6:20 - What activities was Carolyn involved in during high school? 8:36 - What activities did Tom participate in during high school?  10:45 - How can students learn about the opportunities at their school? 16:50 - Why should students get involved within their school community? 23:09 - How can students be involved in extracurriculars outside their school?  29:57 - What should students keep in mind when applying to highly selective schools? 36:13 - Do colleges have preferred activities or summer experiences? 36:41 - Does placement on an activities list matter? 37:37 - How many years should students participate in an activity?  39:05 - How important is having formal leadership roles?  42:18 - What might not be worth putting on your activities list?  46:25 - How many activities is enough?  51:22 - How can students maintain a balance between their home life, academic, and extracurricular activities? 55:47 - Closing thoughts 

    Resources
    Extracurricular Activities: A comprehensive guide with 400+ examples and ideas How to Write a Successful Common App Activities List A List of Activities You May Not Have Considered Including—But That Count! 80+ Real Examples for Writing Your Extracurricular Activity List

    • 56 min
    What Colleges Want (Part 7B): Recommendation Letter Crash Course for Counselors and Teachers

    What Colleges Want (Part 7B): Recommendation Letter Crash Course for Counselors and Teachers

    Today’s episode is all about writing letters of recommendation for teachers and counselors. Continuing our series on What Colleges Want, Tom Campbell (CEG’s Community Manager) is joined by Hanah Lim (CEG’s Director of Workshops and a former high school English teacher), where they provide their tips, tricks, and hacks to help you write more efficient and effective letters for your students. 
    Tom and Hanah discuss:
    How long should letters be and what format works best? How do letters differ between counselors and teachers? What details might be helpful to include, and what should be avoided? How can teachers and counselors efficiently gather more information about their students to include in the letter?  We hope you enjoy the episode!
    In case you missed it: Students and families, be sure to check out last week’s episode with Ayesha King to learn about what goes into a letter of recommendation, how they are evaluated by colleges, and who students should consider asking. 
    Hanah Lim is the Director of Workshops at College Essay Guy and a former public high school English teacher. She oversees College Essay Guy's essay and application workshop team and organizes speaking events and college application and essay workshops for students at schools and organizations in the US and around the world. She has presented college essay workshops to thousands of students across diverse settings, including community-based organizations, public, international, and independent schools. She also worked as a college consultant for students in Bangkok, Thailand, directed SAT prep centers in Irvine, California and worked with non-profit groups and as an AVID teacher and coordinator to help close the achievement gap. She holds a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Education from California State University of Long Beach.  Hanah finds joy in watching musicals, visiting Disney parks with her husband, and playing with her two cats.
     
    Play-by-Play
    2:19 - Hanah and Tom share their school contexts for writing their letters of recommendation 5:40 - How much weight do letters of recommendation hold in admission?  10:25 - What is the best practice for the length of a letter of recommendation for college?  10:57 - How should it be formatted?  14:03 - Should a letter be customized for each college? 15:38 - What else is submitted with the student’s application from the high school? 16:19 - What is covered in the school profile?  19:44 - What is covered in the counselor’s letter? 25:25 - What is covered in the teacher's letter? 30:46 - How does the Supreme Court ruling on race-conscious admission affect letters of recommendation? 36:29 - What generally might be not as helpful to include in the letter? 40:38 - Hanah shares her process for writing letters of recommendation 49:18 - Tom shares his process for writing letters of recommendation 59:01 -  How to incorporate a student’s essay brainstorming work 1:01:37 - How could generative AI be utilized in the recommendation writing process? 1:07:08 - Closing thoughts  
    Resources
    Continued Learning
    On-Demand Webinar: How to Write Better Recommendations in Less Time  How (and Why) to Uplevel Your School Profile Post-SCOTUS (College Essay Guy) CEG Podcast Episode 507: What Colleges Want (Part 7A): Recommendation Letter Crash Course for Students and Families
    Sample Recommendation Letters Sample Recommendation Letters by Student Archetype How to Write a Letter of Recommendation: Counselor's Guide + Samples (College Essay Guy) How to Write a Recommendation Letter for a Student: Teacher's Guide + Samples (College Essay Guy) Junior Questionnaires/Recommendation Request Form Questions Sample Junior Questionnaire (for Counselor Recommendations) Hanah Lim’s Teacher Recommendation Request Form Helpful Student Brag Sheet Questions for Teacher Letters of Recommendation (Johns Hopkins University) Working with Recommenders and Advisors (several brag sheets from Common

    • 1 hr 8 min
    What Colleges Want (Part 7A): Recommendation Letter Crash Course for Students and Families

    What Colleges Want (Part 7A): Recommendation Letter Crash Course for Students and Families

    This week, Tom Campbell (CEG’s Community Manager) is joined by Ayesha King (Director of College Counseling at the International School of Los Angeles) to talk about letters of recommendation. They get into:
    What goes into a letter of recommendation?  How are they evaluated by colleges? Who should students consider asking, and how do they ask? What can students and families do to ensure that their letters are the best they can be? What are FERPA rights and why should you waive them? Ayesha King (she/her) has over twelve years of experience in admissions at the secondary, undergraduate, and postgraduate levels, developing her values of social justice, equity and access. She is currently the Director of College Counseling at the International School of Los Angeles (LILA), a French International school, where she is stretching her skills working with students considering post-secondary options all over the world. She holds her Bachelors degree from the University of Redlands and her Masters degree from California Lutheran University. Ayesha loves spending time with her two boys and two dogs, visiting Disneyland, and talking about pop culture.  
    This is the next episode in our series on What Colleges Want. Stay tuned for our upcoming episode about writing letters of recommendation for teachers and counselors. Tom will be joined by Hanah Lim (CEG’s Director of Workshops and a former high school English teacher), where they provide their tips, tricks, and hacks to help you write more efficient and effective letters for your students.
     
    Play-by-Play
    2:49 - How important are letters of recommendation to admissions officers?  5:55 - Why might it be called a “Letter of Advocacy” instead? 7:19 - When would a letter of recommendation make a big impact on a student’s application? 13:38 - Should students also share this important context if it’s already in their recommendation letter? 15:35 - How can students determine how many letters to request? 19:49 - What is being said in these letters? 26:38 - Which teachers are typically the best to ask for a recommendation letter? 29:51 - Why should students consider asking a teacher from a class they struggled in? 30:47 - What can students do to help their teachers & counselors write the best letter possible? 36:06 - What information should students share with their recommenders? 39:20 - How should students ask for a letter once they have determined who to ask? 44:41 - Do students ever see their letters of recommendation?  48:24 - Closing advice for parents & students  
    Resources
    How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for College: Step-by-Step Guide for Students CollegeTransitions Blog Post - College Recommendation Requirements Podcast Ep. 505 - What Colleges Want (Part 5): A Crash Course in the Supplemental Essays + Application with Ethan Sawyer (College Essay Guy) How to Write a Successful Common App Activities List How to Use the Common App Additional Information Section: Guide + Examples 100 Brave + Interesting Questions Pedro Pascal Cries From His Head While Eating Spicy Wings  

    • 52 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
201 Ratings

201 Ratings

Kjf190 ,

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!

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