Using the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your Personal Statement

Using the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your Personal Statement


Ethan Sawyer
Ethan Sawyer

Here's Why You Should Take This Course

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This unique, six-part course by Ethan Sawyer (“The College Essay Guy”) shows you how to use the techniques of screenwriting to write a great personal statement. Ethan has been helping students tell their stories for more than ten years. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, He received an MFA from UC Irvine, and has received two counseling certifications, one from UC Irvine and one from the Interchange Counseling Institute. He’s a proud, active member of the Western Association of College Admissions Counselors (WACAC) and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC).

Here’s what you’ll learn from this course:

  • How to outline your personal statement in just one hour!
  • How to give and receive feedback
  • How to refine your outline before the second draft
  • How to bring your essay to life, in a way that will make it stand out for college admissions officials
  • How to write each of the four types of essay

Along the way you’ll see dozens of examples of great essays, which Ethan will break down and explain.


Who should take this course?

  • Parents of high school sophomores, juniors and seniors who want to make sure their teens write a great essay
  • Sophomores, juniors, and seniors who know they need help writing an essay that will stand out and set them apart.


You were a wonderful counselor to work with. Your guidance not only allowed me to craft a beautiful and thoughtful essay but also made me reflect critically about my life experiences, a skill that will help me years beyond the college process. Not to mention, you respond to emails crazy fast and were always accommodating to my schedule. (*I just committed to Yale!!)”
I had no idea what to do for my common app essay, and after one 1-hour session, I was completely inspired and knew exactly what I wanted to say. Every time you looked over an essay draft, you quickly saw exactly what needed to be fixed or removed, when my parents didn’t. I came into each meeting really stressed out about the whole process, and left confident that I could get through anything.
With your help during the college essay process, I have truly grown as a person and discovered parts of me even I didn't previously know. You create such a friendly and accepting environment that my essays truly became personal and representative of who I am. You really know how to help students present themselves in the best possible way and I am really grateful I worked with you.


Using the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your Personal Statement

Length: 64 minutesComplexity: Easy

In the first half of this session, Ethan will lead you through the two best brainstorming exercises ever, then introduce you to two possible structures: narrative and montage. In the second half, we’ll analyze two example essays and develop a deeper understanding of how story structure works.

Outline Your Personal Statement in One Hour

Length: 46 minutesComplexity: Easy

In this session we’ll begin by “Naming the DVD chapters” of the essay and learn four different ways to outline an essay. In short, this is when we begin to interpret and organize all the content generated in the brainstorming exercises.

How to Give and Receive Feedback & How to Revise Your Outline Before the Second Draft

Length: 61 minutesComplexity: Easy

In this lesson you’ll learn techniques for connecting quickly and deeply with the person you’re working with on the essay, how to create a safe space, and how to provide feedback that is kind, useful and actionable. Then Ethan will demonstrate how to help someone refine an outline before writing a second draft (or how to do this on your own).

Bringing the Essay to Life (or) When to Scrap What You Have and Start Over

Length: 64 minutesComplexity: Easy

The key question for this session is: Am I telling my deepest story? We’ll discuss how to tell whether the answer is yes or no. For the “yes” students, we’ll discuss techniques to bring the story to life with vivid details. For the “no” students, we’ll discuss when (and how) to cut losses and begin again.

How to Write the Four Types of Essay

Length: 54 minutesComplexity: Easy

Here’s a step-by-step process for writing each of the four types. For those who are having trouble finding the arc of your personal statements and want a little more structure, this is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

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