Another College Cheating Scandal: Personal Essay ‘Editors’ Reveal How They Cheat for Rich

Tarpley Hitt

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast/Getty

The other day, the operation that is sting Operation Varsity Blues exposed a long list of well-heeled and well-known parents who rigged the college-admissions process, to some extent by paying proctors and ringers to take or correct tests for their kids. Not even after news of this scheme broke, critics rushed to indicate that celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman did need to break n’t the law to game the machine.

When it comes to ultra-rich, big contributions could easily get their name on a science building and their offspring a spot at a top-tier school—an option California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently called “legal bribery.” Perhaps the moderately wealthy can grease the admissions process with extensive SAT tutoring or, more problematically, college application essay editing.

When you look at the admissions process, there’s a high premium regarding the personal statement, a 500-word essay submitted through the normal Application, about some foible or lesson, which is designed to give readers a better sense of the student than, say, a standardized test score. More than one university and advising blog rank the essay one of the “most important” aspects of the procedure; one consultant writing in the newest York Times described it as “the purest part of this application.”

But while test scores are completed because of the student alone—barring bribed proctors, that is—any number of people can modify an essay before submission, opening it up to exploitation and less-than-pure tactics as a result of helicopter parents or college-prep that is expensive who appeal to the one percent.

In interviews with all the Daily Beast, eight college application tutors shed light from the economy of editing, altering, and, in certain cases, outright rewriting personal statements. The essay editors, who agreed to speak in the condition of anonymity since many still operate in their field, painted the portrait of a market rife with ethical hazards, in which the line between helping and cheating can be hard to draw.

The employees who spoke into the Daily Beast often struggled to obtain companies with similar methods to essay writing. For most, tutors would early skype with students on into the application process to brainstorm ideas. (“i might say there were lots of instances of hammering kids with potential ideas,” one tutor said. “Like, ‘That’s a idea that is terrible an essay, why don’t you try this instead?’”) Then, the student would write a draft, and bounce back edits due to their tutor, that would grade it according to a standardized rubric, which included categories like spelling, sentence structure, style, or whether or not it was “bullshit-free.”

Most made between $30 and $100 per hour, or just around $1,000 for helping a student through the application that is entire, from time to time working on as many as 18 essays at any given time for various schools. Two tutors who struggled to obtain the same company said they got an advantage if clients were accepted at their target universities.

One consultant, a 22-year-old Harvard graduate, told The Daily Beast that, during his senior year in college, he began working as an essay editor for an organization that hires Ivy Leaguers to tutor applicants on a selection of subjects. As he took the task in 2017, the company was still young and fairly informal september. Managers would send him essays via email, and the tutor would revise and return them, with anywhere between a 24-hour and two-week turnaround. But right from the start, the consultant explained, his managers were “pretty explicit” that the task entailed less editing than rewriting.

“When it’s done, it needs to be good enough for the student to go to that school, whether which means lying, making things custom essay service online up on behalf for the student, or basically just changing anything so that it will be acceptable,” he told The Daily Beast. “I’ve edited anywhere from 200 to 225 essays. So, probably like 150 students total. I would personally say about 50 percent were entirely rewritten.”

In one particularly egregious instance, the tutor said, a student submitted an essay on hip-hop, which named his 3 or 4 favorite rappers, but lacked a definite narrative. The tutor said he rewrote the essay to share with the storyline of this student moving to America, struggling for connecting with an stepfamily that is american but eventually finding an association through rap. “I rewrote the essay so that it said. you realize, he unearthed that through his stepbrother he could connect through rap music and achieving a stepbrother teach him about rap music, and I also talked about that thing that is loving-relation. I don’t know if that was true. He just said he liked rap music.”

As time passes, the tutor said, his company shifted its work model. Rather than sending him random, anonymous essays, the managers begun to assign him students to oversee through the college application cycle that is entire. “They thought it looked better,” the tutor said. “So if I have some student, ‘Abby Whatever,’ I would personally write all 18 of her essays such that it would look like it absolutely was all one voice. I had this past year 40 students in the fall, and I also wrote all of their essays for the typical App and the rest.”

Not all consultant was as explicit concerning the editing world’s ambiguities that are moral. One administrator emphasized that his company’s policies were firmly anti-cheating. He conceded, however, that the rules are not always followed: “Bottom line is: it requires additional time for an employee to sit with a student which help them evauluate things than it does to just do it for themselves. We had problems in past times with people corners that are cutting. We’ve also had problems in the past with students asking for corners to be cut.”

Another consultant who struggled to obtain the same company and later became the assistant director of U.S. operations told The Daily Beast that while rewriting had not been overtly encouraged, it absolutely was also not strictly prohibited.

“The precise terms were: I happened to be getting paid a lump sum in return for helping this student using this Common App essay and supplement essays at a few universities. I was given a rubric of qualities when it comes to essay, and I was told that the essay had to score a point that is certain that rubric,” he said. “It was never clear that anything legal was in our way, we were just told to help make essays—we were told therefore we told tutors—to make the essays meet a quality that is certain and, you realize, we didn’t ask a lot of questions regarding who wrote what.”

Most of the tutors told The Daily Beast that their clients were often international students, seeking suggestions about just how to break into the university system that is american. A few of the foreign students, four associated with the eight tutors told The Daily Beast, ranged within their English ability and required significant rewriting. One consultant, a freelancer who stumbled into tutoring into the fall of 2017 after a classmate needed anyone to take over his clients, recounted the story of a female applicant with little-to-no English skills.

“Her parents had me are available in and look at all her college essays. The design they certainly were taken to me in was essentially unreadable. I mean there were the bare workings of a narrative here—even the grasp on English is tenuous,” he said. “I believe that, you understand, having the ability to read and write in English could be form of a prerequisite for an university that is american. But these parents really don’t worry about that at all. They’re likely to pay whoever to really make the essays look like whatever to have their kids into school.”

The tutor continued to advise this client, doing “numerous, numerous edits on this girl’s essay” until she was later accepted at Columbia University. Yet not long after she matriculated, the tutor said she reached back off to him for help with her English courses. “She does not understand how to write essays, and she’s struggling in class,” he told The Daily Beast. “I do the help that i could, but I say into the parents, ‘You know, you did not prepare her for this. You put her in this position’. Because obviously, the relevant skills required to be at Columbia—she doesn’t have those skills.”

The Daily Beast reached off to numerous college planning and tutoring programs as well as the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, but none responded to requests to talk about their policies on editing rewriting that is versus.

The American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers also declined comment, and universities that are top as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Brown did not respond or declined touch upon the way they guard against essays being written by counselors or tutors. Stanford said in a statement that they “have no specific policy with regard to the essay portion of the application form.”

Comments are closed.