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


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

Tarpley Hitt

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast/Getty

Last week, 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, in part if you are paying proctors and ringers to take or correct tests for his or her kids. Not even after news regarding the scheme broke, critics rushed to point out that celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman did need to break n’t what the law states to game the system.

For the ultra-rich, big contributions might get their name on a science building and their offspring an area 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.

A 500-word essay submitted through the Common Application, about some foible or lesson, which aims to give readers a better sense of the student than, say, a standardized test score in the admissions process, there’s a high premium on the personal statement. More than one university and advising blog rank the essay one of the “most important” components of the process; one consultant writing in the newest York Times described it as “the purest part associated with the application.”

But while test scores are completed because of the student alone—barring bribed proctors, that is—any amount 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 expensive college-prep counselors who focus on the one percent.

In interviews with all the Daily Beast, eight college application tutors shed light on the economy of editing, altering, and, on occasion, outright rewriting statements that are personal. The essay editors, who consented to speak from the condition of anonymity because so many still work with their field, painted the portrait of a business rife with ethical hazards, where the relative line between helping and cheating can be tough to draw.

The employees who spoke towards the Daily Beast often struggled to obtain companies with similar methods to essay writing. For the majority of, tutors would Skype with students early on in the application process to brainstorm ideas. (“I would say there were lots of instances of hammering kids with potential ideas,” one tutor said. “Like, ‘That’s a terrible idea for an essay, why don’t you try this instead?’”) Then, the student would write a draft, and bounce back edits using their tutor, that would grade it according to a rubric that is standardized 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 entire application process, every so often focusing on up to 18 essays at the same time for various schools. Two tutors who worked for the company that is same they got an added bonus if clients were accepted at their target universities.

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

“When it’s done, it must be great enough for the student to attend that school, whether this means lying, making things up on behalf associated with the student, or basically just changing anything so that it could 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.”

The tutor said, a student submitted an essay on hip-hop, which named his three or four favorite rappers, but lacked a clear narrative in one particularly egregious instance. The tutor said he rewrote the essay to share with the story regarding the student moving to America, struggling for connecting with an stepfamily that is american but eventually finding a link through rap. “I rewrote the essay so that it said. you understand, he discovered that through his stepbrother he could connect through rap music and having a stepbrother teach him about rap music, and I talked about that thing that is loving-relation. I don’t determine if that was true. He just said he liked rap music.”

Over time, the tutor said, his company shifted its work model. Instead of sending him random, anonymous essays, the managers begun to assign him students to oversee during the entire college application cycle. “They thought it looked better,” the tutor said. “So if I get some student, ‘Abby Whatever,’ I would personally write all 18 of her essays such that it would seem like it was all one voice. I experienced this past year 40 students in the fall, and I wrote each of their essays for the typical App and the rest.”

Not every consultant was as explicit concerning the editing world’s moral ambiguities. One administrator emphasized that his company’s policies were firmly anti-cheating. He conceded, however, that the guidelines were not always followed: “Bottom line is: it can take more hours for a member of staff to sit with a student which help them figure things out than it does to just do it for themselves. We had problems in the past with people corners that are cutting. We’ve also had problems in past times 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 was not overtly encouraged, it had been also not strictly prohibited.

“The precise terms were: I was getting paid a lump sum payment in exchange for helping this student using this Common App essay and supplement essays at a few universities. I became given a rubric of qualities for the essay, and I also was told that the essay needed to score a certain point at that rubric,” he said. “It was never clear that anything legal was at our way, we had been just told in order to make essays—we were told and then we told tutors—to make the essays meet a quality that is certain and, you know, we didn’t ask a lot of questions about who wrote what.”

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

“Her parents had me can be bought in and look at all her college essays. The design they were delivered 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 genuinely believe that, you know, to be able to read and write in English could be sorts of a prerequisite for an American university. However these parents really don’t care about that at all. They’re likely to pay whoever to make the essays seem like whatever to get their kids into school.”

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

The Daily Beast reached off to numerous college planning and tutoring programs therefore the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, but none responded to requests to talk about their policies on editing versus 123helpme rewriting.

The American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers also declined comment, and top universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Brown failed to respond or declined touch upon how they protect well from essays being compiled by counselors or tutors. Stanford said in a statement which they “have no specific policy with reference to the essay portion of the application form.”