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 by paying proctors and ringers to take or correct tests for his or her kids. Not long after news of the scheme broke, critics rushed to indicate 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 could easily 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 among the “most important” areas of the method; one consultant writing in The New York Times described it as “the purest part of this application.”

But while test scores are completed by the student alone—barring bribed proctors, that is—any number of individuals can alter 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 1 percent.

In interviews because of the Daily Beast, eight college application tutors shed light in the economy of editing, altering, and, at times, 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, in which the line between helping and cheating can become difficult to draw.

The staff who spoke to your Daily Beast often struggled to obtain companies with similar approaches to essay writing. For some, tutors would Skype with students early on in the application process to brainstorm ideas. (“I would personally say there have been lots of cases 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 due to their tutor, who would grade it based on a rubric that is standardized which included categories like spelling, sentence structure, style, or whether it was “bullshit-free.”

Most made between $30 and $100 per hour, or around $1,000 for helping a student through the entire application process, from time to time working on up to 18 essays at a time for assorted schools. Two tutors who struggled to obtain the company that is same they got a 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 being employed as an essay editor for a company that hires Ivy Leaguers to tutor applicants on a range of subjects. As he took the job in September 2017, the company was still young and fairly informal. Managers would send him essays via email, plus the tutor would revise and return them, with ranging from a 24-hour and two-week turnaround. But from the beginning, the consultant explained, his managers were “pretty explicit” that the task entailed less editing than rewriting.

“When it is done, it must be great enough for the student to go to that school, whether that means lying, making things up on behalf of the student, or basically just changing anything such 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 tell the storyline associated with student moving to America, struggling in order to connect with an stepfamily that is american but eventually finding a link through rap. “I rewrote the essay so that it said. you realize, he discovered that through his stepbrother he could connect through rap music and achieving a stepbrother teach him about rap music, and I talked about that thing that is loving-relation. I don’t know if that was true. He just said he liked rap music.”

Over time, the tutor said, his company shifted its work model. As opposed to sending him random, anonymous essays, the managers started 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 write all 18 of her essays such that it would appear to be it absolutely was all one voice. I experienced this year that is past students in the fall, and I wrote each of their essays for the typical App and anything else.”

Its not all 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 rules were not always followed: “Bottom line is: It takes additional time for an employee 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 the past with students asking for corners to be cut.”

Another consultant who worked for the company that is same 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 payment in return for helping this student with this specific App that is common essay supplement essays at a couple universities. I was given a rubric of qualities when it comes to essay, and I was told that the essay needed 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 create essays—we were told and then we told tutors—to make the essays meet a quality that is certain and, you understand, we didn’t ask too many questions about who wrote what.”

A number of the tutors told The Daily Beast that their customers were often international students, seeking advice on simple tips to break right into the university system that is american. A number of the foreign students, four of the eight tutors told The Daily Beast, ranged in their English ability and required significant rewriting. One consultant, a freelancer who stumbled into tutoring in the fall of 2017 after a classmate needed you to definitely take over his clients, recounted the story of a female applicant with little-to-no English skills.

“Her parents had me are available and look at all her college essays. The design these people 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 think that, you know, having the ability to read and write in English will be sorts of a prerequisite for an university that is american. But these parents really don’t care about that at all. They’re going to pay whoever to help make the essays seem like whatever to get their kids into school.”

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

The Daily Beast reached out to numerous college planning and tutoring programs together with National Association for College Admissions Counseling, but none taken care of immediately requests to discuss their policies on editing versus 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 written by counselors or tutors. Stanford said in a statement which they “have no specific policy with regard to the essay percentage of the application.”


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