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

A week ago, the sting operation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues exposed more information on 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 due to their kids. Not even after news associated with 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.

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.” Even 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 newest York Times described it as “the part that is purest for the application.”

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

In interviews aided by the Daily Beast, eight college application tutors shed light in the economy of editing, altering, and, often times, outright rewriting personal statements. The essay editors, who decided to speak in the condition of anonymity since many still work with their field, painted the portrait of a market rife with ethical hazards, where the relative line between helping and cheating can become difficult to draw.

The staff who spoke to your Daily Beast often worked for companies with similar methods to essay writing. For the majority of, tutors would early skype with students on within the application process to brainstorm ideas. (“i might 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 using their tutor, that would grade it in accordance with a standardized rubric, which included categories like spelling, sentence structure, style, or whether it was “bullshit-free.”

Most made between $30 and $100 per hour, or about $1,000 for helping a student through the entire application process, often times working on as much as 18 essays at the same time for various schools. Two tutors who worked for the company that is same they got an additional benefit 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 being employed as an essay editor for a company that hires Ivy Leaguers to tutor applicants on a selection of subjects. When he took the work in September 2017, the organization was still young and fairly informal. Managers would send him essays via email, and also the tutor would revise and return them, with anywhere between a 24-hour and turnaround that is two-week. But right from the start, the consultant explained, his managers were “pretty explicit” that the work entailed less editing than rewriting.

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

In one single particularly egregious instance, the tutor said, a student submitted an essay on hip-hop, which named his three to four favorite rappers, but lacked a definite narrative. The tutor said he rewrote the essay to tell the storyline associated with the 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 such 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 also talked about this loving-relation thing. I don’t determine if that has been true. He just said he liked rap music.”

As time passes, the tutor said, his company shifted its work model. In place of sending him random, anonymous essays, the managers started 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 get some student, ‘Abby Whatever,’ I would personally write all 18 of her essays so that it would look like it was all one voice. I experienced this year that is past students when you look at the fall, and I wrote all of their essays for the typical App and anything else.”

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

“The precise terms were: I was getting paid a lump sum in return for helping this student with this Common App essay and supplement essays at a few universities. I happened to be given a rubric of qualities for the essay, and I also 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 at our way, we were just told to make essays—we were told and now we told tutors—to make the essays meet a certain quality standard and, you know, we didn’t ask too many questions about who wrote what.”

Most of the tutors told The Daily Beast that their customers were often international students, seeking advice on how exactly 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 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 you to definitely take over his clients, recounted the story of a female applicant with little-to-no English skills.

“Her parents had me appear in and look at all her college essays. The shape these people were delivered to me in was essentially unreadable. I mean there have been the bare workings of a narrative here—even the grasp on English is tenuous,” he said. “I genuinely believe that, you know, being able to read and write in English could be kind of a prerequisite for an American university. However these parents really don’t worry about that at all. They’re planning to pay whoever to help make the essays look like whatever to obtain 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. Yet write my paper for me not long after she matriculated, the tutor said she reached back out to him for help with her English courses. “She does not learn how to write essays, and she’s struggling in class,” he told The Daily Beast. “I do the help 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 skills necessary to be at Columbia—she doesn’t have those skills.”

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

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 would not respond or declined comment on the way they guard against essays being written by counselors or tutors. Stanford said in a statement that they “have no specific policy with reference to the essay portion of the application.”