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 sting operation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues exposed more information on 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 even after news for the scheme broke, critics rushed to point out that celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman didn’t have to break 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 an area 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 one of the “most important” aspects of the process; one consultant writing in the latest York Times described it as “the part that is purest for the application.”

But while test scores are completed because of the student alone—barring bribed proctors, that is—any amount of people can transform 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 cater to the 1 percent.

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

The staff who spoke into the Daily Beast often struggled to obtain companies with similar methods to essay writing. For the majority of, tutors would early skype with students on in the application process to brainstorm ideas. (“i might say there have been a lot 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 with 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 around $1,000 for helping a student through the entire application process, at times focusing on as much as 18 essays at a time for assorted schools. Two tutors who struggled to obtain the same company said 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 working as an essay editor for a company that hires Ivy Leaguers to tutor applicants on a selection of subjects. As he took the work in September 2017, the company was still young and fairly informal. Managers would send him essays via email, together with tutor would revise and return them, with ranging from a 24-hour and turnaround that is two-week. But right from the start, the consultant explained, his managers were that is“pretty explicit the task entailed less editing than rewriting.

“When it is done, it needs to be great enough for the student to attend that school, whether which means lying, making things up on behalf associated with 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.”

Within 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 regarding the student moving to America, struggling in order to connect with an stepfamily that is american but eventually finding an association through rap. “I rewrote the essay so that it said. you know, he found 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 loving-relation thing. I don’t determine if that has been true. He just said he liked rap music.”

With time, the tutor said, his company shifted its work model. As opposed to sending him random, anonymous essays, the managers began to assign him students to oversee throughout 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 write all 18 of her essays so that it would appear to be it absolutely was all one voice. I had this past year 40 students in the fall, and I also wrote all their essays for the typical App and everything else.”

Not every 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 principles were not always followed: “Bottom line is: it can take more time for a worker to stay with a student which help them evauluate things for themselves, than it can to simply get it done. We had problems in the past with individuals cutting corners. 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 was not overtly encouraged, it had been 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 of universities. I became given a rubric of qualities when it comes to essay, and I was told that the essay needed to score a certain point at that rubric,” he said. “It was never clear that anything legal was in our way, we had been just told to create 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 regarding who wrote what.”

A number of the tutors told The Daily Beast that their clients were often international students, seeking suggestions about simple tips to break in to the American university system. 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 in the fall of 2017 after a classmate needed you to definitely take over his clients, recounted the storyline 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 they certainly were brought 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 realize, being able to read and write in English will be style of a prerequisite for an American university. But these parents really don’t care about that at all. They’re planning to pay whoever to really make the essays appear to be whatever to have their kids into school.”

The tutor continued to advise this client, doing “numerous, numerous edits on this essay that is girl’s 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 doesn’t understand how to write essays, and she’s struggling in class,” he told The Daily Beast. “i actually do the assistance that I am able to, but I say into the parents, ‘You know, you failed to prepare her for this. You put her in this position’. Because obviously, the abilities necessary 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 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 would not respond or declined touch upon how they guard against essays being compiled by counselors or tutors. Stanford said in a statement that they “have no specific policy with regard to the essay part of the application.”

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