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

The other day, the sting operation dubbed 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 due to their kids. Not even after news regarding the scheme broke, critics rushed to indicate that celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman didn’t want to break 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 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 among the “most important” aspects of the process; 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 modify an essay before submission, opening it up to exploitation and less-than-pure tactics at the hands of helicopter parents or college-prep that is expensive who focus on the 1 percent.

In interviews using the Daily Beast, eight college application tutors shed light on the economy of editing, altering, and, every so often, outright rewriting personal statements. The essay editors, who decided to speak from the condition of anonymity because so many still work in their field, painted the portrait of an industry rife with ethical hazards, where the relative line between helping and cheating can become hard to draw.

The staff who spoke into the Daily Beast often struggled to obtain companies with similar methods to essay writing. For many, tutors would early skype with students on into the application process to brainstorm ideas. (“I would personally say there have been plenty 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 making use of 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, often times taking care of as many as 18 essays at any given time for assorted schools. Two tutors who struggled to obtain the company that is same they got a plus 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 an organization 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, while the tutor would revise and return them, with anywhere between a 24-hour and two-week turnaround. But from the beginning, the consultant explained, his managers were that is“pretty explicit the job entailed less editing than rewriting.

“When it’s done, it requires to be good enough for the student to attend that school, whether that means lying, making things through to behalf associated with student, or basically just changing anything such 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 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 story of the student moving to America, struggling to connect with an American stepfamily, but eventually finding a connection through rap. “I rewrote the essay such 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 relating to this loving-relation thing. I don’t know if that was 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 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 have some student, ‘Abby Whatever,’ I would personally write all 18 of her essays such that it would look like it had been all one voice. I experienced this past year 40 students within the fall, and I also wrote almost all their essays for the most popular App and anything else.”

Not all consultant was as explicit about 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 guidelines are not always followed: “Bottom line is: it can take more time for a worker to stay with a student which help them figure things out for themselves, than it does to simply take action. 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 company that is same later became the assistant director of U.S. operations told The Daily Beast that while rewriting was not overtly encouraged, it 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 became given a rubric of qualities for the essay, and I was told that the essay had to score a certain point at that rubric,” he said. “It was never clear that anything legal was in our way, we were just told to produce essays—we were told therefore we told tutors—to make the essays meet a quality that is certain and, you understand, we didn’t ask too many questions regarding who wrote what.”

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

“Her parents had me are available and look after all her college essays. The shape these were taken 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 understand, to be able to read and write in English could be sort of a prerequisite for an American university. But these parents really don’t worry about that at all. They’re going to pay whoever to help make the essays seem like whatever to obtain 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. Not long after she matriculated, the tutor said she reached back off 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 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 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 additionally the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, but none responded to 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 would not respond or declined comment on how they protect well from essays being published by counselors or tutors. Stanford said in a statement that they “have no specific policy with reference to the essay part of the application form.”

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