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 more information on well-heeled and well-known parents who rigged the college-admissions process, to some extent if you are paying proctors and ringers to take or correct tests due to their kids. Not even after news for the scheme broke, critics rushed to indicate that celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman didn’t have to break what the law states to game the machine.

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.” 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 essay writing the “most important” areas 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 amount of people can alter an essay before submission, opening it as much as 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 aided by the Daily Beast, eight college application tutors shed light in the economy of editing, altering, and, on occasion, outright rewriting personal statements. The essay editors, who decided to speak on the condition of anonymity since many still operate in their field, painted the portrait of a market rife with ethical hazards, in which the relative line between helping and cheating can be hard to draw.

The staff who spoke to your Daily Beast often struggled to obtain companies with similar approaches to essay writing. For many, tutors would early skype with students on when you look at the application process to brainstorm ideas. (“I would personally say there have been a lot 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 with their tutor, who would grade it according to 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 application that is entire, every so often focusing on as many as 18 essays at any given time for various schools. Two tutors who struggled to obtain the company that is same they got an advantage 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 selection of subjects. As he took the task in 2017, the company was still young and fairly informal september. Managers would send him essays via email, additionally 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 task entailed less editing than rewriting.

“When it’s done, it must be great enough for the student to attend that school, whether that means lying, making things through to behalf of this 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 of the student moving to America, struggling in order to connect with an American stepfamily, but eventually finding a link 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 having a stepbrother teach him about rap music, and I talked about it loving-relation thing. I don’t determine if that has been true. He just said he liked rap music.”

Over time, 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 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 so that it would appear to be it had been all one voice. I had this past year 40 students in the fall, and I wrote all their essays for the normal App and the rest.”

Not all 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 rules were not always followed: “Bottom line is: It takes more time for a member of staff to sit with a student which help them figure things out for themselves, than it does to just get it done. We had problems in past times with individuals cutting corners. 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 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 couple universities. I was given a rubric of qualities when it comes to essay, and I 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 produce essays—we were told therefore we told tutors—to make the essays meet a certain quality standard and, you realize, we didn’t ask way too many questions regarding who wrote what.”

A number of the tutors told The Daily Beast that their clients were often international students, seeking advice on how exactly to break right into the American university system. Some of the foreign students, four of the eight tutors told The Daily Beast, ranged in 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 over his clients, recounted the story of a female applicant with little-to-no English skills.

“Her parents had me are available in and look after all her college essays. The shape these 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 believe that, you realize, having the ability to read and write in English could be types of a prerequisite for an university that is american. But these parents really don’t worry about that at all. They’re likely to pay whoever to help make the essays seem like 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. Although not long after she matriculated, the tutor said she reached back out to him for help with her English courses. “She does not know 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. You add her in this position’. Because obviously, the relevant skills necessary to be at Columbia—she doesn’t have those skills.”

The Daily Beast reached out to numerous college planning and tutoring programs and the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, but none taken care of immediately requests to go over 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 protect well from essays being authored by counselors or tutors. Stanford said in a statement which they “have no specific policy with regard to the essay portion of the application form.”