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 operation that is sting 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 due to their kids. Not even after news of this scheme broke, critics rushed to point out that celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman did need to break n’t what the law states to game the machine.

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.

Within the admissions process, there’s a higher premium on the personal statement, a 500-word essay submitted through the normal Application, about some foible or lesson, which is designed to give readers a much better feeling of the student than, say, a standardized test score. More than one university and advising blog rank the essay among the “most important” areas of the method; one consultant writing in the brand new York Times described it as “the purest part associated with the application.”

But while test scores are completed because of 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 appeal to the 1 percent.

In interviews with all 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 agreed to speak in the condition of anonymity because so 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 be difficult to draw.

The staff who spoke to The Daily Beast often worked for companies with similar approaches to essay writing. For the majority of, tutors would early skype with students on when you look at 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 due to 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 each hour, or about $1,000 for helping a student through the application that is entire, at times working on as much as 18 essays at any given time for assorted schools. Two tutors who worked for 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 selection of subjects. When he took the task in 2017, the company was still young and fairly informal september. Managers would send him essays via email, and also the tutor would revise and return them, with anywhere between a 24-hour and two-week turnaround. But right from the start, the consultant explained, his managers were that is“pretty explicit the work entailed less editing than rewriting.

“When it’s done, it requires to be good enough for the student to attend that school, whether this 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 a single particularly egregious instance, the tutor said, a student submitted an essay on hip-hop, which named his three or four favorite rappers, but lacked a clear narrative. The tutor said he rewrote the essay to share with the story associated with the student moving to America, struggling to connect with an American stepfamily, but eventually finding a write an essay online connection through rap. “I rewrote the essay so that it said. you know, he unearthed that through his stepbrother he could connect through rap music and achieving a stepbrother teach him about rap music, and I talked concerning this loving-relation thing. I don’t determine if that was true. He just said he liked rap music.”

In the long run, the tutor said, his company shifted its work model. In the place of sending him random, anonymous essays, the managers started to assign him students to oversee through 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 look like it had been all one voice. I had this year that is past students in the fall, and I also wrote all of their essays for the Common App and anything else.”

Not every 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 takes more time for a worker to sit with a student which help them work things out than it does to just do it for themselves. We had problems in the past with people 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 had not been overtly encouraged, it was also not strictly prohibited.

“The precise terms were: I was getting paid a lump sum payment in exchange 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 certain point at that rubric,” he said. “It was never clear that anything legal was in our way, we were just told to make essays—we were told therefore we told tutors—to make the essays meet a quality that is certain and, you realize, we didn’t ask way too many questions regarding who wrote what.”

Most of the tutors told The Daily Beast that their customers were often international students, seeking suggestions about how exactly to break into the American university system. A number of the foreign students, four associated with eight tutors told The Daily Beast, ranged inside their English ability and required rewriting that is significant. One consultant, a freelancer who stumbled into tutoring into the fall of 2017 after a classmate needed someone to take his clients over, recounted the storyline of a female applicant with little-to-no English skills.

“Her parents had me come in and look at all her college essays. The design these people were taken 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 will be sort of a prerequisite for an American university. But these parents really don’t worry about that at all. They’re planning to pay whoever to 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. But not long after she matriculated, the tutor said she reached back out to him for assistance with her English courses. “She doesn’t 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. 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 in addition to National Association for College Admissions Counseling, but none taken care of immediately 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 did not respond or declined touch upon the way they protect well from essays being compiled by counselors or tutors. Stanford said in a statement which they “have no specific policy with reference to the essay percentage of the application form.”