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 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 for his or her kids. Not long after news regarding the scheme broke, critics rushed to point out that celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman didn’t need certainly 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 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. One or more university and advising blog rank the essay one of the “most important” aspects of the procedure; 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 transform an essay before submission, opening it as much as exploitation and less-than-pure tactics at the hands of helicopter parents or expensive college-prep counselors who appeal to the one percent.

In interviews utilizing the Daily Beast, eight college application tutors shed light regarding the economy of editing, altering, and, in some instances, outright rewriting statements that are personal. The essay editors, who consented to speak regarding the condition of anonymity since many still work with their field, painted the portrait of an industry rife with ethical hazards, in which the line between helping and cheating can become hard to draw.

The employees who spoke into the Daily Beast often struggled to obtain companies with similar methods to essay writing. For many, tutors would Skype with students early on in the application process to brainstorm ideas. (“I would personally say there have been plenty 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 relating 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 about $1,000 for helping a student through the application that is entire, often times taking care of as many as 18 essays at a time for various schools. Two tutors who worked for the same company said they got a plus 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 an organization that hires Ivy Leaguers to tutor applicants on a selection of subjects. As he took the work in 2017, the company was still young and fairly informal september. Managers would send him essays via email, and 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 “pretty explicit” that the job entailed less editing than rewriting.

“When it is done, it requires to be great enough for the student to attend that school, whether which means lying, making things through to behalf of 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 would 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 or four favorite rappers, but lacked a definite narrative. The tutor said he rewrote the essay to inform the storyline associated with the student moving to America, struggling for connecting with an stepfamily that is american but eventually finding a link through rap. “I rewrote the essay so that it said. you know, he discovered that through his stepbrother he could connect through rap music and achieving a stepbrother teach him about rap music, and I talked about it loving-relation thing. I don’t know if which was 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 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 such that it would appear to be it had been all one voice. I experienced this past year 40 students when you look at the fall, and I wrote each of their essays for the typical App and everything else.”

Not all consultant was as explicit concerning the editing world’s moral ambiguities. One administrator emphasized that his company’s policies were firmly anti-cheating. He conceded, however, that the principles are not always followed: “Bottom line is: It takes additional time for a member of staff to stay with a student which help them figure things out than it does to just do it for themselves. We had problems in past times 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 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 in exchange for helping this student with this specific Common App essay and supplement essays at a couple of universities. I happened to be given a rubric of qualities for the 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 in order to make 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 about who wrote what.”

A number of the tutors told The Daily Beast that their customers were often international students, seeking advice on how exactly to break in to the American university system. Some of the foreign students, four of this 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 into 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 may be found in and look at all her college essays. The shape these 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 think that, you know, having the ability to read and write in English will be variety of a prerequisite for an American university. However these parents really don’t worry about that at all. They’re likely to pay whoever to really make the essays appear to be whatever to obtain their kids into school.”

The tutor continued to advise this client, doing “numerous, numerous edits with this girl’s essay” until she was later accepted at Columbia University. Not long after she matriculated, the tutor said she reached back off to him for assistance with her English courses. “She doesn’t learn how to write essays, and she’s struggling in class,” he told The Daily Beast. “I do the assistance for this that I can, but I say to the parents, ‘You know, you did not prepare her. You put her in this position’. Because obviously, the skills required to be at Columbia—she doesn’t have those skills.”

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

The American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers also declined comment, and universities that are top as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Brown failed to respond or declined comment on how they guard against essays being compiled by counselors or tutors. Stanford said in a statement which they “have no specific policy with reference to the essay portion of the application form.”