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In interviews with The Daily Beast, eight college application tutors shed light on the economy of editing, altering, and, at times, outright rewriting personal statements.The essay editors, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity since many still work in their field, painted the portrait of an industry rife with ethical hazards, where the line between helping and cheating can become difficult to draw.
“When it’s done, it needs to be good enough for the student to go to that school, whether that means lying, making things up on behalf of the student, or basically just changing anything such that it would be acceptable.”“When it’s done, it needs to be good enough for the student to go to that school, whether that means lying, making things up on behalf of the student, or basically just changing anything such that it would be acceptable,” he told The Daily Beast. 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. 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 this loving-relation thing. He just said he liked rap music.” Over time, the tutor said, his company shifted its work model.
Instead of sending him random, anonymous essays, the managers began to assign him students to oversee during the entire college application cycle. “So if I get some student, ‘Abby Whatever,’ I would write all 18 of her essays so that it would look like it was all one voice.
Last week, 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 their kids.
Not long after news of the scheme broke, critics rushed to point out that celebrity parents like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman didn’t need to break the law to game the system.
He conceded, however, that the rules were not always followed: “Bottom line is: It takes more time for an employee to sit with a student and help them figure things out for themselves, than it does to just do it.
We had problems in the past with people cutting corners.In the admissions process, there’s a high premium on the personal statement, 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.More than one university and advising blog rank the essay among the “most important” aspects of the process; one consultant writing in described it as “the purest part of the application.” But while test scores are completed by the student alone—barring bribed proctors, that is—any number of people can alter an essay before submission, opening it up to exploitation and less-than-pure tactics at the hands of helicopter parents or expensive college-prep counselors who cater to the 1 percent.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 range of subjects.When he took the job in September 2017, the company was still young and fairly informal.I was 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 make essays—we were told and we told tutors—to make the essays meet a certain quality standard and, you know, we didn’t ask too many questions about who wrote what.”Many of the tutors told The Daily Beast that their clients were often international students, seeking advice on how to break into the American university system.But these parents really don’t care about that at all.They’re going to pay whoever to make the essays look like whatever to get their kids into school.”The tutor continued to advise this client, doing “numerous, numerous edits on this girl’s essay” until she was later accepted at Columbia University.I had this past year 40 students in the fall, and I wrote all their essays for the Common App and everything else.”Not every consultant was as explicit about the editing world’s moral ambiguities.One administrator emphasized that his company’s policies were firmly anti-cheating.