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(“I would say there were a lot of instances 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?But not long after she matriculated, the tutor said she reached back out to him for help with her English courses.
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.
’”) Then, the student would write a draft, and bounce back edits with their tutor, who would grade it according to a standardized rubric, 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 entire application process, at times working on as many as 18 essays at a time for various schools.
Two tutors who worked for the same company said they got a bonus if clients were accepted at their target universities.
“I do the help that I can, but I say to the parents, ‘You know, you did not prepare her for this. Because obviously, the 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 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 did not respond or declined comment on how they guard against essays being written by counselors or tutors.“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.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.For the ultra-rich, big contributions might 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.” Even the moderately wealthy can grease the admissions process with extensive SAT tutoring or, more problematically, college application essay editing.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.Some of the foreign students, four of the eight tutors told The Daily Beast, ranged in their English ability and required significant rewriting.One consultant, a freelancer who stumbled into tutoring in 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.