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“Her parents had me come in and look at all her college essays.The shape they were brought to me in was essentially unreadable.(“I would say there were a lot of instances of hammering kids with potential ideas,” one tutor said.
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.
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.
The employees who spoke to The Daily Beast often worked for companies with similar approaches to essay writing.
For most, tutors would Skype with students early on in the application process to brainstorm ideas.
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 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.