“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.
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.
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.
(“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?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.“Her parents had me come in and look at all her college essays.The shape they were brought to me in was essentially unreadable.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.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.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.