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.
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.(“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?We’ve also had problems in the past with students asking for corners to be cut.”Another consultant who worked for the same company and later became the assistant director of U. operations told The Daily Beast that while rewriting was not overtly encouraged, it was also not strictly prohibited.“The precise terms were: I was getting paid a lump sum in exchange for helping this student with this Common App essay and supplement essays at a couple universities.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.But not long after she matriculated, the tutor said she reached back out to him for help with her English courses.“She doesn’t know how to write essays, and she’s struggling in class,” he told The Daily Beast.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.