As revealed by a recent investigation by The Daily Beast, there is a cottage industry of “essay coaches” whose job is to help applicants devise, polish, and perfect their short-form literary efforts until they shine like stars, ring like bells, and stand head and shoulders above the rest—although hopefully having first been purged of clichés and trite allusions.
While many coaches provide legitimate composition and grammar instruction, while leaving the students to fashion their own essays, far too many appear to be pretty much ghost writers, at the cost of as much as $1,000 per essay. As one coach explained to The Daily Beast, “whether that means lying, making things up on behalf of the student, or basically just changing anything… about 50 percent were entirely rewritten.”
In other words, the essay section of the application virtually invites all sorts of covert assistance, and sometimes outright cheating. High school grades and test scores can be boosted by expensive tutors, but they ultimately reflect the students’ own effort. No matter how rich they are—and barring parental chicanery—the kids have to submit their real grades and take their own tests. The essays, however, can too easily be the product of co-authorship, with no way to distinguish between the contributions of the student and the coach.