Recently the Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece written by an anonymous “hired gun” who writes admissions essays, term papers, and even doctoral theses for paying students, who in turn pass these off as their own. Not long after that, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a similar article that profiled a couple of similar services that write essays for business school applicants. (Veritas Prep was actually mentioned as an ethical alternative to these services in the latter article.)
Two things really bother us about the existence of these services. Is one of them the fact that they’re unethical and shady? Well, yes, we do think that, but that’s so obvious that we won’t devote any more words to it here.
The first thing that bothers us is that schools and admissions offices seemingly don’t question how someone with a horrible command of English could create a perfectly constructed essay or research paper. If you are to believe the sources quoted in both articles, these services work well enough that they have thriving businesses with repeat customers. Again, the students who submit these and the hired guns who write them are flaunting the rules of the system, but where are the admissions officers, professors, and university department heads who should easily catch this sort of behavior? You mean to tell me that, as a student with broken English clumsily defends a doctoral thesis that he’s barely read all the way through, the thought of, “I wonder if this is his work,” never crosses their minds?
Again, that doesn’t excuse such behavior, but we really wonder about who’s minding the shop at these supposedly academically challenging institutions. Just like the TSA may never catch every pen knife that goes through airport security, it’s understandable if a handful of forged academic papers slip through the system now and then. But, if the practice is as commonplace as the Chronicle piece makes it out to be, then someone is not doing their job. This is not even a question of what the penalties should be for students who are caught cheating — those penalties should of course be steep — but a question of why more of these students don’t get caught in the first place.
The second thing is admittedly a bit more selfish… It bothers us is that such services cause the whole industry of admissions consultants and coaches to get painted with the same broad brush. As mentioned in the Bloomberg Businessweek article, Veritas Prep is a member of AIGAC, an international organization devoted to upholding ethical standards among admissions consultants. Being admitted to AIGAC is no small task — a company and its individual members have to jump through many hoops to be admitted — and maintaining one’s membership is just as involved.
Although AIGAC now has dozens of members around the world, it takes just one or two bad actors (like the ones profiled in these articles) to cause some university official to go off half-cocked and ban any type of application assistance, no matter what the circumstances. As a company that provides ethical admissions consulting and essay editing services to hundreds of applicants every year, we’d hate to see that happen.
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