A College Essay Coach’s Take on the College Admissions Scandal
The college admissions scandal that has been all over the news has inspired me to break my recent blogging silence. The greed and lack of integrity exhibited by employees of top universities disturb me greatly. Since I am a Yale graduate, I have received a couple of apologetic letters from President Salovey; I hope that the school’s promise to be more vigilant in its admissions process holds true.
Since I am a college admissions essay coach, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the media. Both USA Today and Rob Hart of WBBM talked to me about ethics in college admissions. Here are the article and radio clip for your reading and listening pleasure:
- USA Today: Do all students cheat on their college applications? No, consultants say, but there are plenty of problems. “I get calls from people who want me to write essays for them, and I won’t do that,” said Brenda Bernstein, who runs The Essay Expert. “This student is being judged on their own ability. But there are services that do that. And some sell academic essays as well.”
- WBBM Newsradio Show: Essay Coach Talks Best Practices For College Applications
The Dual Life of a Resume Writer and College Essay Coach
What strikes me, in particular, is that many people conflate the ethics of writing a professional’s resume with the ethics of writing a student’s college essay. I keep explaining to reporters and others why they are not the same.
One of my resume writer colleagues posted this comment about the college admissions scandal to my Facebook page:
“Just to be devil’s advocate here, I don’t see the difference between writing essays with information students have given about THEIR story and writing a resume for someone who tells you his / her story about his / her career. We don’t put on the bottom of their resumes that it was written by us. Most executives have their executive assistants write their letters for them. Is that “cheating” by the executive (we have all seen where an executive calls his assistant into the office to take a “memo)? Like I said, just playing devil’s advocate. :-)”
“There is no assumption or requirement that resumes be written by the job applicant. In fact, many hiring managers say they *prefer* a professionally written resume. There’s also no rule that a student can’t get some coaching and editing help on their essay. English teachers and guidance counselors have been doing this for years. What’s important to me is that the essay is truthful, at the level the student is capable of writing, and in the student’s voice.”
What I would add to the above is that there is most definitely a rule that students must write their own application essays. Admissions committees judge them for the quality of their writing and how they express themselves, because they are going to be required to use those skills in their college careers. By contrast, an executive won’t be expected to write a good resume as part of his or her job.
Moving Toward Truth & Integrity
My job as a college essay coach is to help a student tell the truth – not the version of the truth they think an admissions committee wants to hear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked an applicant, “Is that really true?” and gotten the response, “Well… not completely. But it seems like that’s what I should have gotten out of it.” Again and again, I point the writer to the truth, which is always more interesting than the picture perfect story they thought they should tell.
As a resume writer, too, my job is to tell the truth. The facts speak louder than any flowery language we could write to make something sound better than it is. We stick with the facts.
The cheating uncovered in the recent college admissions scandal goes far beyond helping students think through the best way to tell their story. It goes way past the level of supporting an executive by presenting her accomplishments powerfully in writing. I hope the world recognizes this difference. More important, I fervently wish that parents, college admissions advisors, university administrators and sports coaches choose to act with integrity as they shepherd young adults into what could be the most important four years of their lives.