I’m inspired today to address a sticky topic: the moral issues around getting help with your personal statement/essays for college or MBA admissions.
Let me start by saying that The Essay Expert’s college essay consultants and MBA admissions consultants do NOT write essays for college and business school applicants. When I get calls requesting that service (and I do get those calls), I have no problem turning down the business.
What do we do at The Essay Expert? We coach. We explore ideas. We help applicants see what is unique about them and their life experiences. We draw connections. We suggest directions to take, layers to add, and ways to best impress an admissions committee. Sure, we also might suggest a few grammatical or organizational corrections. But in the end, the essay is ALWAYS the client’s essay, NOT ours.
Still, there are people who are troubled by the concept of what we do. Here’s a comment I received after posting a request for a college essay coach:
“… I find this topic/”profession” very troublesome. It’s a slippery slope from coaching a young person about choosing a topic and format and helping them focus to, in effect, writing it for them or do such extensive edits that it’s no longer the student’s PERSONAL essay. Yes, I’m sure there are essay consultants that put on the brakes, and this one could be one of them, but a position description that is so blatant about the role (“…take a drab college application essay and turn it into gold!”) … gives me pause. I’m not naive – far from it – but of all the pieces in the college application package subject to “help”, the essay should be the most sacrosanct.”
The concerns expressed here are my concerns as well, and my promise is that The Essay Expert does not go down that slippery slope. Yes, I promise to turn the drab into gold, but by asking key questions of the applicant – not by writing the essay.
The NYT and The WSJ Chime In
Not long after receiving the above comment, I also came across a New York Times article, Crafting an Application Essay That ‘Pops’, which related the results of a conference attended by nearly 5,000 admissions officers and counselors. The group, which included professors, admissions officers, and other college administrators, offered nine pieces of practical advice for writing personal statements. I was happy, and frankly relieved, to see “Have an editor. All panelists advised having a close, trusted editor and an objective, outside reader.”
Soon after, an article came out in The Wall Street Journal with a similar message to M.B.A. applicants: In Looking for an Edge: MBA applicants are turning to pricey consultants to help them navigate the daunting admissions process , The WSJ reports that 20% of admitted students say they used an M.B.A. admissions advisor in the application process. Furthermore, the article relates, “As the consulting industry has grown, some business schools have become more accepting of it.” In fact, the managing director of M.B.A. admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School uses admissions consultants as a resource “to ‘get some field intelligence’ about how prospective students view the school and its admissions process.”
The Difference We Make
It is unquestionable that having a talented editor can give applicants an edge. And not everyone has a family member, guidance counselor or close friend who can serve as an editor or consultant. That’s where The Essay Expert comes in. Indeed, what we offer that a friend or relative cannot, is an objective eye and the perspective of someone who has read dozens, if not hundreds, of essays. We will make sure your essay does not sound like anyone else’s.
It is especially difficult to find a reliable advisor for M.B.A. admissions, where very specialized knowledge of business schools and their admissions processes is key to choosing the right essay focus and application strategy. In fact, one of our recent clients had enrolled several business school graduate friends to review his essays, yet still required ten hours of our consultant’s time to retool just two of his essay sets.
I understand there is still an issue present. What about people who don’t know someone who can help, and who also can’t afford to hire someone? I am concerned about that point myself, and do provide assistance to a limited number of clients for a reduced fee or some type of trade. I don’t believe I have been contacted by anyone thus far whom I turned away solely due to lack of ability to pay.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this topic. Admissions officers seem to have accepted that many applicants use paid consultants to assist them with the admissions process. Does this fact allay any of the concerns you might have had?
I believe The Essay Expert provides an extremely valuable service and that we do not cross the ethical line that would have students presenting an essay that is not theirs. And we do help students transform pedantic or blah essays into stories that capture the hearts and minds of the admissions committee.