With the college admissions race getting ever more competitive, Internet sites that sell ready-made application essays are doing a brisk business. For $15 a pop, or $7.50 for bulk orders, would-be Ivy Leaguers can purchase an essay written by someone who successfully made it to the Ivory Tower.
But as Scott Anderson points out in a column for Inside Higher Ed, the quality of some of those essays underscores what every academician knows all too well: correlation does not imply causation. In other words, just because the essay writer gained admission to an Ivy League school, does not mean that the essay itself is quality work.
By way of example, Anderson points to his own essay that he submitted to the University of Virginia back in the 1980s. Reading it again as an adult, he had a revelation that should sound a cautionary note to anyone considering buying one: Anderson was admitted to UVA in spite of his writing, not because of it.
So Anderson cautions would-be applicants that before buying an essay, they should stop and consider that while essays play an important role in admissions, they are not generally the deciding factor. He also calls on student leaders to convince their peers to help spread the message that their campus is “not for sale.” But the final onus, he says, is on admissions counselors who should address the issue of essay trafficking with would-be applicants and current students. Anderson suggests they could buy essays themselves and deconstruct them to prove an important point: “that elusive fat envelope contains an offer of admission, not a conferral of perfection.”