Monday, September 1, 2014

Confessions of a college essay ghostwriter for rich Chinese applicants

Hey China, you’re welcome. When you think about your future multi-million dollar shipping moguls, innovative tech giants, and up-and-coming diplomats, please remember a small handful of them probably received their Ivy League degrees thanks to me.

I’m a black market college admissions essay writer, and over the last three years I’ve written over 350 fraudulent essays for wealthy Chinese exchange students. Although my clients have varied from earnest do-gooders to factory tycoon’s daughters who communicate primarily through emojis, they all have one thing in common: They’re unable to write meaningful sentences. ...

Once I started ghostwriting essays, I quickly went from making $8.50 an hour as a waitress to making $2,000 in two weeks. In one admissions cycle, I wrote over a hundred essays and earned enough money to pay my bills for the rest of the year, pay off my car loan, and—as a treat for my hardworking hands—receive $150 Japanese manicures on a biweekly basis. ...

Each ghostwriting session starts with a daylong interview. I pry into every intimate corner of a client’s life: her family history, financial background, and childhood secrets. Then I try to pinpoint one relatable thread of pain or humanity, which I can make the focal point of an essay attached to a larger universal theme, like empathy or humility. ...

Wei regularly enjoyed spa getaways with her mother as her father traveled, closing massive deals, but Wei mentioned she had seen photos where her parents looked happier—I could use this moment in an essay to show a sliver of introspection. Did I fabricate some details? Yeah. Did the story sound like a greeting card? Sure. But most importantly, did she get into her top-choice school? Hell yes she did.

Like most black market workers, I picked up my payment at designated pick-up locations at malls and in Starbucks. Sunglasses and a trench coat weren’t required, but with every nondescript envelope of payment, I swallowed my ethical misgivings. ...

At the end of every writing season, I always swear I will quit, but I’m still broke with no idea about the shape of my future. I can deny it all I want, but I know, come this fall, I will be in front of my computer at 2 AM mining my brain for another piece of myself to sell for $400.
--Eunice Park, Vice, on what money can buy. HT: Digg