Publisher offers $40 for used essays

by David Horowitz | 3/27/97 6:00am

Want to make an easy $40?

Students throughout the Ivy League and at top schools around the nation are cashing in on work they completed years ago, selling their admissions essays to a publisher.

The Internet publisher IvyEssays buys essays from successful admissions candidates to 34 universities -- including Dartmouth -- to resell to high school students. Students need only submit an essay along with proof of acceptance or enrollment at their school.

Students at 20 business schools, and 17 law schools also can sell their essays to IvyEssays.

The company is run by three young graduates of elite colleges who want to "level the playing field" of college and graduate school admissions, IvyEssay's president Daniel Kaufman said.

Prospective college students can visit IvyEssays' Internet site and order packages of 10 to 12 undergraduate essays with a certain theme or topic essays for $10. Law school and business schools essays cost $50 or $60 for a package of about 70 essays.

The purpose is to inspire students who are not confident they know what admissions committees expect in an application essay, according to Helen Lee, the company's managing editor.

"I really, truly believe there is need for this service," said Kaufman, who graduated from Williams College in 1991.

Kaufman said college applicants have "widely differing levels of support" -- since many private secondary schools employ counselors specifically to assist with college applications, while some public schools, like the rural Vermont school Kaufman himself attended, offer much less assistance.

For example, Kaufman said, one of IvyEssays' clients was a woman from Harlem who had eight siblings, a single mother and no mentor to turn to for guidance when applying to law school after graduating from a New York state university.

Lee said that there are ample resources "for people with a lot of money," but that it was IvyEssays' aim to be affordable to everyone. In fact, she said, the company has been losing money since its establishment.

Kaufman agreed that the company was not founded "for any financial considerations."

To support IvyEssays' debt, Kaufman said he has poured in money from his other business ventures.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Karl Furstenberg cautioned that too much assistance in the college essay process may backfire.

In his experience, Furstenberg said many essays that have been too highly polished have sounded affected and ingenuous.

"Applicants who receive no coaching write the best essays," he said, "because they are honest, fresh, candid and refreshing in their naivete or lack of pretension."

Kaufman said he conceived the idea for IvyEssays after several friends of his at Harvard University Business School posted their application essays on the Internet for other applicants to see.

The Harvard administration was furious, he said, and made them deconstruct the Web site. But Kaufman said he was inspired by their idea and soon IvyEssays was born.

Lee said the company has bought essays from students who were accepted to Dartmouth -- but many students said they would never sell their admissions essays.

"I think it's a personal essay and I wouldn't want the possibility of anyone plagiarizing my work," said Rodrego Byerly '98.

"You shouldn't necessarily look at other people's essays," he said. "It's an individual process."

Mike Pyle '00 said he went to a small rural school in Illinois and "I made it here so I don't buy their rational."

Pyle said even if IvyEssays specifically condemned plagiarism, he felt that applicants could be tempted to borrow too heavily from his essay, were he to sell it.

"That's a risk I'm not willing to take," he said.

Ben Robinson '97, though, said he would have no problem selling an essay. "It's $40," he said.

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