The Ghostwriters of MBA Essays

by John A. Byrne on

“My clients are not lazy or trying to be unethical. They work in industries where the hours are really long and writing skills are not emphasized… I think I’m helping people. People who go to these lengths will get the most out of business school.”

That’s Blake Reynolds, founder of a college essay-writing service in New York called Perfect Words, who claims to have written MBA applications essays for 17 clients this fall alone. Edwards spilled the beans in a BusinessWeek story published yesterday. The publication reported that at least two firms–the other is Essaywriter based in England–which actually write, not edit, essays for applications to elite business and other schools.

A GHOSTWRITER OF MBA ESSAYS FOR EIGHT YEARS.

Reynolds told BusinessWeek that he has been ghostwriting MBA admission essays for clients for eight years and has helped applicants get into some of the most elite business schools in the world, including Harvard, Columbia, and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Reynolds says his clients pay between $800 and $3,000, depending on the number of essays a client requests.

He recently distributed fliers around Wall Street and posted ads for his business on the Businessweek.com B-school forums (which have since been removed for violating the terms of service), which presumably tipped off the publication to investigate what schools would consider a violation of ethical standards.

The admissions by officials of these two firms comes on the heels of a Poets&Quants report that several prominent MBA admissions consultants gained access to a Wharton presentation that revealed the six questions interviewers are asking applicants this year.

ONE FIRM CLAIMS TO HAVE 2,500 GHOSTWRITERS WORKING FOR IT.

Essaywriter, based in Leeds, claims that 60 percent of the essays it churns out are for MBA students. With 2,500 writers working for the company and a website easily found in a Google search, Essaywriter writes both admission essays and school assignments for people in a variety of subject areas. David Burton, general manager of Essaywriter, told BusinessWeek that his mostly international candidates have language challenges, while others are more mature applicants or students who have not written in a long time. The firm charges clients $240 per essay.

HARVARD SAYS THE PRACTICE IS UNETHICAL.

Deirdre Leopold, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid at Harvard Business School, told BusinessWeek that using ghost-written essays was “unethical” and said doing so is not a strategy for success: “Anyone foolish enough to ‘buy’ essays is advised to think a few steps ahead,” she wrote in an e-mail, according to BusinessWeek. “How do they plan to ‘fake’ an interview with one of our admissions officers? Are they purchasing essays in order to camouflage a lack of English fluency—something that is essential for success in our program? As for this consultant’s claims of achieving great success for his/her clients, let the buyer beware.”

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    How do essay ghostwriters violate BW’s terms of service? Seems much the same as Sandy, Clear Admit, Jon Frank and Alex Chu.

  • Michael Ryan

    Regardless of whether these ghostwriters violate BW’s terms of service, the practice of paying someone else to write your essays is unjustifiable and unethical. What is even more alarming is that these students may actually get accepted by some top school and someday run some company or organization.

    Can I have faith that later on these students will run their businesses scrupulously, if now they don’t care about submitting applications ethically? Can I have faith that “I’ll do whatever it takes, anything, to get into that school” will not turn into “I’ll do whatever it takes, anything, to show successful results this quarter,” or “become CEO” or “be the best trader”? I can’t.

    This report really bothers me.

  • http://www.vinceprep.com/ Vince

    I presume Mr. Reynolds’ comments were removed from the BW forum because BW prohibits ads. As for the ethics of admissions counseling, I see a difference. Buying essays is shortsighted. Paying a writing coach to teach you how to express yourself is smart, and ethical.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    I don’t agree. If I’d known at the time I was applying that 50% of the applicant pool were using consultants, I wouldn’t have bothered. It’s a rigged game whether the appicant hires a consultant or a ghostwriter. I find myself wondering about friends and colleagues whether they used consultants. I slmply don’t like it.

  • Tony Stark

    Arthur, you noted that you wouldn’t have bothered to have your essay written by a consultant or a ghostwriter but you find yourself detesting your friends and colleagues who used one?

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    Tony, I wouldn’t have bothered applying if I had known about widespread use of application consultants. Look, we put the b-schools on a pedestal because of their networking value, not because there’s any value added after the adcom have done their work. This means we already realize that the emperor has no clothes. Remember, being admitted to a school bespeaks potential for accomplishment (supposedly), not accomplishment per se. And it turns out that even the admissions process is a transparent fraud. Consider Mark Wong, one of the guys who blogs for this site. He raised his GMAT in practice from 630 to 750, i.e., from certain rejection by all the top schools to certain admission to at least one. He’s undoubtedly quite smart whatever his GMAT (I liked “Should Everyone Apply to HBS?”), but the moral lesson is that the GMAT is completely meaningless. Moreover, I see no difference having Sandy write my essays and having Sandy edit my essays for a few grand. At some point, Sandy is writing the essays for me. Is there any difference between hiring Sandy and hiring a ghostwriter? No.

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