For Sale: MBA Essays From Admits

Before bootstrapping a start-up that would sell the essays of admitted MBA students from the world’s best business schools, Gili Elkin met with Derrick Bolton, the admissions director for Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

After all, it was Bolton who extended Elkin the invitation to come to Stanford’s prestige MBA program in 2006. She was an impressive candidate, a former lawyer who worked as a tax manager for Ernst & Young. After earning her MBA, Elkin tried her hand at entrepreneurship and began work as an MBA admissions consultant for Aringo, an admissions firm. In the four years she has worked with Aringo, Elkin says she has counseled dozens of applicants to top business schools.

What she perhaps didn’t know was that Bolton is no fan of the admissions consulting business–and he certainly wouldn’t be supportive of Elkin’s idea to launch a sort of eBay for MBA admissions essays. Wordprom.com would essentially match sellers and buyers of business school essays that won a candidate admission to a top MBA program.

“I explained my vision and how my service would provide everyone with equal opportunity to apply to business schools,” says Elkin. “I explained that we are only bringing online a service that is already out there for many years. There are books that sell essay examples and applicants are using these books. I explained that this service will save applicants’ consulting fees and eventually create a bigger pool of applicants and therefore a stronger pool of students.”

But Bolton wasn’t buying it then and he isn’t buying it now. As he explains to Poets&Quants: “First, the purpose of the essay is for structured individual reflection. Reliance on another person’s essay not only shortcuts that process, but also creates a temptation for misuse or plagiarism. Second, this kind of service preys on applicants’ anxiety. It equates admission to an essay contest and offers a Potemkin solution. Finally, we have admitted many compelling candidates despite, rather than because of, the essays. This service has no way to determine whether an essay was effective, neutral, or harmful.”

He isn’t the only admissions director who doesn’t like the idea. To many, the very notion of selling business school application essays on the Internet is akin to the unethical selling of college termpapers. Their easy availability could encourage applicants to copy and cheat–and disrupt a school’s ability to assess candidates on the pure merits of their applications.


Elkin doesn’t see it that way. “People from all over the world are now able to download essays for a fairly low price,” she insists. “They can get a better sense of what schools are looking for. The application process will look more realistic for them, more accessible and possible.”

Launched on Sept. 12, the wordprom.com site boasts more than 200 essays for many top schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. It also boasts essays from admitted students at several of the most prominent international schools, including INSEAD, London Business School, IE and IESE Business Schools in Spain and HEC-Paris.

Each essay is being sold for $50, though there is an introductory offer now that cuts the price is half to $25. For the first 500 people who contribute essays, there’s a 50% share of all the revenue that their essays rack up.

  • hbsguru

    Should You Buy An MBA Essay From This Internet Bazaar?
    I read the six Stanford essays for sale on wordprom to write the above story on Poets and Quants which analyzes in detail 3 of those essays (the ones which conform to current word limits). I got no way of knowing, fer sure, but I read all those essays with great care and they strike me as genuine. Read my story for an analysis of whether those essays will help you write your essays. . .another issue, but they do feel genuine.

  • Duriangris

    This is funny! I was curious to check if the inconsistency betwen what Elkin says and what R.A. the imaginary applicant from India says was still there.
    Just check what’s there now:

    “I looked at the question “Why Anderson?“ and thought about my brother in California. wordprom’s essays helped me focus and got me to start thinking seriously about my professional goals.

    R.A., an applicant from India”

    Well that’s creative!!

    Seriously, this joke has only been created to hurt Stanford IMO.

  • Marge


  • Todd Akin

    She looks a bit like carrot top..but with worse hair and yellow teeth.

  • bschool marketing 101

    says the ^ consultant protecting his market share

  • Let Freedom Ring

    I agree Louis..This DAVIDPID is a plant and salesperson for that site. Shameful. I appeal to the moderator John to verify his credentials. An awesome site like Poets and Quants should not be hijacked by a snakeoil salesman. Please John..do something.

  • Paul

    Please don’t compare this business to what consultants do. The good consultants will never write your essay or tell you what to write about. They will help you channel your thoughts better. This is outright cheating. MBA programs should issue a warning to students — anyone who uses these services and is found out to have done so — will have their admission revoked. Schools need to fight back and protect the integrity of higher education.

  • Tom from Chester, PA

    What a disservice to higher education. So, for all the talk about ethics and values during an MBA — is that what Stanford taught her? I agree with some of the others on this forum – I feel a bit cheated. It’s sad when people don’t have strong core values and guiding principles.

  • Dan

    Nice one! Very funny. I agree with you. The MBA has become such a commodity type item — like something of a grocery shelf. It’s horrible. This is already rampant cheating going on. This is so heart breaking. I am someone that is genuinely interested in education, but all this just makes me so sad. Nice post!