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.
‘APPLICANTS CAN GET A BETTER SENSE OF WHAT SCHOOLS ARE LOOKING FOR’
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.