For Sale: MBA Essays From Admits

by John A. Byrne on

Wordprom CEO Gili Elkin

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.”

The site highlights the most popular essays sold

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.

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  • Dreamer

    Though I am only an applicant and have no inside knowledge, I honestly believe your admission is 90% set by your accomplishment pre-application. Maybe 5% based on “need” for your unique point of view in a class. The essays probably rarely get someone in. Maybe if they have an incredible story of having to take of their family so could not take a banking job because commitments but I doubt someone has gotten in because of an essay.

  • Duriangris

    “Elkin wrote about “the great weather in California” in her first draft. “Only after reading dozens of MBA essays in a book did I understand that I needed to start seriously thinking about my career goals,” she says now.”

    Well look at that, the website has just been launched and Elkin has already plagiarized one of her clients???
    Look at testimonies at the first page of the website:
    “I looked at the question “Why Stanford?“ and thought about the great weather in California. wordprom’s essays helped me understand that I needed to seriously start thinking about my career goals.
    R.A., an applicant from India”

  • Duriangris

    Looked more in detail. The only proof that the essays are genuine is that people who submit registered using their student email address.
    Hence, any malevolent MBA candidate could write a hoax and even make money from it. It’s anonymous and there’s no preview for the essays, so all the risk is taken by the applicant.
    (BTW, while it’s understandable for current MBA candidates, it’s a bit sad to see people who graduated 3 to 5 years ago from top BS selling-out to make a couple hundred bucks)

  • Davidpid

    I love wordprom site. Cool logo too! It is about time that
    someone tries to save applicants their time and money spend using consulting
    services. The schools’ discussion about plagiarism only shows their concern of
    making the application process indeed accessible to everyone. I believe that
    one goal of the “ulterior” application process is to self-screen applicants who
    do not have the financial means to apply. Essays that were written by an
    applicant who did not use consulting services and had never looked at an essay
    sample would not pass the initial screening of applications no matter what
    schools say.

    Thank you, wordprom team for doing something that was a must
    and helping applicants all over the world!!

  • Davidpid

    why would you assume that MBA grad will lie to make a couple of dollars??? In what world are we living?!
    I think we should start trusting people.
    Plus, wordprom could verify the identity of MBA grad not only through e-mail verification but also through the social networks.

  • MichaelDude

    Stop scaring people! The only reason prospective students use consultants and/or sample essays is because they want to cut corners or believe that they will have a disadvantage compared to peers that used those services.

    If you’re applying to B-School now, ask yourself if you would want to share classes with somebody that aspires to become a senior executive, but is incapable of even writing his own essays or so insecure to doubt his skills.

    In reply to Davidpid, I got admission to 3 top 5 schools without the use of a consultant, sample essays and despite a 650 GMAT and the lack of “stardust”. I concur that schools are more objective than you think and quite capable of discerning people that have used consultants or other admission help.

  • Davidpid

    Thanks for the great insights! My only question is – as a
    grad of a top school’s MBA program – why are you wasting your time on forums for MBA
    applicants?!

  • Louis

    Are you a sales person for wordprom? You certainly sound like one.

  • Davidpid

    Nop. I wish I were… I am applying to several MBA programs,
    downloaded several essays on wordprom.com and found them very helpful. I don’t
    know the founders of wordprom but as an entrepreneur, I know how challenging is
    to build a business from scratch and how easy it is for random people to criticize
    the business without giving any thought to the real value of that business or
    to the harm that might be caused by their words.

  • Let Freedom Ring

    Nice photogenic picture of Gili Elkin. She has the look of a visionary. I see this as a billion dollar business. Every applicant now has the tools to combat those application essays. Thank you wordporn. It will be great if someone can publish all the solutions to the hbs cases…those cases seem to take up quite a bit of my time. It would be nice if I could just pay for the solutions. Also, it should be legal for me to pay someone to take my exams. Why shouldn’t I take advantage of all the money I inherited from my grandfather? Finally, it should be legal to bribe that police officer who just pulled me over because I was going 90 in school zone, had an open container and did a few afternoon shots at naughtys bar and club. Gees..all these regulations and ethics just get in the way of a good time.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • bschool marketing 101

    says the ^ consultant protecting his market share

  • Todd Akin

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

  • Marge

    Troll

  • 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.

  • hbsguru

    Should You Buy An MBA Essay From This Internet Bazaar?
    http://poetsandquants.com/2012/10/09/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.

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