I chatted with a former professional essay writer and I shared most of her views. These are her confessions and I hope you enjoy the read.
I considered myself to be great in writing essays, so maybe I could finally benefit from that talent. I applied for a position as an essay writer for Best Essays and a few days after I got it, I decided to quit my office job for a marketing firm.
With time, the enthusiasm dropped and I realized that professional writing services had an undermining effect on today’s educational system. I read a publication in The Atlantic once and the article made a huge impact: now I’m out of that industry and I’m already an ESL teacher, I thought to share a few of my findings.
Initial Impressions: It Was Great To Be An Essay Writer.
At first, I believed I was helping students become better writers. They were going to use my content as foundation for their own research, and they would develop the ideas further. Truthfully, some went ahead to become better writers themselves, improving on their content and research abilities, but some just made seeking professional writing a habit.
I have to say the company I worked for did not convince students to buy papers there. It was strictly their own decision, and we were providing the products they asked for.
Why Students Need Essay Services
Maria, one of the first customers I worked for, needed a review of The Count of Monte Cristo. She told me she liked reading, but the volume of work the professor imposed was too much. I remember what she said: “If I read and analyze all these books, when will I find time for the other papers? When will I study for the exams?” That was a genuine concern.
Robert, another student I remember, liked the work I delivered, so he specifically requested my assistance for several other projects. As he explained, he didn’t want to go to college in the first place, but he had to deal with the great expectations of his successful parents.
Students have many reasons for using an essay writing service. Some of them are lazy; others are too busy or have poor time-management skills; some are parents; others have a part-time job; and most of them have no idea how to write academic papers. Most of the students who buy papers online are non-native English speakers from Eastern Europe and Asian countries, but Americans and Australians also place many orders. The percentages of males and females in the base of customers are almost the same (52% are male and 48% are female). Interestingly, 65% of the first-time users returned to buy more papers.
College students are not the only ones who need essays as 40% of the customers are between 25 and 34 years old. MA and PhD candidates also need assistance with writing a dissertation or a thesis paper and that in itself, isn’t a bad thing.
The Problems With The Academic Writing Industry
I noticed a few glitches in the system. Now the work for a writing agency is very flexible. A writer can take as much work as they can handle. The pay is never a problem; as long as you work well, you get good money.
One day, as I logged into my profile, I noticed there were no orders delegated to me. I contacted the superior to ask if there were any available projects, and I got an answer I didn’t expect. The website’s positions in Google search results dropped. The competition built links to our website under misleading anchor text, such as “porn essay” or “payday loan.” Since Google can ban sites from niches like payday loans, gambling, and porn, black hat marketers are often building such links with the goal to get competitive websites banned.
The company managed to take those bad backlinks down, and the website was back in business. After some time, there was another incident that showed how corrupt online marketers could get. I got a request for revisions. I had been working with the student before and he was happy with the work I delivered. This time, he was furious about the bad quality he received. We exchanged a few messages before I realized; that paper was not written by me. The competitors had created an identical website with a very similar domain name, and tricked our loyal customers to order papers there. They got plagiarized content and no refunds. That was a shame.
During the high seasons (fall and spring), there are almost 7,000 people looking to buy papers online, monthly. The keyword planner marks the competition for this keyword as “low” because these services don’t have access to advertising campaigns. Google banned such adverts back in 2007. Regardless of that action, the essay writing niche is still very competitive and growing stronger than ever. Its little wonder competitors are using whatever means necessary to gain mileage.
The situation with the scamming service presenting a plagiarized paper as something I wrote was the drop that spilled the cup. I realized I could help students do better with their tasks through other means, hence the career change. Now, I’m working as an ESL teacher.
Many would say that the essay writing niche is unethical and I would agree. But I believe these essay providers can devise a means to help students actually become better at writing and carrying out their academic goals or assignments. It may seem as a bad business strategy, but it is value added.
It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I enjoyed researching and writing, and I focused on the fact that I was learning something new every single day. However, I can help students become better professionals in a different way.
Everybody in college hates papers. Students hate writing them so much that they buy, borrow, or steal them instead. Plagiarism is now so commonplace that if we flunked every kid who did it, we’d have a worse attrition rate than a MOOC. And on those rare occasions undergrads do deign to compose their own essays, said exegetic masterpieces usually take them all of half an hour at 4 a.m. to write, and consist accordingly of “arguments” that are at best tangentially related to the coursework, font-manipulated to meet the minimum required page-count. Oh, “attitudes about cultures have changed over time”? I’m so glad you let me know.
Nobody hates writing papers as much as collegeinstructorshategradingpapers (and no, having a robot do it is not the answer). Students of the world: You think it wastes 45 minutes of your sexting time to pluck out three quotes from The Sun Also Rises, summarize the same four plot points 50 times until you hit Page 5, and then crap out a two-sentence conclusion? It wastes 15 hours of my time to mark up my students’ flaccid theses and non sequitur textual “evidence,” not to mention abuse of the comma that should be punishable by some sort of law—all so that you can take a cursory glance at the grade and then chuck the paper forever.
What’s more, if your average college-goer does manage to read through her professor’s comments, she will likely view them as a grievous insult to her entire person, abject proof of how this cruel, unfeeling instructor hates her. That sliver of the student population that actually reads comments and wants to discuss them? They’re kids whose papers are good to begin with, and often obsessed with their GPAs. I guarantee you that every professor you know has given an A to a B paper just to keep a grade-grubber off her junk. (Not talking to you, current students! You’re all magnificent, and going to be president someday. Please do not email me.)
Oh, “attitudes about cultures have changed over time”? I’m so glad you let me know.
When I was growing up, my mother—who, like me, was a “contingent” professor—would sequester herself for days to grade, emerging Medusa-haired and demanding of sympathy. But the older I got, the more that sympathy dissipated: “If you hate grading papers so much,” I’d say, “there’s an easy solution for that.” My mother, not to be trifled with when righteously indignant (that favored state of the professoriate), would snap: “It’s an English class. I can’t not assign papers.”
Mom, friends, educators, students: We don’t have to assign papers, and we should stop. We need to admit that the required-course college essay is a failure. The baccalaureate is the new high-school diploma: abjectly necessary for any decent job in the cosmos. As such, students (and their parents) view college as professional training, an unpleasant necessity en route to that all-important “piece of paper.” Today’s vocationally minded students view World Lit 101 as forced labor, an utterwasteof their time that deserves neither engagement nor effort. So you know what else is a waste of time? Grading these students’ effing papers. It’s time to declare unconditional defeat.
Most students enter college barely able to string three sentences together—and they leave it that way, too. With protracted effort and a rhapsodically engaged instructor, some may learn to craft a clunky but competent essay somewhere along the way. But who cares? My fellowhumanistsinsist valiantly that (among other more elevated reasons) writing humanities papers leads to the crafting of sharp argumentative skills, and thus a lifetime of success in a number of fields in which we have no relevant experience. But my friends who actually work in such fields assure me that most of their colleagues are borderline-illiterate. After all, Mark Zuckerberg’s pre-Facebook Friendster profile bragged “i don’t read” (sic),and look at him.
Of course it would be better for humanity if college in the United States actually required a semblance of adult writing competency. But I have tried everything. I held a workshop dedicated to avoiding vague introductions (“The idea and concept of the duality of sin and righteousness has been at the forefront of our understanding of important concepts since the beginning of time.”) The result was papers that started with two incoherent sentences that had nothing to do with each other. I tried removing the introduction and conclusion altogether, and asking for a three-paragraph miniessay with a specific argument—what I got read like One Direction fan fiction.
I’ve graded drafts and assigned rewrites, and that helps the good students get better, but the bad students, the ones I’m trying to help, just fail to turn in any drafts at all. Meanwhile, I come up for air and realize that with all this extra grading, I’m making 75 cents an hour.
I’m not calling for the end of all papers—just the end of papers in required courses. Some students actually like writing, and let those blessed young souls be English majors, and expound on George Eliot and Virginia Woolf to their hearts’ content, and grow up to become writers, huzzah. But for the common good, leave everyone else out of it.
Instead of essays, required humanities courses (which I support, for all the reasons William Cronon, Martha Nussbaum, and Paulo Freire give) should return to old-school, hardcore exams, written and oral. You cannot bullshit a line-ID. Nor can you get away with only having read one page of the book when your professor is staring you down with a serious question. And best of all, oral exams barely need grading: If you don’t know what you’re talking about, it is immediately and readily manifest (not to mention, it’s profoundly schadenfroh when a student has to look me in the face and admit he’s done no work).
A Slate Plus Special Feature:
Students hate writing papers, and professors hate grading them. Should we stop assigning them? Listen to the debate on Slate Plus.
Plus, replacing papers with rigorous, old-school, St. John’s-style tribulations also addresses an issue humanities-haters love to belabor: Paper-grading is so subjective, and paper-writing so easy to fake, that this gives the humanities their unfortunate reputation as imprecise, feelings-centered disciplines where there are “no right answers.” So let’s start requiring some right answers.
Sure, this quashes the shallow pretense of expecting undergraduates to engage in thoughtful analysis, but they have already proven that they will go to any lengths to avoid doing this. Call me a defeatist, but honestly I’d be happy if a plurality of American college students could discern even the skeletal plot of anything they were assigned. With more exams and no papers, they’ll at least have a shot at retaining, just for a short while, the basic facts of some of the greatest stories ever recorded. In that short while, they may even develop the tiniest inkling of what Martha Nussbaum calls “sympathetic imagination”—the cultivation of our own humanity, and something that unfolds when we’re touched by stories of people who are very much unlike us. And that, frankly, is more than any essay will ever do for them.