Preparing for College

The Ethics of Essays

One of the things I like best about admissions counseling is working with applicants on their essays. I think most high school seniors are capable of writing at least an "honest" statement that presents some insights into the writer. I've answered more than a few reporters' questions about the kinds of problems I see in today's schools. My answer is usually always the same. The biggest shortcoming I see among high school seniors who are applying to college is their inability to conjure a convincing argument in writing. In other words, they can't gather their intellectual and writing-skill forces sufficiently to articulate a clear thesis and then defend it. That's a long way to simply say, "They don't write so well" (or as some seniors would say, "They don't write so good.").

This unfortunate reality has spawned the rise of some interesting, if not shady, cottage "essay help" industries that cater to the intellectually lazy and the expressive-language challenged. One such type of enterprise is the essays-for-sale crowd. The phrase "essays for sale" reminds me of "love for sale." In a sense, selling previously written essays to college applicants (or any other kind of applicant) conjures images of dark street corners, lamp posts, and sultry come-ons. It's a kind of prostitution.

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