College-Essay Websites Get a Failing Grade

By Mark Nichol

Just for fun, I recently searched online for websites that sell academic essays, with the intention of evaluating the quality of their product. Immediately, however, I found I could judge these providers just by their marketing content — and most of them failed the test.

College-essay services have been around for decades. I recall that when I was editor of my college newspaper — pre-Internet — we ran a classified ad for one; to my lasting shame, it never occurred to me to buy an essay and write an investigative article about such services. (They’ve long since migrated from the ghetto of the college-newspaper classifieds to the pleasant, professional-looking facade of the Web.)

I examined the sites for the first five college-essay services that came up in my search using the simple term “essays.” (Most of the returns for this very general search parameter are for college-essay sites.) I was amused to find out that though most providers doth protest too much that they merely provide essays as research material or to model good essay writing, some blatantly admit that they offer essays for plagiaristic purposes to college (and high school) students who don’t have the time or the motivation to, you know, actually fulfill their academic responsibilities.

Even more amusing was to find out that most of the sites, in the critical area of introducing themselves to potential customers, chose to hire laughably low-bid writers to craft SEO-friendly home page copy describing their services. Of the five sites I visited, three of them have marketing content obviously written by someone for whom English is not a native language; each of these overtures is awful.

A fourth site has competently written content but inspires no more confidence about the quality of the product, and a fifth, which has no home page welcome but does feature a FAQ page, includes thereon inspirational quotes from Albert Einstein and Anäis Nin (and “the Danish proverb” — there’s only one Danish proverb?) and displays problematic punctuation and occasional grammatical infelicities: For example, in describing one category of essays (some are available free but are frankly flagged as not being especially well written), the site declared, “Do not fear errors in this research, there are none.” (But that sentence features a comma splice.)

I did, in fact, peek at a couple of essays, including one titled “Why Would You Want to Watch Sex in the City?” (The site also offered, in a category labeled Miscellaneous, “Best Man Toasts,” “Eulogies,” and “Wedding Speeches” — and, oh, yeah, “College Admissions Essays.”) Let’s just say that free isn’t a good enough deal; these sites should pay me for the pain and suffering endured while reading samples of their inventory.

College-essay websites, despite the questionable quality of their products — actually, there’s no question — will continue to flourish and thrive for as long as students take ethical shortcuts, but there are plenty of other options for those in the target market who might feel the nagging tug of conscience. Most colleges (and many high schools) offer resources for students seeking assistance in essay writing. We have also covered this topic in the past, so search the site to find related posts.

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3 Responses to “College-Essay Websites Get a Failing Grade”

  • allencraig

    Hi (Mark),

    I just want to say that I enjoying reading your posts – this one was especially entertaining.

    Although these days I work in English education, to the certain astonishment of any one of my past English teachers if they knew or cared about my whereabouts, I often find reading about language, grammar, rules, etc., boring as heck. But your posts are just light-hearted and insightful enough that they are–can it be?–actually enjoyable. And thus my mind opens to learn. (Hear that past English teachers? THAT’S the secret!)

    Thanks!

  • Lewis Cunningham

    You know what’s even worse? The college kids can’t tell how awful the essays are. They’re still willing to part with their money (and will probably get busted). I want to say a better job need to be done in high school, but with budgets getting chopped and all, I don’t know if that’s even possible.

    BTW, I’ve never posted a comment here before, but I’ve been on your email list for a long time. Years, I think. I get a lot of value out of it.

    Thanks,

    LewisC

  • joie

    Didn’t you mean “UNethical” in your last paragraph?

    Here’s a mind-boggling clip from an (alleged) grammar-correction site, called GrammarBase. I typed in a sentence for GrammarBase to correct, and this is what popped up:
    “We found several problems in your paper!
    1 critical mistakeS was found in YOU writing.”

    EEEEEK! ARRRGH!

    I LOVE Daily Writing Tips!

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