TIME: 5 Things I Learned From Writing Other People’s College Essays for Money

Career College Central Summary:

  • The year 2009 was a year of big changes for me. I graduated with my M.A. in Professional Writing. My husband and I moved across the country from Georgia to California. And the economy fell off a cliff.
  • I know what you’re thinking. Someone with a degree in “Professional Writing” should probably expect to have a hard time finding a job regardless of what’s happening in the economy, but I swear I thought this out.
  • Graduate school gave me tangible skills with classes in document design and editing. I had a great experience and you should all shake your heads sadly and learn from my choices.
  • I wasn’t worried because I have had a job since I was 15. So what if nobody’s hiring? Convenience store, call center, restaurant, doesn’t matter. I’ve worked them all and I have no shame.
  • After a few weeks I realized just how competitive the job market actually is in Los Angeles. Restaurants asked for head shots with my application. My master’s degree made every retail store give me the side eye. I was suddenly unqualified and overqualified for everything.
  • Aside from being underemployed, I quickly learned that LA is a super expensive city. Like $7 for a domestic draft beer expensive. My part-time job and unpaid internship kept me firmly at home watching television and eating ramen noodles every night while interest added up on my student loans.
  • My husband suggested that maybe I could make some money offering college students help with their college essays. Sure! After 19 years of school, I was definitely qualified to help someone with their homework.
  • I put together a Craigslist ad detailing my credentials and the responses started rolling in. But instead of “Could you edit my paper?” I was getting “Hey, just do my assignment” or “Could you take my online class?” Well, beggars can’t be choosers, so from 2009 to 2013 I wrote dozens of papers and took several online classes. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
  • 1. People who buy papers come from every walk of life.

    • It’s easy to assume that all students who buy papers are 20-somethings using mom and dad’s money so they can spend more time being hungover. Sure, there are plenty of those, and those are the ones who were the most demanding and difficult to work with. 20 pages by tomorrow? I’m not a wizard, kid.
    • But aside from the ne’er do wells, there were non-traditional students who were having a rough time balancing work, family, and a full class load. These students often expressed a lot of guilt, and I have a lot of sympathy for the pressure they were under.
    • Finally, there were those who were simply overwhelmed and unable to do college level work. Students who bought papers from me went to community college, online programs, USC, and UCLA.

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TIME

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