Many university students can relate to the struggle they may have had in composing a particular research paper – staying up all night, downing energy drinks, and giving everything they’ve got to make sure that their paper can achieve a solid grade. College coursework can prove time-consuming and difficult, but students push on in the hopes that their efforts will eventually be rewarded with the commendation of a university degree.

A growing number of wealthy Chinese exchange students, however, think they’ve found a better way: why not use the family credit card to buy that essay instead?

Wealthy Chinese Families Covet an American Education

chinese students

For many international students from well-to-do backgrounds, studying abroad in the United States or Europe is seen as an essentially mandatory. According to a survey performed by China’s Hurun Report, more than 85% of wealthy Chinese families intended to send their children to study abroad for college.

Ed West, who serves as a director for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, notes that “there are a lot of Chinese students and parents trying to get into the best quality schools they can,” and the ability to boast an education at American schools in particular is very highly coveted by wealthy and status-minded Chinese families.

However, many Chinese exchange students often begin with only a limited ability to read and write in English, which can make it difficult to complete coursework on their own. As a result, international students are often eager to look for more creative methods for making sure that they are able to provide quality essay work, by purchasing that work from academic ghostwriting and essay-writing services online. A recent report suggests that as many as 90% of Chinese exchange students have turned in essays written by others.

International Students Fuel Demand for Essay-Writing Services Online

Academic ghostwriting and essay-writing services have exploded in popularity online in recent years, with companies offering their prospective clients custom-written essays on a wide array of topics – for a price.

Students purchasing essays written by others is nothing new, but the Internet has made it easier than ever before for students and ghostwriters to connect. Internet forums like Reddit allow for unscrupulous anonymous online communities to flourish. In the digital age, any Dick, Tom, or Harry can hide behind a digital mask to do anything from anonymously discussing drug use, ordering fake IDs, and of course peddling admissions essays on Reddit.

Why not use the family credit card to buy that essay instead?

In one such Reddit post, a spokesperson for one essay-writing company, Prescott Papers, acknowledged that many of its clients are “foreign students struggling in a US education system that does not provide appropriate ESL assistance.”

With many students relying on programs that mandate that the students are able to consistently achieve a certain minimum GPA, many Chinese exchange students have increasingly relied on this growing industry of professional essay writing services in order to ensure they can continue their studies abroad.

Surely the companies who provide these services are aware that their work is being passed off by clients verbatim. Do essay services condone this type of cheating?

Do essay services condone this type of cheating?

After reaching out to six essay-writing companies and four freelancers, a spokesperson from Prescott Papers was the only respondent to our inquiry. The respondent, who wished to remain anonymous, noted in an email that because these essays are written from scratch, these services are essentially invisible to traditional plagiarism-detection programs like TurnItIn, which often serve as a school’s only line of defense against students misrepresenting the work of others as their own. These kinds of services have vexed universities in the US, as they are particularly difficult to detect. The spokesperson elaborated that even with policies barring clients from submitting work verbatim, what clients do with their orders once completed is largely outside of a company’s control.

Users who frequent one of the college admissions forums on Reddit have expressed concern over the use of essay writing services by foreign students. One university professor going under the username of SmartAZ described admissions essay fraud as “a huge problem at [the user’s] university,” claiming that the upper-class foreign students who use these admissions methods are grossly underprepared, “on my last exam, the mean score for non-Chinese students was in the mid 80s, and the mean score for the Chinese students in the class was in the high 60s. This happens every semester.”

Cheating Seen as Low-Risk, but High Reward

Despite concerns and suspicion from professors and students alike, the professor elaborates, there’s often nothing that can be done. At least, not without the support of the university, “I’ve tried complaining about admissions standards, but I don’t have the kind of power it would take to change anything. The university loves to take these students because they pay full ride.”

Internet forums like Reddit allow for unscrupulous anonymous online communities to flourish.

The obvious ethical issues involved with purchasing what essentially amounts to ‘homework for hire’ doesn’t seem to bother the great majority of the students involved in the industry. A report by Zinch China, a consultation agency for Chinese students seeking to attend US universities, notes that “cheating is pervasive in China, driven by hyper-competitive parents and aggressive agents.” The behavior is essentially seen as normal in a society where cheating and dubious tactics are considered widespread and routine.

For the wealthy families of Chinese students studying in the United States, purchasing custom-written essays from these companies is just one more way of ensuring success.


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