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I was working as a manager at a couple of restaurants in Columbus, Ohio, when I saw a Craigslist ad for a website where people post any number of projects—papers, admissions essays—and others bid on them.
The entire thing seemed sketchy at first. Literally up until the time I got my first paycheck, I was skeptical I would get my money. I'm surprised these kids are willing to give away their PayPal information and pay in full before we start doing work. They're just kind of trusting that some random stranger on the internet is actually gonna do the job. Not to be rude, but the people who use this service aren't the most intelligent people to begin with.
People asked me if I was worried about the legality. But it's not necessarily illegal, just morally dubious.
The first assignment I ever did was writing poetry for some girl. This wasn't particularly difficult—she had me write a poem about her cat. A furball, a feline, a friend/perched on my bed at the end, etc. How you can't just do 20 lines of that yourself is beyond me, but whatever.
'People would rather pay someone $100 than write a couple of pages about themselves.'
I've done some college admissions essays, too, and you basically have to make something up. I've had students who will commission an essay for Harvard, and I can tell just from talking to them that they aren't going to get into a school like Harvard. I kind of know what they're looking for. I'll just write about people going on mission trips or things like that just to kind of demonstrate some sort of cross-cultural awareness. It's not like you're writing a paper for a class where the person's gonna see it and identify someone as the person who wrote it. You write a great admissions essay, someone reads it, and that person is probably never gonna associate it to a face. I've done from 30 or 40 of those at $50 or $60 a pop and they only take me a half-hour each. They don't require research or citations, so you can just kind of crank those out ad nauseam. One was for a client who had me write something about their family taking in a foreign exchange student from Brazil.
Others I've done have been personal essays, like, "Write about a time in your life that you've faced challenges." And I'm continually surprised by the fact that people would rather pay someone $100 than write a couple of pages about themselves. It's not often I get to write about things I'm actually interested in, but once I saw a post pertaining to William Gibson's Neuromancer—a personal favorite of mine—and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to put a bid in even though it needed to be six pages.
It varies who hits me up. I get a lot of wealthy international students. There will even be people who have me write things for professional certifications, which is a little concerning. There was one essay that was for a safety course for a nurse, and that person should probably have been doing that themselves. But that's not my concern.
'I have even taken entire classes for people.'
I've been doing that for six months now, and making enough money to do it full-time. A couple months ago I got into a skiing accident and couldn't work, but I was able to get anywhere from $500 to $1,000 a week doing this from home. I think the most anyone I know has made in a two-week pay period is around $4,000. There's always room to do more—I probably only work 20 or 25 hours a week, and I still make enough to pay rent and pay for groceries and everything like that.
About 95 percent of the time, I give the students their papers and I don't hear back, but I've had projects that I've turned in before, and the teacher's apparently said to the student, "I know you didn't write this." I also have repeat customers who are satisfied, and I have even taken entire classes for people—we work out the price for the semester beforehand. It probably starts at around $500.
I would never in a million years pay the prices that people pay me. I average somewhere around $25 a page, and I won't go much lower than that now that it's finals time. The administrator of the site tells us not to go lower than about ten cents a word, but it seems like there are more projects than there are writers to go around, so I get more than that anyway.
The biggest takeaway I've gleaned from this is that you get out of college what you put into it. There are people who just go there and pay $20,000 a year and don't leave with anything resembling an education. I come from a nice enough suburb where I've seen people get into Cornell or other Ivy League schools that had no business being there to begin with. Meanwhile, there are literally hundreds of projects on the site I work for at any given time—there's always work to be done.
People have just disconnected learning from the experience of going to college in general. Working in this industry has opened my eyes even more to the fact that people don't give a shit about their coursework.
The above has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.