01 Sep 2014

What Do Art History Majors Do For a Living?

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Ghostwriters

Are you a Chinese student with shaky English and a weak understanding of US college admission office culture who wants to go to Yale? You need to hire Eunice Park to write that application essay for you.

I’m a black market college admissions essay writer, and over the last three years I’ve written over 350 fraudulent essays for wealthy Chinese exchange students. Although my clients have varied from earnest do-gooders to factory tycoon’s daughters who communicate primarily through emojis, they all have one thing in common: They’re unable to write meaningful sentences.

Sometimes this inability has stemmed from a language barrier, but other times they have struggled to understand what American college admissions committees are looking for in a personal essay. Either way, they have all been willing to pay me way more than my old waitressing job ever paid me.

Although I’m a second-generation Korean American like some of my clients, I never felt pressured to become a doctor or a lawyer. I majored in art history at college, and after graduation, I found myself bouncing from retail jobs to temp work. Every day, I loafed about in bed. Reading my friends’ Facebook statuses about finishing law school and starting their dream jobs, I wondered if I should ever leave my house. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or if I even possessed any skills someone could pay me to use—at least I didn’t know until my friend told me I could reap in a cash bonanza forging wealthy Asian students’ college essays.

Once I started ghostwriting essays, I quickly went from making $8.50 an hour as a waitress to making $2,000 in two weeks. In one admissions cycle, I wrote over a hundred essays and earned enough money to pay my bills for the rest of the year, pay off my car loan, and—as a treat for my hardworking hands—receive $150 Japanese manicures on a biweekly basis.

Each ghostwriting session starts with a daylong interview. I pry into every intimate corner of a client’s life: her family history, financial background, and childhood secrets. Then I try to pinpoint one relatable thread of pain or humanity, which I can make the focal point of an essay attached to a larger universal theme, like empathy or humility. …

The voice of a college admissions essay is very specific, especially when you’re writing from the perspective of a Chinese exchange student. You have to portray a lot of their expected characteristics while simultaneously fighting against some of their more negative stereotypes. You have to be timid yet idealistic, ambitious yet giving, and reserved yet honest. Selling personal stories of yourself written in the voice of strangers who lack empathy and humility will eventually dissolve you. At the end of every writing season, I always swear I will quit, but I’m still broke with no idea about the shape of my future. I can deny it all I want, but I know, come this fall, I will be in front of my computer at 2 AM mining my brain for another piece of myself to sell for $400.

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