Tuesday, December 22, 2009


My latest assignment was to write admission essays for an Indian student looking for admission in a university abroad. I don’t know if it was ethically right for me to assume someone else’s thoughts and write an essay for him / her (don’t even know which one). I took it up as just another writing assignment from one of the companies I freelance for. So I really wouldn't be in a position to even suggest to the student to make an attempt to write the first draft himself. I went online to look for general guidelines to write such essays. Every site mentioned that the admission committee looks for simple but honest and personalised essays that brought out the applicants personality!! Heck!! I didn't even know who I was writing for!

But this certainly set me thinking. Are our youngsters, just out of school, incapable of writing a simple essay about themselves? Does the fear of rejection in the selection process make them seek out professionals to ghost write their essays? They’d rather not take any chances testing their writing skills which might affect their prospects of making it to their dream college. A lot of students in India are under-confident with their spoken English but their writing skills is even more ignored. Even after spending a good number of years in English medium schools, they might manage speaking but still shy away from writing formal English.

Through my years coaching CAT aspirants, only a meagre percentage came up with readable written matter. Most students expected their trainers to write the best answer that would help them clear the written part of the application form. We had to spend hours with them helping them churn out their real life goals and purpose of going for an MBA. As undergraduates, it seemed too late to tell them to drop everything else and develop their writing skills. Enthusiastic students could take it up for themselves and devote time to develop this crucial skill.

Their lack only served to point out that composition writing might just be a part of their English classes. No great effort was put into developing writing as an important skill-set that they would use in their life almost on a daily basis. As students, they must have dealt with routine topics that they learnt to write on using guide books etc. Whatever the case maybe, the moral is that their schooling had finished without imparting something so important to them.

I was also surprised that the parents of this particular student didn’t mind paying up for professional services! Rather than understand why such a need arose, they’ve covered up for their child’s shortcoming by helping him move up another step without the essential skills. Their money helped him buy a skill he didn’t have, teaching him that you just need money to move ahead in life.

I really wonder if such students are equipped to take on the competitive world on their own. Will they have others write their college assignments? (there are sites that cater to this need as well, just flash green-bags around!!) What about their exams, their resume, job applications and emails on the job? With the web world taking over, it’s vital to be able to express oneself with the written word. I wonder what the future holds for such students. Will they move on expressing themselves with money or learn to put words to use, after all!


  1. Reads more like a confession, for a sin, realizing you are a part of.
    Good part of this article; it is an easy read. Bad part of this article; the exercise itself.
    You need to stay away from a system maneuvered by money-power.
    Think a doc passing the exam this way. How safe will one be under his/her care.

  2. Going off on a tangent, I think of the pseudo-knowledge gained from Internet. Whenever I interview writers wanting to join my company, I give them pen and paper (no Internet) and ask them to write 500 words on any topic of their choice. With the only condition that the writing should have depth and be interesting. Its saddening to see most of them squirm, struggle and finally produce shallow, pathetic copy.