I signed up to help the students cheat, but it was more complicated than I thought.

Like many English majors before me, I found myself walking through the 2019 graduation scene knowing that my college days were behind me and I would soon be out of work. Although I gave it my all and got a near perfect GPA, my only immediate options were to continue my part-time bartending job or go to college. Since I had already raised nearly $ 70,000 in student loans, I chose the former.

For much of the next year, I was a bartender at my college town’s most popular pub, as well as a few independent gigs. Then COVID struck. The bar closed. At first they told us we would only be on leave for two weeks to “stop the spread”. Two weeks turned into two months. Soon came a group text saying that the bar would close indefinitely.

When it comes to stimulus checks and unemployment, part-time bartenders who are listed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns aren’t entitled to much. I was screwed. My self-esteem has collapsed. I fought daily with my parents. I had nothing to do, nowhere to go, and the countless home jobs I applied for had not landed me any interviews.

Towards the end of April 2020, one of my college friends reached out to me: “Are you looking for work? I work for this essay writing service, and they offer referral bonuses to anyone who joins the team.

He told me he was writing college essays for a website called Killer Papers, and making tons of money. The owner had claimed 30% sales growth since most students switched to distance education.

Barely 24 hours later, I had already interviewed and written my first essay: $ 40 for a three-page “think piece” on how COVID had affected students. Connection.

I had a quick training on what this system really looks like for black market testing. The prevailing stereotype is that privileged sons and daughters of wealthy families use their money to find their way out of their jobs and earn a degree. And… of course, that’s often true.

“My parents are doctors so we’re pretty busy,” said one customer, who said he was “cool with the owner of the site” and had been using it since 2017.

“Oh nice!” I said, eating my grilled cheese and typing my seventh journal of the day from the basement of my parents’ house.

More disappointing were the many parents who encouraged this behavior, some even going so far as to request the trial and purchase it without their child lifting a finger. Their children were so lazy that they couldn’t even work with me to do it. “My son is on the lacrosse team, so try to fit an athletic wrestling into this story,” one mother told me. I did as I was asked, as long as they left me a tip so I could afford gas.

But for every privileged child too lazy to write an essay, there was a more complex story. To my surprise, of the hundreds of clients I have worked with, many students, perhaps most, were in desperate need of help.

They weren’t rich. Students would try to negotiate prices or develop payment plans. They said things like “I’ll be back to accept your offer on Friday when my check is cashed.” An assistant manager at Taco Bell, a drive-thru operator at Wendy’s, a cashier at Whole Foods, you name him. My clients had a variety of low income jobs and were taking courses simultaneously. I asked them a question about their project, and they didn’t come back for a day or two. When I finally heard back, they would say, “Sorry, I was double working. “

And more often than not, it wasn’t the students – or parents – of elite colleges who bought papers. It was the community college students working for minimum wage who did not have the time to write them.

It was the single parents who had to balance work, childcare and college. They often had kids and multiple jobs, and they were just trying to advance their careers with a degree.

They were international students. A few Chinese clients have told me that they can crush any American in arithmetic, but when it comes to writing an English essay for their American lighting class, they were at a great disadvantage, especially when COVID took hold. started and they returned to China.

University writing centers that many relied on closed or went online, but time zone differences made it difficult to get the help they needed. Faced with the prospect of getting a bad grade or cheating, they chose the latter option.

There was also the COVID factor. Variations of “I’ve been following Killer Paper’s Instagram page for years, but I never thought I’d use the site.” I’m so depressed and my work is piling up ”would fill my site’s inbox as quarantines continued to be extended.

And it got worse. My clients have lost friends, family, and even teachers. A client told me he was on his third semester teacher for the same course last fall because the first two had died from COVID.

Despite all the official grumbling about services like mine among professors, I also learned something else: many professors don’t want to be bothered by students’ difficulties. As COVID progressed, so did the timelines, and many professors were pretty rigid with their rules. On the sections that I read from the students, I remember seeing one that said: “No missed deadlines. I don’t want to hear your sob story.

Many of my fellow essayists themselves were in academia – they wrote articles for students because they couldn’t make ends meet.

If you had told me in March 2020 that in a few months I would be making more money as a college nigger than I’ve ever had in my life, I would have thought you were full. In the summer it was never more than $ 500 per week for about 10 to 12 tries. But over the course of the semester, that could go up to $ 2,000 a week for 30-40 projects – a numbing amount of writing, but a lot of money.

By the time I started I was too desperate to care about ethics. I felt worse about the students passing by and paying me for this job, but I developed a payment system where I made minimum fee offers for clients who really needed it. And I had justified it to myself, because I had been so short of options.

Finally, I couldn’t do it anymore and more opportunities opened up. I returned to the bartender when my neighborhood reopened. I proofread e-books, books, and college admissions essays, as well as a little freelance writing like this. More “respectable”. But my own little slice of pandemic desperation opened a window for me to others that I will not forget.

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