New website sells accepted applications to Ivy League schools

Columbia University job fairHigh school students applying to Brown and Columbia universities may be stuck when it comes to knowing what to write on their applications. How long should their answers be? What tone is the college looking for? It's a nerve-wracking process. To help give those potential applicants a leg up, the Application Project started WeGotIn.net.

WeGotIn.net buys recent college applications from students who were accepted into Ivy League schools, removes all personal identification from the applications, and sells them on its website. Currently, the only applications available are applications to Columbia and Brown. A packet of applications costs $19.99 per school, or $34.99 for both schools. Howard Yaruss, the founder of the Application Project, said that this was a way to help students who can't afford counseling from advisers or special prep classes.

"I think kids from privileged backgrounds have an enormous advantage to have advisers who charge thousands of dollars an hour, to have prep courses that cost thousands of dollars an hour, and they have parents who can help guide them," Yaruss told Money College in a phone interview. "They have tons of advantages, whereas the average kid just doesn't. And this is a small attempt to level the playing field and give the average kid a sense of how these questions are answered."

Obviously, one worry that arises from these applications is plagiarism. Yaruss included in the terms of service that buyers will "not copy or reproduce in any manner whatsoever any of the Information," but he also encourages admissions officers at Brown and Columbia to take a look at these applications and police for any possible plagiarism.

"I have not been contacted by the admissions officers yet, but in the event that they do, I will offer to work with them for free," Yaruss said. "I will work with them to see if there's any hint that somebody has copied stuff and help make their job easier."

Is it a good idea for students to pay $20 for a packet of accepted applications? Shashi Karve, an education consultant with Capital Education Consultants in Lansing, Mich., doesn't think so.

"It's quite goofy. What [Brown and Columbia admissions officers] look for changes every year depending on their needs," Karve said. "And just because one application has a certain tone to it that's gotten accepted into Brown, that doesn't mean the entire student body has the same personality or are working from that same tone."

Karve is also concerned about a much bigger issue with WeGotIn.net's business: ethics.

"It's like hocking personal information for personal gain, and I just find that unethical -- unethical on the seller's part and unethical on the buyer's part, both," Karve said.

When asked if he sees anything unethical about the sale of applications since it doesn't have the support of the colleges, Yaruss said, "It doesn't have the official support of anyone. It's the student's application. Why should anyone else have a say over what they do with their application?"

Representatives for Brown University's admissions department were not available for comment. Columbia University did not reply to e-mails and phone calls on this subject.

One of Karve's concerns about the site is that it encourages kids to "work the system." Karve's approach is simple -- be yourself, and try to find a college that's a good fit. The Ivy League schools aren't for everybody.

"You're doing a disservice to yourself by catering to what a university is looking for rather than what you want in your life," Karve said. "It's the fit that will matter -- not if they're going to get into a high-ranking university, because they may end up being miserable."

For potential applicants looking for additional help on their Ivy League applications, there are sample essays all over the web. Erratic Impact, for example, has essays that were accepted by Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Cornell and others. And not just basic admissions essays -- there are business school essays, law school essays, medical school essays, and MBA essays. GradeSaver.com offers essays that were accepted to Columbia. Accepted.com features tips for different colleges' applications -- including an entry with tips for how to complete the Yale application.

Yaruss said that they've already purchased applications for other colleges, and said that next year, he's hoping to have packets for sale to 10 different colleges. He also said that he's planning on sticking to the Ivy League schools, since "those are the most selective and those are the ones with the greatest number of applicants."

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