How college applicants embellish essays with sob stories, fake patents
by Isabel Vincent
New York Post
January 13, 2022

The story of University of Pennsylvania student Mackenzie Fierceton, who lost a prestigious Rhodes scholarship for allegedly faking details about her background in her application, went viral this week. But many experts told The Post it’s not uncommon for high school students to stretch the truth on their college entrance essays to get noticed by top schools.

Some kids will claim in their essays that they “published” a novel or memoir, when in fact their parents have hired a self-publishing outfit to produce what looks like a legitimate book. Other teens will write about their “meaningful” volunteer work in developing countries, when their moms and dads have funded the trips abroad just so they can have college essay fodder. Now, some students are even going so far as to register their own patents for research they have never completed.

“There are Chinese companies that charge a few thousand dollars and will do all the hard work for your child to register a scientific patent,” an education consultant who did not want to be identified told The Post. “And admissions folks are seeing a lot more of them as competition for schools becomes even more fierce and opportunities for extracurriculars dry up during COVID.”


“The thing we see a lot is that kids are digging deep for hardship,” added Ron Foley, a math professor who runs Foley Prep Inc, a tutoring and college prep service which has several locations throughout New Jersey. “It forces kids to think that the hardship is the most interesting thing about them, and it may not be the case.”


Meanwhile, some legitimately underprivileged students resist dwelling on their personal hardships and insist upon being accepted on their merits. One college essay tutor told The Post how she urged a high school student to play up her background to win points.

“I worked with a student in the fall who actually had hardships — she immigrated to the US as a child and has seen and lived in real poverty,” the essay coach said. “But she was reluctant to capitalize on that because she didn’t want it to define her.”