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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

August 10, 2007


This is the forth in a series of five posts. The third one is here.

As I stated in the first post in this series, I believe that an ethical approach to admissions advising is one that involves the applicant doing the writing. As I will discuss in this post, I think that intensive editing may very likely involve crossing the line between the ethical and unethical.

First, let me say that certain kinds of editing, seem quite ethical to me and I am on public record for stating that certain kinds of editing techniques are ethical:

Another example is helping clients understand the importance of writing about the individual in their essays, “The Japanese tend to have a hard time expressing themselves. So I often read first draft essays, and they are talking about the organization or the group—which is not what the admission is looking for. The admission wants to learn about the person. So, I think it is very legitimate to say to somebody—‘hey, this essay is not focused on you’. I teach them the rules. That is not ghostwriting.”

In fact, helping his clients coming to that realization, Markus believes, is an ethical, legitimate process.

....Besides large thematic problems, counselors also often help clients better convey their ideas through simple changes in language structure. In the Japanese language, the verb comes at the end of the sentence, denoting that the most important idea comes at the very end. This type of narrative structure is often reflected in their essay as well, and they may take a long time to get to the actual point of the story. A counselor’s job also includes telling his/her client to reverse the sentence and narrative structure in order to work well with a western admission officer, “I tell my clients, ‘hey, you take way too long to get to the point—your reader will lose interest,’ ” Markus says. “Or, ‘you need to reverse your sentence so the main idea comes first.’ That is not unethical. It simply makes the essay more logical to a western audience.”

If by editing, one means making very targeted suggestions to a text or suggesting different ways to tell a story, I think that is ethical. The problem is when editing becomes rewriting.

Editing becomes rewriting when the editor is no longer making suggestions about how the writer should rewrite the text, but is actually doing the writing. It is at this point that the ethical line has been crossed and we are beginning to enter the world of the ghostwriter.


Ethical editing is a part of admissions consulting. It can also be a standalone service. Some applicants might find that they don’t need an admissions consultant, but just an editor.

If you can answer “yes” to the following questions, you don’t need an admissions consultant, but an editor:
(1) I am confident about my overall admissions strategy.
(2) I don’t need assistance with brainstorming my essays.
(3) I don’t need assistance preparing for interviews. (If you are applying for an MBA, you better have someone to practice with.)
(4) I don’t need someone to review my recommendations in any great depth.
(5) I don’t have any substantive questions about the application process.
(6) I am certain that the stories in my essays present me as effectively as possible.
(7) I just need someone to proofread my essays and give me their overall impression of my content. I can handle any substantive changes myself.
(8) I am not interested in going through an examination of my goals and life experiences in order to determine whether the stories I intend to tell in my essay(s) and/or interview are the most effective stories for me to tell.
(9) I have sufficient advice already to succeed at the admissions game.

If you answered “No” to one or more of the above questions, I think you should consider using an admissions consultant if you can afford to so.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.
-Adam Markus
アダム マーカス
MBA留学, LLM留学, 大学院留学

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