Everyone knows what it's like when you first go to university: enjoying our new found freedom, drinking more than a little too much and becoming a pro at sitting through lectures with the worst hangovers known to man.
Everyone also knows what it's like when you've been at university for a few years: working weekend jobs, struggling to find the hours to research an essay and staying up till the early hours of the morning armed with a crate of Red Bull to finish off our work.
As with practically anything, the internet seems to have found a solution to this problem. Over the last few years the phenomenon of "buying" essays seems to have found its way into the lives of students. Websites have sprung up online offering students the opportunity to forego the hours of research and overnight writing shifts that anyone who's attended university know all about.
Websites like these are all over the internet, one is called CustomWritings.com, an essay writing site who use the tag line "The Art of Relieving Students Pain". The website states that they write papers to make their customers pleased and they can write on a wide range of academic writing tasks. Incredibly, you can buy essays written from High School level up to Doctorate level, with a time frame of 30 days down to 8 hours.
It's the sort of thing 4 Hour Work Week author Timothy Ferris would be proud of. Outsourcing your essay, while you watch box sets, play Xbox or head out to the local while your friends are slaving away at their desk. For anyone who struggled through University on a student loan, This dream of freedom from essays seems almost too crazy to be true.
However, Beth Seaver, from xoJane, written about her experience writing essays - and explained that more people might be doing it than you think: "It's easy to assume that all students who buy papers are 20-somethings using mom and dad's money so they can spend more time being hungover...aside from the ne'er do wells, there were non-traditional students who were having a rough time balancing work, family, and a full class load. These students often expressed a lot of guilt, and I have a lot of sympathy for the pressure they were under."
While many of us might recoil in horror at the idea that people may be coming out of University with qualifications that they brought, this isn't something entirely new. There is evidence of "essay mills" pre-dating the internet, sometimes people standing outside a campus trying to drum up business. However, I'm not sure how people would have the guts to do buy an essay in person, without the anonymity of the internet.
However, the internet has allowed this kind of enterprise to flourish, when it would have struggled to find customers offline. Sure, they could tout for business in the street, but how else would they have advertised... could you imagine these adverts turning up at the student union? But today, with one search on Google, you can find hundreds of websites dedicated to essay writing - never mind Craigslist ads and homework gigs on Fiverr.
I suppose the question to be asked isn't whether students are buying essays or not, the question needs to be - why? Are a lot of rich kids being forced to go to university when they don't want to and they're buying essays because they want to go out, not do work? Are too many poor students struggling to keep up with the uni-work while holding down a weekend job?
Whatever it is, business must be booming and yet, many people don't believe it's going on. Which begs the question - how many current graduates have brought their degrees? News stories about online essay mills date back to 2007, since then 7 years worth of students have graduated (plus this years). Who knows how many of them brought 1, 2, 3 or more essays to help them through their course. It could be your collleague, it could be your boss... it could even be your son!