Do You Have the Term Paper Blues? My First “Career”

I think everyone has the “term paper blues” at some point! I can’t take credit for the phrase in my ad though. I stole it from that mail-order term paper place that used to advertise in Rolling Stone and other music mags back in the 1980s.

I graduated from ASU in August of 1987, and after working full time during my last two years of college, I decided I deserved a short break. I had money in the bank and rent in 1987 was only $275/month for a decent one-bedroom apartment in Tempe! I had earned a degree with honors in journalism with a marketing minor, but there were really no decent jobs to be had back then. An entry level journalism job paid about $12K/year, and the only business careers available to me were commission sales type gigs that would require me to get a haircut and wear a suit and tie. Pardon my French, but fuck that shit!

College had taught me one valuable skill though, and that was how to research and write “A” papers. I actually learned this skill at Marquette High School in Milwaukee (it was identical to Brophy here in Phoenix), so just for the hell of it I decided to post the ad as an editor/tutor on the old-school kiosks at ASU in 1989 or so. I figured I could show other kids how it was done, and It’s not like I needed to earn a fortune to make a $275 rent payment!

Things were kind of hit and miss for the first year or so until I met a student named Niki. At this point I need to be very clear about one thing–I was NOT writing students’ papers for them at this point. I was strictly helping/tutoring/editing, etc. as my ad promised. That all changed when I met Niki at the Hayden Library one Saturday afternoon. Niki had a five-page English 101 paper to write, and it required sources, etc. as you would expect. It quickly became clear that Niki had never written anything like this before, so we spent about 3-4 hours in the library starting from square one on what was really a pretty standard project.

After the research was done, I handed Niki the stack of photocopies (yeah–I know I’m old–Don’t rub it in!) and told her to follow up with me in a week or two when she had her rough draft completed. She asked me what she owed me for that day and I think I told her $40 or $50. She then asked what she thought my editing phase of the project would cost, and I told her about the same, but that it really depended on how good her rough draft was. She could definitely save some money by working hard on it (I had already given her a rough outline) and leaving me less editing work to do. Without batting an eyelash, she segued right into the question that changed my life for the next 10 years and probably beyond. “You seem like you know what you’re doing. How much will it cost if you just write it for me?”

I know a lot of you won’t believe me, but I was honestly taken quite aback by the question. What I didn’t realize was that Niki (and a lot of her friends I soon found out!) were a bunch of rich East Coast kids who came to ASU for sunshine and fun, not a serious education. I ruminated for a minute as I did my mental calculations and figured out that it would probably be more work for me to edit whatever she came up with than to just do it right the first time! I think I told her an additional $75 or so for me to write it, and although I didn’t know it at the time, it was off to the races!

After a couple more of these deals with Niki (and she got A’s on all the papers of course!), I got a call from her roommate wanting me to start writing her papers. Of course I agreed, and it turned out that Niki’s roommate was the president of a sorority of rich Jewish and Italian kids from the East Coast, and (get this) her boyfriend was the president of the fraternity of the same crowd! Within 6 months I became “the term paper guru” to a slew of rich kids and was working nonstop at my desk for the next 10 years. I don’t think I put up an ad again. And by the way, I did almost none of this sober. I would usually do my research during the day and then chill out at my WORD PROCESSOR (hahaha!) smoking a bowl and swilling a few beers. Hey-most of that shit was pretty damned boring to do sober!

At the end of my unexpected career I probably wrote about 700-800 papers, earned 15 college degrees worth of “knowledge” (and I use the term loosely!) and I even wrote two master’s theses (no nothing in medicine or engineering for you judgmental worriers out there!) in marketing and music. My average was in the 93-95 range, so I had a lot of happy customers, I made good money, and I didn’t have to have a “boss” or a “day job.” My “cubicle” was my own desk in my own house, and it wasn’t very far to the refrigerator in the kitchen. Who wouldn’t be grateful for those 10 years of great luck-I was well paid to stay in college, and I actually did do exactly what college trained me to–Hahahaha!

My Talk Radio Interview About My Term Paper Biz. The interviewer is my best friend Kevin so he didn’t use my last name!

An very old photo of most of my 10-year output.
A lot of boring-ass topics in there…