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The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  164 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Last fall, a writer using the pseudonym Ed Dante wrote an explosive article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, confessing to writing term papers for a living. Technically, they are "study guides," and the companies that sell them-there are quite a few-are completely legal and easily found with Google. For about $10-20 a page, Dante's former employers will give you a cus ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA (first published September 4th 2012)
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Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
[This review can also be found on Bookwanderer!]

My feelings about this book, as presented to you by the venerable Kevin McCallister: "Buzz, your girlfriend...woof!"

Okay, okay, that was snippy, but this book brings out the worst in me.

Dave Tomar is a producer of "study guides," papers written to the exact specifications of the students who pay him. Those students then hand in Tomar's papers as their own work. Tomar, who found attending Rutgers to be a tumultuous experience (and ultimately, a was
Dani Shuping
Aug 01, 2012 rated it liked it
ARC provided by NetGalley

Almost two years ago “Ed Dante” wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education on his experiences writing for a paper mill. His article created a wave of conversation across academia as we read his story of how he wrote assignments not only for undergraduates, but Master’s and PhD level students in all fields as well. And just how little and poorly prepared many of these students were. And now Ed is back, under his real name of Dave Tomar, he shares his story of
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who cares about higher learning
Dave Tomar writes a memoir of the years he lived and supported (barely) himself writing research papers and essays for an online company that students at all levels paid a lot of money for. You want to hate a person who helps others cheat their ways through academia but Tomar makes that impossible. Of course, many of his clients are incredibly lazy, have too little command of English to be in an American university, or are just plain illiterate (most, it seems). But he also "cheats" for the over ...more
Rich Miller
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Right off the bat, the subject of cheating is so scandalous. It just pulls you right in. Just google college cheating and every major news network is covering th subject, But it's really Mr. Tomar's writing style and sense of humor that keep you turning the pages, and turning them quickly. The subject of this book is fascinating, the pace is furious and the laughter frequent. The chapter on for profit colleges blew my mind. These companies are EVIL. I also found the author's personal stories ver ...more
Kitty Jay
Back when Mr. Tomar was still writing under the pseudonym "Ed Dante", I read the article he wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education and nodded knowingly throughout. Students who could barely articulate a thought, yet still passing their classes? Check. Students wantonly spending their money and somehow earning a degree? Check.

I remember most vividly the comments, ranging from disbelief and claims that Tomar (Dante, then) was outrageously exaggerating the poor quality of writing exhibited by
Jeff Koloze
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tomar’s autobiography of his years as a paper writer for students who would rather pay someone else to do their work than do it themselves reads like a work of fiction—a compliment, since the book’s language is American enough (scatological and devoid of functioning religious faith) to enable one to read it in a day. Bush- and Cheney-bashing comments aside (pages 15, 23, and 40; but he’s still young, so don’t worry), Tomar’s critique of American education is profound. Some phrases are pithy and ...more
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it
If I hadn't spent nearly twenty years around big universities, I would have thought that this book was fictional. As it is, it is still hard to believe that there is such a large industry in writing papers for other people. The author clearly still has a major axe to grind with Rutgers, but his version of his story sounds like it has a nugget of truth. My time at universities in this country has made it clear to me that far too many decisions are being made due to the influence of money as oppos ...more
Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fantastically written and disturbing look into just how badly our schools are failing our students. I'd very highly recommend this book to anyone who went to college, is thinking of going to college, or to anyone just wondering why schools seem to be so bad and why it is so many people who are clearly struggling are being pushed through their systems.
Mary Whisner
Like me, Dave Tomar grew up in the suburbs (South Jersey for him, Seattle for me) and went to a large state university (Rutgers for Tomar, University of Washington for me). Unlike me, he was alienated and bitter throughout. When he had the opportunity to solve a money problem (parking fines) by writing a paper for another student, he jumped at it. Soon he was in high demand, eventually working for an online term paper mill and churning out everything from college application essays to graduate s ...more
Eric Sembrat
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was ok

With a small break in my graduate school and work schedule, I managed to give a solid read-through of The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat. This book was written in a response to the author, David Tomar, and his incredibly popular and decisive article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post, one of interests is on technological ethical decision making, especially those of the generation
May 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-finished
Couldn't finish. Stopped at chapter 9.

The book turned into the ranting of a guy who hates his work and complains about the system that gives him a career he enjoys. After the first few chapters I realized it's just the journal of a whiny college grad who couldn't get his act together.
Dec 10, 2013 rated it liked it
A refreshing read for both the educators and the educated, The Shadow Scholar follows Dave Tomar’s life story of a disappointing and frustrating journey through the flawed American education system and how, ironically, he now makes his living off of it. However, what seemed like a potentially enlightening lesson on the ethical debate on cheating quickly turned into a self-righteous rant about the absurdity of his own schooling experience. Much of the book invested around Dave Tomar’s personal li ...more
Christina Vasilevski
Review originally published on

Something interesting happened when I publicized my decision to become a freelance writer: more than one person told me that I should consider writing papers for university and college students.

I, being the kind of university student, who, you know, actually wrote all my papers myself, was shocked at this suggestion, and dismissed it out of hand. Now I have Dave Tomar to thank for showing me what a world of frustration, indignation, and
Jan 02, 2013 rated it liked it
I stumbled across this book at the library and decided to give it a try. While I agree with other reviewers that his in depth biography was not a necessary part of the book, it did not irritate me to the extent of other readers. Call me naive, but it would never occur to me to outsource my college papers, undergrad or otherwise so I found this topic very interesting. I was also amazed at the sheer breadth of topics this guy could crank out. Impressive! Interestingly enough I was not outraged by ...more
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a really good book. Its always refreshing to have someone else write a book similar to your own experience in college, minus the drinking and pot smoking. It validated my experience in college. My opinion is same as the author in these points-colleges are producing more graduates and not enough job opportunities. If you are a nurse this is more understandable; you must get your BS or masters to work in a hospital even though you already have all the job know how already. There is anothe ...more
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: high school & college students . . . and teachers
If some one offered me $50 to write their essay, college entrance essay, etc. while I was in high school. I would probably do it. If some one offered me $250 - $500 or well over $1,000 to write their paper while I was in college, would I do it? Absolutely yes but I would be very picky about the assigments I chose. (Note, I am not a writer.)

Would I turn that hustle into a full-time enterprise? No.
If I was saavy enough to create a company that hired Dave Tomar and others, yes.

With that admission o
Nov 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat, is Dave Tomar's memoir about his years spent writing papers for college kids at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels. The book fluctuates between a personal memoir and an indictment of contemporary higher education.

This book is highly disturbing and oddly uplifting at the same time. Tomar speaks for the brilliant, cynical, and disaffected of his generation. He candidly shares his own frustrations and highlights the m
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
The one thing that caught my attention about this book was the title. "How I Made A Living Helping College Kids Cheat." Granted that was some part of the title, nevertheless that is what made me decide to read this book. Interestingly enough I never heard of Dave Tomar and find it difficult to comprehend if what he did was such a scam, then why am I just not hearing this? Usually I will at least her about him in college but I never did. Either I have been living under a rock or I just never had ...more
Nov 20, 2015 rated it liked it
I thought I'd hate read this book - cheating REALLY frustrates me in school. To some extent this book gave me what I wanted. It showed me how easy it was to cheat, how little checks there were against it and just how many students took advantage of the "study guides" that Tomar and many many others published. What the book also gave me, that was unexpected, was Tomar placing his activities inside a critique of higher education at large. Perhaps Rutgers just sucked, but Tomar had some frustration ...more
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
I initially glanced over this, but the tagline forced a second look. The inside flap sounded interesting so I checked it out from the library, hoping for a good, in-depth look at the failings of the university education system.

THE SHADOW SCHOLAR dances around the subject and gives Dave Tomar a chance to recount some of his bitter dealings with university life, but most of the book is spent detailing Tomar's past, which really isn't as interesting as it sounds. I can sit through one or maybe two
Aspen Junge
Unlike most local-organic-sustainable farming books I've read, this one goes beyond, "It's good for the soil! It's good for the people! It's good for communities!" although there is a certain amount of that. She gets into the interconnected economic system that we need to rebuild in order to make small, sustainable farms prosperous. Farmers need markets, food buyers need a reliable product, there needs to be a middleman who can match these needs who is optimized for non-industrial farms. We need ...more
Susan Ariew
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Dave Tomar writes an amazing story about his life making a living writing essays and research papers for lazy or desperate college students. He works for Internet paper mills. His account is an indictment against a system of higher education that promises a great deal and leaves a lot of young people like Dave behind, kids who can't find decent paying jobs and who are hopelessly in debt. The book also includes a scathing description of the callous bureaucracy he experienced in college at Rutger' ...more
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating book about the exploitation of weaknesses in the education system, with an interesting angle showing how Big Education resembles Big Business in the profit motive. Seems that many people in this world can barely put a sentence together and are willing to pay someone else to think for them.

At turns funny, pathetic, and a bit terrifying, Dave's story is one that should be read by educators just so they can see what they might possibly be up against.

My favorite part: "Don't tell us no
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book will give you two things: moments of spasmic laughter and a devastating critique of the American system of higher education. The critique is one-sided, focused only the negative aspects of the system, assessed entirely through a generalization of the author's personal experience, but nonetheless real. One should keep this critique in mind when thinking about for-profit HE institutions and system reforms. I wonder, however, to what extent is the personal history retouched. Also, the end ...more
Jun 09, 2014 rated it liked it
While I whole-heartedly agree with Tomar's assessment of the failures of the academic industry, and I have no problems with how he made a living, I still found some of the chapters a bit too whiny and obnoxious. The last two chapters in which he tries to veer into creative non-fiction were very odd and made me think he might want to keep his options open as far as shadow scholarship is concerned. By far the best laugh is on the kids who bought his papers, as he seems to have been a bit of a medi ...more
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Yup. I knew fellow college students who did this to support themselves (pay for college, etc...), even some adults (to supplement incomes...) Not a bad way to make a living. I can't pass judgement on anyone who does it as college doesn't really have much meaning anymore, but YOU NEED A COLLEGE DEGREE TO GET A JOB and it's a big rip off. Dave Tomar makes some very good points and he is considerably younger than me (folks my age saw this coming ages ago.). Go for it, Dave! Good for you for pointin ...more
Nov 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Oh, my. The author of this book made a living writing papers (also called "study guides") for high school, college, master, and even PhD students. Very scary as I had no idea this was going on to this extent. He was, at times, even hired by parents who wanted their child to get a good grade/get into a top-notch college. The writing was good, if at times repetitive. It sounds like the author had a terrible experience at Rutgers so often sounds overly bitter and critical of colleges and universiti ...more
Roger Smitter
Sep 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Tomar justifies his work by indicting the education system. This leads to several tragic comedy anecdotes about students who expect hi quality written papers while providing little direction and expecting the papers in 48 hours. While the story moves along well, there's little analysis about his culpability in weakening the value of a degree. Strangely enought, he grows tired on the 18 hour days and uncertain pay schedule when he hits 30.
Moira Russell
The original article -

Article by Nick Mamatas, "The Term Paper Artist" - ("It's like an old dance routine buried in one's muscle memory. You hear the tune — say, "Unlike the ancient Greek tragic playwrights, Shakespeare likes to insert humor in his tragedies" — and your body does the rest automatically.")
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it
The book was very eye-opening and I think every parent, teacher, professor, and principal should read this. I was very disappointed with the ending. What is Tomar doing now, besides the fact that he has published this book? Is he still working for a "paper mill" or is he now an established writer in his own rite?
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