In the novel The Scholars, there is constant reference to both scholars and psuedoscholars buying books showing examples of the eight legged essay to help pass their exams.
Of course America in the 21st century isn't that different from the Ming Dynasty. Proof of this: at the library today, I found a book published by the Peterson's group, giving advice on how to write a college admission essay and giving 50 real life examples of essays that helped students get into the school of their choice.
I still have a sick fascination and attraction (mixed with disgust and contempt) for people who care about "good colleges", and for people who are succesful at getting into said colleges, so I picked up the book.
As much as I would like to say that I laughed and mocked the essays for being transparent, facile, obvious and cliched, I have to say I was actually impressed. Writing something in one page that explains who you are, and manages to convince someone of your worth, is certainly not easy, but this book demonstrates quite a few people who actually did so. Of course,of the 50 essays, many were cliched, and hardly any of them had anything surprisingly original or thought-provoking to say.
This then, is what colleges are looking for, and what students will spend a lot of time trying to perfect. What would be on e2 good homenodes or perhaps C! worthy daylogs. Perhaps going back to writing rigidly formatted essays on the words of Mencius is not entirely a bad idea.