We know that this is an innocent error — a well-intentioned one, even. But it can be a real problem in your essays.
When you’re trying to write about why you want to go to the school, you need to reference specific things about that school. You know, like classes and clubs — but more than that.
You need to discuss why those classes or clubs or whatever are necessary for you to get where you want to go.
Just naming the class does not do that.
Okay great, you know that you need to discuss it, so how do you do that?
If you go back to the school’s website and use the language that they themselves have used in writing about the class or club or whatever program that they have, and incorporate that language into your essay to try to say that that’s why you need to take the class or program, then that’s a problem.
Believe it or not, that’s plagiarism — even if you reword it a little bit. That type of rewording is a form of paraphrasing, and unless you’re really rewording it, then it’s still plagiarism. Check out example #5 on this MIT academic writing resource for a great example of how that does not work.
If the way you talk about the school’s own resource sounds too much like how the school itself talks about it on their website, then that’s not good!
Remember, your reader knows all about their school already! They are the experts in what they offer. They don’t need you to tell them what they have on campus. They know.
This also gets you around the very common issue where what you say about why you want to go to that school could be said about literally any school. People often run into this with when talking about “the network.”
The other key point to keep in mind, which is more important than anything else we’re mentioning today: The essays need to be about YOU. Many times the adcoms get these laundry-list essays that go on and on about all this stuff that the school offers… and fail to share anything meaningful about the applicant.
You’re not being tested on how well you can regurgitate the website into an essay.
The adcom wants to learn about YOU.
Yeah we know, they don’t always construct their essay prompts in the best way — but sometimes the way that the essay prompt is all twisty like a pretzel, for example with the Kellogg essay asking about “growth”, is a byproduct of the adcom’s attempt to make you not just recite class names in the essay in why you want to go there. If they just asked you, “Why do you want to go to Kellogg?” you’d be all, “Uhhhhhh….. because it’s Kellogg?” And then you’d realize that that’s not sufficient, so you’d go to their website to see if you can crib an answer to the question, and then you end up with an essay that’s stuffed with the Kellogg courses and nearly nothing else.
If they force you to talk about “growth” then you still will take that route as your starting point, but then you need to ponder on the question and try to figure out how that course or this club or whatever will cause you to grow. And then you’ll have the start of an interesting answer.
We totally understand that anyone who’s cribbed portions of a school’s website into their essay is doing so in an attempt to answer the question. It’s not like you’re consciously trying to cheat by doing that, and you may not have even realized that paraphrasing can still be considered plagiarism. It’s not like you’re copying someone else’s essay, right?
But it still can get in the way.
Because what the school wants to see is evidence that you’ve done that research and then digested and distilled it and come up with something meaningful for you about why what they have is valuable or how you’ll be able to put it to use.
Easy? Nope. But when it’s done well? Boy oh boy do you have a sophisticated essay on your hands.
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