We tend to write about plagiarism every year or so on this blahg, and we wanted to take another moment just to educate y’all on what it is and why it’s a real problem if it happens with your MBA application.
Most people don’t actually try to plagiarize, though occasionally a misguided applicant will literally copy someone else’s stuff into their application.
It’s truly an issue, and the schools actually do take it very seriously.
Here’s what Duke has posted in their online application instructions :
“All essays are scanned using plagiarism detection software. Expressing your ideas by using verbiage from existing sources, including websites and other applicants’ essays or materials, or having someone else compose your essays, without properly crediting those sources constitutes an act of plagiarism. Plagiarism, an act of theft and fraud, is considered a cheating violation within the Honor Code and will result in an application denial. Note: if you have worked with a consultant to complete your application materials, please ensure that the Honor Code policy is discussed and yours essays will not be shared with other potential applicants.”
Huh. That last sentence? Wow, that was clearly added in response to a specific situation.
And it also underscores what we’ve long said: Sharing other applicants’ essays is not a good idea for an admissions consultant!
Not only does it put your current clients at risk if they innocently pull in some content from that previous clients’ work, but science now tells us that it doesn’t even help the person trying to figure out how to write their essays.
Here’s another article to help you further understand how you can use other people’s essays in your own work.
Here’s a clear description of plagiarism from MIT , which includes this definition:
“Plagiarism occurs when you use another’s words, ideas, assertions, data, or figures and do not acknowledge that you have done so.”
Now, in the project you’re undertaking of writing essays for admissions to business school, you don’t actually “acknowledge” that you have used anyone else’s work. Instead, you just don’t use anyone else’s work. There’s no reason for citing a source in any essay. You just write about YOUR ideas, YOUR experiences, YOUR stories, organic and native to you. Then you don’t hit this issue at all.
(Side note: Quotations from famous or infamous people just don’t belong in MBA essays. They just don’t.)
The other issue that comes up here though:
Writing essays is stressful! It’s very natural to be feeling anxious about this project, and feel like you don’t know what to do or how to do it! It’s incredibly common to want to see an example or get an idea of what other people have done, in order to get oriented to the task. It’s how your brain may be trying to deal with the ambiguity of the situation. It’s fine if you’ve been wanting to have this! It’s just not going to help you.
The way to move through the ambiguity is to start figuring things out, by diving into some of the suggestions or practices that are offered around here. (Like this one! Career Goals App Accelerator)
You won’t know what you’re doing at first, and that’s OK. It’s how learning anything new works.
Just keep reading*, researching, talking to people, and get started on your actual work on some essay questions as fast as you can.
You’ll be throwing away a lot of those early ideas, but that’s OK! That’s part of the process.
You can totally do this on your own! You don’t need to crib ideas from other applicants in order for your applications to be awesome.
*Reading other stuff that are not past applicants’ essays. Stuff like school websites and school applications and EssaySnark stuff. Be careful about the applicant forums, those are sometimes helpful but sometimes not so much.