As college admissions consultants, one of our main tasks here at college is helping students write the best personal essays they can. As we’ve noted before, the personal statement has the potential to seriously help a university understand why they should accept you. At the same time, knowing how powerful a personal essay is can make the prospect of writing one seem difficult and intimidating.
The stress of writing a personal statement that some students face can make some feel tempted to cheat the system out of fear that they may not be successful or otherwise accepted into an otherwise satisfactory university. Some recruit someone or multiple people to write their essay, or even try to submit essays or parts of essays they find online as their own work. This is considered plagiarism and we do not tolerate it in any way.
As we know how stressful the college application process can be, we would like to take the time here to remind you that plagiarism is never the answer. Although competitive and complicated, the college admissions process is not an impossible game to win. There are practically no benefits to being dishonest; Meanwhile, cheating leaves you vulnerable to endless problems and negative repercussions. What many students do not realize, and what we would like to highlight here, is that plagiarism is very easy to spot. Chances are, if you don’t write your own application essay, you will get caught, and this is why.
What is considered plagiarism?
First, let’s clarify what a college admissions committee would consider plagiarism to avoid unknown crimes. Plagiarism is defined as the act of claiming someone else’s work as your own. The most obvious form of plagiarism in the college application process is to hire a freelance writer or company who will write your essay for you. As scary as it may sound, these companies and individuals exist and operate. However, if you are caught using their services, it is you, not them, who will suffer the negative repercussions.
Another form of plagiarism consists of copying and pasting complete sentences or paragraphs that were not the author in the common application. Even if you generated some of your essay content, a stolen sentence or paragraph is enough to be incriminating.
Additionally, a major over-editing by a parent, counselor, or guardian turns into plagiarism when you’re no longer writing the essay, but instead directing your family and teachers to do so. What’s more, there really isn’t a “fine line” between getting help and plagiarism; If you are cheating, you will know. It’s certainly okay and students are even encouraged to seek advice and feedback from teachers, parents, and guardians. But when you start allowing your helpers to sit at the computer and write for you, a red flag should go up in your mind. When an editing session reaches that level of engagement, it has generally gone too far.
Why is plagiarism bad? An ethical approach
Before we launch into a discussion about the very real repercussions that plagiarism can come from, we think it is important to discuss the ethical argument against plagiarism. As we indicated above, we do not tolerate it, because in the long run it hurts you and your accomplices. Obviously, it is unethical to put your name in someone else’s words and take credit for your work; this is unfair to the original writer.
That said, it is also grossly unfair to you. By cheating, you admit to believing that you need someone else to help you get into the right school when, in fact, the opposite is true. The only person who can get you to the best school for you is, you guessed it, you. If you end up entering a university for a job that is not yours, it will surely come back to bother you later. Ultimately, you must want to end up in an institution where you are accepted on your own merits; These are the institutions that can best serve you, your work ethic, and your specific set of strengths and weaknesses, and you need to apply honestly.
What’s more, you put yourself at a disadvantage by hiring someone else to write your personal statement, as the ultimate goal of the essay is to share intimate information about your personality, something you can do better than anyone else. Often times when students allow parents or guardians to review their personal statement with a heavy hand, the idiosyncrasies of the student are erased.
Why not plagiarize? The practical approach
We will start by saying that it is usually quite transparent when a student has not written their personal statement. If the voice in your personal essay sounds inconsistent with other sections of your application, an adcom might notice and investigate further. College admissions applications provide you with many opportunities to express your views, in personal statement, through supplemental essays, or in an interview, and college admissions committees are particularly attuned to your voice throughout the process. ; This is because, ultimately, the advertisements are trying to arrive at an admission decision based on your personality and mindset. If you present a certain way in your interview and common application, but sound different in your personal statement, you will raise a red flag.
Your English scores and TOEFL test scores can serve as another benchmark for advertisements as they read your personal statement. If your scores are average, but your essay is very well written, the banner ads can question the credibility of your essay.
Additionally, adcoms are aware that plagiarizing a personal statement can be tempting. They also know that there are many consulting firms and outside parties who are willing to write commissioned essays. Because of this, any suspicions about the credibility of your personal essay will trigger further investigation and may disqualify you from admission if confirmed.
Practically speaking, there are a number of ways colleges can find out that you haven’t written your own essay. Because application materials are submitted online, it is easy to perform plagiarism checks in essays through third parties. Harvard is just one of many universities that uses this software capability to eliminate plagiarism.
Finally, the stakes are high, and colleges don’t entertain cheaters. If a university discovers that your essay was plagiarized, you can expect immediate rejection or have your admission voided if a university finds out after the fact.