I have worked with hundreds of students applying to BS/MD programs over the years and usually have a feel how a student might do in the process. I am never surprised by what one particular program might do but in general terms I have a good feel for who is likely to get interviews and at what type of programs.
I had a very strong student this past year with a near perfect ACT score and near perfect grades. The student also wrote what I thought was a strong essay. The student applied to a number of BS/MD programs ranging from the most competitive to those that have somewhat higher acceptance rates. Because of the strength of the student I was a little surprised that very few of the highly selective colleges accepted this student and few BS/MD programs even gave an interview. Finally, however, I figured out why this student had done so poorly with the applications.
The student had plagiarized his common app personal statement.
I would never have known except that I was reading a general article in a magazine shortly after the admissions season had ended. There was a discussion of interesting essays and what should I read but my student’s essay, almost word for word. My first thought was that someone had seen my student’s essay and had copied it. Upon investigation I discovered that the essay in question had been around for at least 8 years. All of a sudden, the student’s poor results were explained.
You see, many colleges, particularly the highly selective ones, use programs to see if an essay has been plagiarized. One of the most common of these programs is known as Turnitin. Colleges will routinely scan application essays that they receive to make sure that they are original to the student. If a problem is found, it is typically an automatic rejection.
I have been familiar with such programs for years and have discussed their use with admissions officers in the past. Until now, I never really thought any of my students would resort to cheating. The fact that one did, and one that had such a bright future without cheating, makes me very sad.
There are some things in life that are wrong and we all know that cheating is one of those things. Some people get away with cheating in the college admissions process but that doesn’t make it right. And if you get caught cheating, the consequences are very real.
Is writing the common application personal statement a challenge? Yes. But, you need to accept the challenge and do your best on that and every other part of your application. To do otherwise, is not fair to anyone, but most particularly you.