Writing the college admission essay scares people. Students worry about what to write and worry that they don’t write well enough. I have written before on understanding the college essay to take some of the fear away. But some people just don’t get it.
Inside Higher Ed recently had an article on a business that uses software to detect possible plagiarism in college essays. The company tested 450,000 admissions essays and found the 36% had “significant matching text” to conclude that the essay was suspected of being plagiarized.
The company in question has an economic reason to have this number of plagiarized essays be as large as possible to try and sell their software. However, there are enough examples of plagiarism being detected on admissions essays to know that this is a problem.
Plagiarism of an admissions essay has two major problems for the student who is thinking about going this route. First, it is obviously cheating and if you are caught, it is difficult to imagine that the admissions department of the college would not reject your application immediately.
The second problem is a little more subtle. Colleges don’t just use the essay to evaluate your writing ability. They also use the essay to get some insight into who you are. If you are using a purchased or plagiarized essay, the essay will not really reflect you. It will either reflect someone else’s personality or more likely, will be so generic as to be of little value in convincing a college admissions officer that you are a good fit for their college.
Don’t cheat on the essay. It won’t help you and in many cases will actually hurt your chances for admissions. Take the extra time to understand the admission essay and to write from the heart. That is the best way to use the essay to convince the admissions department to send you a fat envelope in the spring.