MBA Admissions Directors Tackle Plagiarism

Posted by: Alison Damast on June 15, 2011

Business schools are making it a priority to combat plagiarism in admissions essays, following an incident last year when a Penn State admissions officer discovered dozens of MBA applicants who copied verbatim from an online essay. Next Wednesday, admissions officers will be gathering in Boston to speak about plagiarism and integrity in application essays at the Graduate Management Admission Council’s annual conference. Carrie Marcinkevage from Penn State’s Smeal College of Business (Smeal Full-Time MBA Profile), will be moderating the session, along with other admissions officers.

Since the Penn State incident last year, Marcinkevage has become a spokeswoman of sorts for admissions plagiarism, urging her fellow admissions officers to take more decisive action in this area. In February, she started an online discussion group called Integrity in MBA Admissions. Since then more than 100 business school admissions officers have joined the group.

She’s also taken action by using a software application designed by iParadigms called Turnitin for Admissions that scans essays, personal statements and scholarship essays for signs of plagiarism. The software is expected to have wide appeal for admissions officers because it is integrated into the ApplyYourself Application system, which more than half of top U.S. business schools use to process applications, according to a press release from iParadigms.

So far, only two business schools have publicly announced that they are using the software: Smeal and Northeastern University's Graduate School of Business Administration (Northeastern Full-Time MBA Profile). To garner more interest, Turnitin for Admissions will be hosting a meeting about the tool for admissions officers on June 23rd, following the GMAC conference that day. A spokesman for Turnitin said the company expects to announce in the next month or two how many business schools plan to use the software.

When we wrote the story in February, Bloomberg Businessweek ran a Debate Room feature on whether business schools should depend on technology to help them combat plagiarized essays. Readers, I'd be curious to hear your opinion on this issue. Do you think a service like Turnitin for Admissions will be an effective tool in this area or do business schools need to do more?

Reader Comments


June 15, 2011 5:28 PM

Schools should definitely use the software to catch the unethical applicants. However, are the schools motivated to use it? I dobut it.

I believe that the schools are focused on obtaining as many applications as possible so they can show a low admissions rate in the Business Week survey. If a school announces it checks for plagiarism, there will be some level of reduction in applications. Besides, do potential employers check if the applications were plagiarized? Of course not!


June 15, 2011 6:43 PM

I seems to me that if a plagiarized answer is a good answer to an essay, then the question asked wasn't very good. I was under the mistaken impression that the purpose of essay questions was to help differentiate one candidate from another. If the same answer is equally good for multiple candidates, why ask the question?

To me this looks like a case of admissions offices getting lazy and applicants taking advantage of the schools' laziness with some laziness of their own.

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