Plagiarism Continues to Plague Business School Applicants

By Chris Hassan
Posted February 10, 2013 10:00 AM

Plagiarism is a problem during the MBA admissions process.
Plagiarism is a problem during the MBA admissions process.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) program applicants are expected to write admissions essays themselves instead of relying on someone else's words and ideas. After all, the applicants are the ones who, if accepted, will be taking classes and working toward earning an MBA degree - not whoever they plagiarized from.

Unfortunately, a significant number of business school applicants still believe they can steal someone else's words, pass them off as their own and not get caught.

The Troubling Plagiarism Trend Persists

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that both The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) Smeal College of Business and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Anderson School of Management were recently forced to reject applicants due to plagiarized material. Admissions officers discovered that 48 applicants to the Smeal College of Business and 15 applicants to the Anderson School of Management did not write the entirety of their admissions essays.

Admissions officials at both business schools believe they will discover more plagiarized material in future application rounds. However, this problem is not confined to Penn State and UCLA alone, as officials at Northeastern University's D'Amore-McKim School of Business have flagged around 50 cases of potential plagiarism, which are currently under investigation.

These numbers are high, considering the fact that the institutions often warn applicants that essays will be reviewed for plagiarism during the admissions process.

"I … think they just don't pay attention," Carrie Marcinkevage, the MBA managing director at the Smeal College of Business, told Businessweek. "They don't read the fine print on our website. Applicants are so much in the mindset of selecting and getting into a school. It's just not on their radar."

Business Schools Crack Down on Plagiarism

Penn State, UCLA and Northeastern all use Turnitin for Admissions, software that flags similarities between applicants' essays and published and unpublished content. Overall, more than 100 colleges and universities are using Turnitin, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2012.

During the Anderson School of Management's first review of applicant essays in 2012, Turnitin identified 12 cases of plagiarism that went beyond borrowing a few phrases.

"The more we can nip unethical behavior in the bud, the better," Andrew Ainslie, a senior associate dean at UCLA Anderson, told the Times. "It seems to us nobody ought to be able to buy their way into a business school."

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