The essays submitted by applicants to the MBA program at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management go through more than a reading by the school’s admissions committee. Computer software also combs through the documents, carefully checking for any signs of plagiarism.
The results of this search are stunning: 52 cases of plagiarism have thus far been discovered at Anderson during the first and second admissions rounds for the Class of 2014, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. In one case, an applicant essentially lifted two sentences from an essay that had been used by a Boston University MBA candidate in 2003 and that was featured on Bloomberg Businessweek’s Web site that same year as a sample essay. Another candidate pulled copy directly from the Anderson Web site and used it in his application, according to the Los Angeles Times.
To perform these searches, the schools are using specialized software from Turnitin, an Oakland, California–based company that began business in the 1990s, focusing primarily on detecting plagiarism in academic work at high schools and colleges. Two years ago, the company launched its service for admissions decisions, and it is now used by as many as 20 business schools, including Brandeis University International Business School and the Northeastern University College of Business Administration, according to published reports.
Turnitin has helped uncover plagiarism rates of 3% to 5% in applications submitted to the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University, for example. Technology “covers a lot more ground” than humans can, Smeal’s MBA managing director, Carrie Marcinkevage, told the Los Angeles Times.
For all MBA applicants, take this as a warning: any copying can be discovered, and when it is, it will mostly likely lead to a rejection of admission. This reinforces our assertion that every applicant must write with a unique and fresh approach—and in his or her own words—in every essay. If you focus on doing this, no one can ever question your work.