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MBA Applicants are Still Cheating on Essays

(c)keith morris morris
Rows of empty desks ready for Welsh GCSE school pupils to sit their exams in a school hall.Photograph by Keith Morris—Photofusion/Getty Images

In the past few years, business schools have become increasingly attuned to plagiarism in application essays, and many now run applications through plagiarism-detection software. But according to MBA managing director Carrie Marcinkevage at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, the number of plagiarizing applicants hasn’t budged.

Since 2010, when Smeal College began using iParadigms to screen applications for cheating, they’ve seen plagiarizers make up about 8 percent of applicants each year, according to Marcinkevage. “The audience, those who are seeking admission to an MBA program, changes every year,” she said. “You can never ask the question, ‘When will they learn?’ You start dealing with things as the standard state of affairs.”

While stronger plagiarism protections might not be deterring cheaters from applying, Marcinkevage says that they’re having an unintended effect—protecting classrooms from those who routinely cheat. She says that Smeal College has seen fewer plagiarism incidents in the classroom since introducing screening in the admissions process. “If you stop it at the door, there is less plagiarism in the classroom, and hopefully, less plagiarism in the workplace.”

Those who plagiarize admissions essays tend to be international applicants from East Asia, where educational norms surrounding cheating differ from those in the United States.

About 40 business schools, including Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and The University of California at Los Angeles’s Anderson School of Management, now implement anti-cheating software to catch plagiarizers before even reading their applications, according to The Economist.