Cheating on your b-school admissions essay – that most probing, personal, and difficult-to-write account – may seem preposterous. But unfortunately, it happens, and when it does, it can be hard to detect. Business schools receive thousands of applications, and rarely have the staff to scrutinize essays for plagiarism.
In recent years, some b-schools have begun to employ Turnitin Admissions, a service that can check submitted essays against other material available on the Internet and elsewhere. Penn State’s Smeal College of Business uses the service, and Northeastern University’s College of Business recently announced that it will also use Turnitin to verify essays in 2011.
Like anything else, the service has its pros and cons. At one level, anything that prevents or acts as a deterrent to plagiarism is a good thing. Students who might have been tempted to cheat on their essays will likely be put off by the increased possibility of detection. However, Turnitin isn’t perfect; it can’t, for example, prevent applicants with means from hiring someone to write their essay for them.
Plus, merely employing the service sends a very clear message to applications: we don’t trust you. Is this really the type of relationship b-schools want to establish with potential students?
What do you think? Do you know anyone who has cheated on their MBA application? And do you think b-schools should value trust above all — or assume the worst and employ a service like Turnitin to weed out the cheaters?