For many people, writing essays is the most feared part of the admissions process. It can serve as a huge barrier to entry to those less skilled at writing, or as an unnecessary time-consuming hurdle for those without the time or energy to write them. Other applicants thrive on the essay section. For those applicants, essays are the perfect chance to express who you are at the core, to talk more deeply about your accomplishments and reflections, and to convey your hopes and dreams to the admissions team.
Schools tend to agree with the latter perspective, especially MBA programs. But because writing a good set of essays for multiple schools often feels like a herculean task, applicants have tended to recycle essay material across multiple applications in hopes to create some economies of scale. Sources indicate that some applicants even take it further by using online materials and old applicant essays to supplement their own. It looks like schools may finally have the chance to confront this challenge.
Just today, I stumbled across a quick article that suggests MBA Admissions teams will soon have the opportunity to tighten up the essay writing process. It suggests that the day is near where applicants will no longer be able to submit the same essays to Kellogg, Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, and Stanford, and in fact, maybe not even submit “similar” essays. Further—and more importantly in my opinion—applicants will also not be able to steal ideas or rip-off information from online sources, as this new “Big Brother” tool will also compare an applicant’s essays to online sources and past application essays.
I see merit to both sides of the debate. In some sense, this service is going pretty far out of the way just to ensure that students can’t take a line or two from online sources that are usually highly irrelevant to your personal story and pretty scarce anyways. But on the other hand, today’s business school applicants are usually pretty resourceful, and with enough Googling or Binging, most of them can navigate the web’s darkest cracks and corners to uncover the hidden treasure they might be looking for. And so this service may be a good incentive not to do that.
In the end, I think that most schools aren’t out to punish applicants per se. Instead, I think they really just want to hear the applicant’s voice – the way they talk about values, reflect on past leadership experiences, and inspire others with their dreams and their compelling stories. After all, conventional wisdom says that good leaders are also good storytellers. Stanford Business School takes a similar approach to essays. Admissions Director Derrick Bolton has long-advised that applicants strive to write authentic essays and not perfect ones. On the website he says “Truly, the most impressive essays are those that do not begin with the goal of impressing us. This is the time to think carefully about your values, your passions, your hopes and dreams. In your short answer responses, we learn more about the experiences that have shaped your attitudes, behaviors, and aspirations.” I personally think he has an interesting point.
Title: Crackdown on Plagarims in Admissions Essays
Author: Louis Lavelle