Top Business School Rejects Applicants for Essay Plagiarism: A Top Consultant’s View

By - Feb 23, 06:33 AM Comments [2]

If you have not heard about this recent story regarding UCLA Anderson School of Management's decision to reject applicants recently due to admissions essay plagiarism, you should read up! The Anderson School now checks essay content using anti-plagiarism software from Turnitin, which can check essay content with text in an extensive archive of written work. Stanford is also now doing the same reportedly. You can expect that many other business schools will follow suit.

We all know that MBA admissions is highly competitive and that outstanding essays are a key part of an effort to gain admission to the top business schools, many of which admit only 15% of all applicants. But, don't be tempted to plagiarize! Also, if you are using an admissions consultant, make sure that YOU write your essays, not the consultant. You don't want to question where the content came from.

I agree with Anderson: plagiarism is wholly unacceptable. Indeed, when I was a professor at Harvard, I had a student kicked out of graduate school for turning in a plagiarized paper to me. I have zero tolerance for such matters, and I affirm any graduate school that also has a zero tolerance policy.

Happily, it is believed that only 1-2% of applicants to business school might be plagiarizing content for their essays. But if you are found by a business school to be in that number, you will not likely have another viable shot for admission to the particular business school in question. Business schools take your ethics seriously, and one particular weakness most candidates cannot work around when applying to a top business school is a disciplinary mark on their record for cheating or plagiarizing. A business school does not want to think that in a few years they will open the Wall St. Journal to read that one of their graduates was caught for some egregious business scandal. That is damaging to their brand. They will seek instead to weed out any candidate they think has questionable ethics. So, take care as you compose your MBA admissions essays: don't plagiarize! If you use someone else's words, like a quote, use quotation marks and attribute the words to the relevant person.

Here is the link below to the article about this:,0,2954802.story

Good luck in your admissions process!

Best wishes,
Dr. Shelly Watts ("Dr. Shel")

[2] Comments to this Article

  1. Nickolas February 23, 11:16 PM

    Doesn’t the school have to ask for the approval of the applicant before posting the information of applicant’s essays online? I think it’s a property that cannot be shared with third party. I understand that those applicants have plagiarized, but there is no formal policy from a business schools’ on essay plagiarism. In my view if the applicant has demonstrated lack of intellectual ethics, this is in no way a reason for a school to violate property rights by publishing private material.

    1. Dr. Shel (Shelly Watts) March 27, 2:00 PM

      Hi Nickolas,

      If you are referring to the fact that a school has published an excerpt from an essay that was plagiarized, technically both the original words and the plagiarized words are the property of the original writer, not the applicant. The school would likely not need any permission from the applicant to share those words. As for the rights of the original writer, if the school quotes the writing (literally, adding quotation marks “ ”) and acknowledges a source other than itself, then I do not believe it has breached copyright rules. Likewise, if the school gained the permission of the original writer, then the school also did not breach copyright rules.
      The candidate who plagiarized has done more than violate intellectual ethics – there are federal laws that protect copyrights and intellectual property, thus an intentional violation is much more than an intellectual ethical issue.