Wharton | Ms. Project Mananger
GMAT 770, GPA 3.86
NYU Stern | Mr. Washed-Up Athlete
GRE 325, GPA 3.4
MIT Sloan | Mr. NFL Team Analyst
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London Business School | Mr. Consulting To IB
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Wharton | Ms. General Motors
GRE 330, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Venture Lawyer
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Stanford GSB | Ms. Digital Health
GMAT 720, GPA 3.48
Yale | Mr. Philanthropy Chair
GMAT Awaiting Scores (expect 700-720), GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBA Class of 2023
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Foster School of Business | Mr. Construction Engineer
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Harvard | Mr. Harvard Hopeful
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Stanford GSB | Mr. LGBTQ
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Kellogg | Mr. Risky Business
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UCLA Anderson | Mr. Southern California
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GMAT 710 (aiming for 750), GPA 4.33/5
Ross | Mr. Brazilian Sales Guy
GRE 326, GPA 77/100 (USA Avg. 3.0)
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GMAT 720, GPA 3.9
Berkeley Haas | Mx. CPG Marketer
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Kellogg | Mr. White Finance
GMAT Not Taken, GPA 3.97
Stanford GSB | Ms. Russland Native
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5

Penn State Rejects 48 For Plagiarism

Penn State’s Smeal College of Business said it has rejected 48 applicants for plagiarized essays in the first two rounds of its admissions cycle, while UCLA’s Anderson School of Management reported it has turned down 15 MBA candidates from its round one applicant pool.

The plagiarists were uncovered by the schools using software that scans admission essays and runs they through a database of content to single out similarities. Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which disclosed the rejections at Penn State and UCLA yesterday (Jan. 7), also reported that another 50 “potential” cases of plagiarism have been “flagged” at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

What makes these latest disclosures so surprising is that both Smeal and Anderson had already made public the fact that they are using the Turnitin for Admissions software to detect applicants who copy part of their essays from other existing work. Indeed, both schools had publicly released the number of applicants who have been rejected for such transgressions in earlier years.


Last year, as reported by Poets&Quants, Anderson detected 12 plagiarists in its first round and 40 more in the second round. The school rejected all 52 applicants. School officials at Anderson decided to begin using the anti-plagiarism software due to the increased use of admission consultants and essay editing services for MBA candidates. “We’ve had a concern for awhile that there has been an increasing use of these so-called consultants who help applicants with their applications,” said Andrew Ainslie, senior associate dean for the full-time MBA program,  “Many of these consultants are ethical and do the right thing. But quite a few of them either write the essays themselves or pull them out of catalogs.”

At Smeal, MBA Managing Director Carrie Marcinkevage told BusinessWeek that 10% of the 481 people who applied in the first and second rounds had plagiarized essays, up from 8% for the full admissions cycle last year. “Many of the new cases are international applicants from East Asian countries, where borrowing from published sources without attribution is not considered wrong, Marcinkevage says. The increase comes despite a disclosure on the Smeal website notifying applicants that their essays will be reviewed for plagiarism,” reported BusinessWeek.

Anderson told BusinessWeek it expects the number of applicants rejected for plagiarism to hit 70 by the end of the third and final round on April 17. Most candidates lifted passages from essay websites, while others copied things  from Wikipedia and Bloomberg Businessweek. One applicant lifted half of his “goals” essay from samples available online. Last year, another plagiarized 85% of an essay, without changing the gender of the pronouns, according to the school.


Two years ago, Penn State was among the first business schools to use the software after its admissions director for the Smeal School noticed that a required essay on the connections between principled leadership and business seemed remarkably similar to one she had already read. When then admissions director Marcinkevage reportedly pulled out the other essay and put them side by side, she discovered that both applicants had used the exact same sentence, word for word

The discovery prompted her admissions staff to comb through all the pending applications for Smeal’s 2010 admissions season. The upshot: some 29 cases of plagiarism were found, including those among applicants who had already been admitted or invited for an admissions interview. In some cases, the applicants lifted entire paragraphs, including an essay written by a dean of another business school.

Last year, Anderson rejected its applicants without directly accusing them of plagiarism, prompting concern by some that applicants could be tossed out of the pool on a “false positive” result from the software. “On false positives, we verify by hand the exact sources and ensure that the material has truly been plagiarized,” said Ainsle. “Turnitin’s tools are very user-friendly and allows us to look at the source material copied as well as the applicant’s material. Sometimes, it’s merely an issue of a well-known saying, a cliche or a quotation being used in both locations, in which case we do not treat it as plagiarism. Furthermore, if only one or two sentences are the same, we give the applicant the benefit of the doubt. What concerns us is if entire paragraphs–or even worse, entire essays–have been lifted. These are the people excluded from further consideration.”


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.