The Internet can make it easier for students to plagiarism college applications essays. But now, the Internet also makes it easier to catch the cheaters.
Turnitin is “an anti-plagiarism database service that compares student essays to an immense archive of other writings,” according to the Los Angeles Times. In recent years, high schools and colleges have the business to check whether the assignments that its students turn in have been plagiarized from existing work, or from so-called “term-paper mills” online.
Now Turnitin is being turned against a higher-stakes form of cheating: college admissions essays. Business schools at UCLA and Boston University, and more than 100 other graduate schools around the county already run their applications through Turnitin’s database. UCLA’s Anderson School of Business found about 12 essays out of 870 applications last year that showed “significant plagiarism,” and all 12 were rejected, Anderson deans told the LA Times. The Penn State Smeal College of Business annually finds about 3 to 5 percent of its applications are plagiarized.
And there is reason for current high schoolers to beware. This year, for the first time, Turnitin will be unleashed on undergraduate applicants — at Stanford. And it might soon be adopted by the “Common Application,” an undergraduate admissions service used by more than 400 colleges.
Colleges seem to cautiously welcome the electronic plagiarism detector. And interestingly, they seem to see it as not just a tool for creating a fair playing field, but as an indicator of a candidate’s broader character.
Explaining why it is important to weed out cheaters from the applications process, the UCLA dean said, “If they are going to that, they are going to do it in every aspect of their lives.”