The Ivy Coach Daily

May 16, 2024

What Are the Consequences of College Essay Plagiarism?

Students walk across Harvard Yard under a blue sky.

Plagiarism has always been frowned upon by college admissions committees (and college honor policies!), but with the rise of AI writing softwares, the problem has taken on new proportions. It is never okay to pass off someone else’s writing as your own on college applications, but this extends to using AI to write parts or all of an essay, supplement, or portfolio. With these technologies still very new, and regulation still in its infancy, many students do not yet understand the gravity of using AI to write applications or do their assignments for them. We at Ivy Coach unequivocally denounce the practice, and we assure any skeptical applicants that risks of using AI far outweigh the supposed benefits. 

Why Students Should Not Turn to Plagiarism (Including AI) to Write Their Essays

Some students turn to plagiarism or AI for a quick and easy fix for their writing woes. While the downside of traditional plagiarism is obvious (one Google search and the plagiarized passages will be revealed), some see AI as an enticing alternative that is less detectable than wholesale copying. But using such softwares brings a whole new caliber of risks. For one thing, AI writing is repetitive, uninspired, and riddled with factual errors. The technology simply does not write with the same fluency as a talented, highly selective college-bound high schooler. Admissions committees read a lot of applications in a given cycle, and it’s highly likely that they already have ways to detect the fingerprints of various AI writing styles (which likely use AI themselves!).

All offers of admission are conditional. It’s in the not-so-fine print! Even if colleges don’t notice any plagiarism at first, they will not hesitate to rescind an offer of admission if the truth comes out. Even years after a student has enrolled, getting expelled will still be a possibility for those who plagiarized. For students who need extra help when writing their essays, they should turn to admissions experts for proofreading, editing, and feedback. These traditional methods of perfecting writing are available to all high schoolers and are encouraged by college admissions offices, leaving would-be plagiarizers with no excuse for their actions.

But none of that should even matter, because using AI is unethical. Colleges want to get to know you, not some robot who does a poor job of parroting you. Even if AI reaches new technological heights, it will never be a substitute for the personal flair that comes through the most well-written essays. At best, these AI-facilitated writing samples will be received poorly for their cookie-cutter approach, but at worst, using AI on an application would be grounds for rejection. Highly selective colleges do not need any reason to reject an applicant, but that would surely be a good one!

Ivy Coach Calls on the Common App to Implement AI Detection Software

College admissions offices and the Common App. have either declined to comment or released ambiguous messaging when it comes to the use of AI-facilitated writing, leaving many high schoolers scrambling for answers. These organizations need to take a stand and clarify their positions before more high schoolers take part in a practice that they do not even realize could put them in hot water with prospective colleges. All emerging technologies go through a process in which their use is regulated, and AI should be no exception.

It’s high time that more regulation be put into place to halt the epidemic of plagiarized and AI-facilitated writing on college applications (and in colleges themselves!). Ivy Coach calls upon The Common App. to implement plagiarism detection software, which includes AI-detection, to screen all applications for foul play and alert prospective colleges. A spot at an elite institution should never be given to a student who has taken the easy way out when there are plenty of hard working, honest high schoolers who submit their own work. 

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