It should be absolutely clear that I don’t condone ghostwriting and would never advocate anyone using it. That said, it is clearly something that enough applicants do that it is a recognized problem. As originally reported in the April 7, 2007 edition of The Wall Street Journal:
Before mailing out acceptance and rejection letters over the past week, thousands of colleges and graduate schools conducted their usual reviews of test scores, transcripts and essays. But less publicly, admissions officers focused on something else: police databases, plagiarism checks and reports by private-investigators.
There's a new age of vigilance in academia. Spooked by incidents including guidance-counselor fraud in Los Angeles, blatant plagiarism at MIT and campus crime in North Carolina, colleges and graduate schools are shoring up their admissions process. In an era when applicants seek an edge with $500-an-hour "admissions consultants" and online essay-editing services, schools are using their own new methods to vet prospective students. Much like corporations that have been burned by CEO résumé scandals, universities are tapping into the burgeoning background-check industry to verify what's written -- or not -- on applications.
The problem of ghostwriting is just one part of a larger problem of inauthentic applications.
SOME ADMISSIONS CONSULTANTS ARE GHOSTWRITERS
Not just here in Japan, where I live, but elsewhere I know of counseling services that provide ghostwritten essays. Not only those pursuing MBA, but even LLM, MPA, MPP, and other degree programs, use such services. I certainly will not name these services. Anyone who wants to find them anywhere in the world can find them easily enough.
I will not provide a lecture on why ghostwriting is unethical. If you are so morally challenged that you find it necessary to cheat to get into school, anything I write will not matter.
THE DAYS OF GHOSTWRITING ARE NUMBERED
For those seeking admission to top programs, I strongly suggest reading The Wall Street Journal article referenced above. In particular consider the following:
Turnitin.com, a Web site that high schools and colleges use to check papers for plagiarism.
The nine-year-old site, which screens more than 100,000 student papers a day, added an admissions-essay service in 2004. Over the last three years, Mr. Barrie says, the site has screened more than 27,000 admissions essays, and found 11 percent included at least one-quarter unoriginal material. Mr. Barrie says about two dozen schools now use the site to check admissions essays; none of the institutions would agree to be identified.
Clearly more and more schools will be using the technology for detecting
Now imagine how they will use content analysis software to analyze whether the person who wrote the GMAT, GRE, and/or TOEFL essay, is the same person who wrote the essay(s). While at present, admissions can probably only do this on a case by case basis, the detection tools of forensic linguistics are likely to eventually make their way into the application process.
STILL WANT TO USE A GHOSTWRITER?
You may get away with it. I would be dishonest if I said otherwise. I hope I have the chance to revisit this issue again and announce that admissions offices are now routinely eliminating ghostwritten applications using a standardized protocol.
CONCLUSION TO THIS SERIES OF FIVE POSTS
As an applicant, only you can decide what kind of advice you need and who to ask for it. This is a very important part of the process that you control. I hope this series of posts has helped you better identify who will be a part of your advising team.
Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at email@example.com.
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