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The Copy-Paste Personal Statement

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by 78222, Mar 8, 2007.

  1. 78222

    78222 Guest

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    The applicants who all had burnt pyjamas

    Alexandra Frean, Education Editor
    University admissions officers may have been amused and impressed with the bright young spark who began his medical school application with an entertaining yet thoughtful anecdote about setting fire to his pyjamas when he was a boy.

    But that was before they read 233 other applications telling exactly the same story.

    They may experienced a similar sense of déjà vu when they read all 370 applications from would-be doctors who opened their personal statements with “a fascination for how the human body works . . .” and the 175 who referred to their “elderly or infirm grandfather”.

    A creative imagination may not be the first thing universities were looking for from our future GPs, dentists or brain surgeons, but they might reasonably expect applicants to tell the truth.

    All works take ideas belonging to others
    But a survey of 50,000 applications, many for places on medical sciences courses and at Oxbridge, found that a significant minority of students had resorted to plagiarism when writing the personal statements that are designed to shed light on them as individuals.

    Five per cent of applicants, equivalent to 25,000 of this year’s 500,000 total, resorted to cutting and pasting sentences from model personal statements from the internet this year, according to the survey by Ucas, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Unfortunately, most lifted material from the same web-site, studential.com, making their transgressions as easy to spot as an elephant in an elevator.

    Studential makes it abundantly clear that students should not copy “chunks” from the model statements on its site, adding that “ripping off somebody’s work” is “just nasty” and could cost applicants their place.

    But with ten per cent of students now achieving straight As at A level, and with universities increasingly relying on personal statements to identify the best possible candidates, the application process has become highly pressurised for sixth-formers and the temptation to embellish personal statements with a little help from the internet is high.

    The fact that almost all application forms are now completed online makes temptation that much harder to resist. Tellingly, the number of plagiarised applications increases as the deadline for completing the forms grows closer, Ucas has discovered.

    Plagiarised material is most likely to appear at the beginning and end of personal statements, where students are most keen to grab attention.

    The rise of the internet has already sparked concern that teenagers are cutting and pasting material for GCSE, A-level or degree coursework, but this is the first time the extent of application plagiarism has been revealed. Ucas said it had seen a rise in fraudulent applications, where individuals from abroad attempt to use an interest in attending university as a way to get into Britain. They then disappear on arrival.

    Ucas, which uses a software programme called CopyCatch to detect material copied from the internet, said it was doubling its team of investigators of fraudulent applications from abroad and plagiarised personal statements.

    A spokesman said that five per cent was a low proportion. He added that applicants were unlikely to be denied places on the sole grounds that they had plagiarised material in their personal statement. He added, however, that students who did “borrow” material from the internet could well be caught out at interview if asked to expand on their statements.

    Steve Smith, a Ucas board member and vice-chancellor of Exeter, said that many students who committed plagiarism did not even realise that what they were doing was wrong.

    Unwise words

    “Ever since I accidentally burnt holes in my pyjamas after experimenting with a chemistry set on my 8th birthday, I have always had a passion for science”

    “From an early age I have been fascinated by the workings of life. The human body is a remarkable machine”

    “Living with my 100-year-old grandfather has allowed me to appreciate the frailties of the human body. When he had prostatitis, I went with him to hospital”

    Advice from studential.com

    “Don’t copy chunks from them or plagiarise them directly. Apart from possibly losing your place at university, it’s just nasty. If you are having problems writing yours, use the personal statement guide rather than ripping of somebody else’s work”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article1485294.ece
     
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  2. Severus

    Severus FTSM!
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    Dude, if I was going to rip someone off, I'd steal something a little more interesting than setting my pj's on fire. What kind of lame personal statements are these kids copying?
     
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  3. wisguy

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  4. Green Pirate

    Green Pirate Neurotic Neuro Enthusiast
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  5. grinchick5

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    Plagiarism alone isn't grounds for denial? WTF?
     
  6. Flopotomist

    Flopotomist I love the Chicago USPS
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    is that how you spell pajama? pYjama?
     
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  7. Trismegistus4

    Trismegistus4 Worried Wellologist
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    In the land where you spell color "colour," Chumley "Cholmondeley", Fanshaw "Featherstonehaugh," and French fries "chips," yes.
     
  8. Lorienne7

    Lorienne7 Austenophile
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    It's probably just the British spelling. My mother (who's Indian and so uses British terms sometimes) always pronounces it that way (aka pie-jama instead of puh-jama)
     
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  9. Ladyfingers

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    How can someone not know what they are doing is wrong? And why would that not be grounds for not getting in? That seems pretty lame.
     
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  10. 8744

    8744 Guest

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    I want to point out to the moderators that this endorsment was entirely unsolicited.

    As to the topic of this thread, most personal statements are crap of one form or another. Most people have a good reason for wanting to go to medical school (because there are very few bad ones) but they believe that this reason which they keep in their secret hearts would not sound right in a personal statement. Thus, they spin elaborate confabulations trying to link some insignificant childhood experience and their respect for that urine-drinking idiot Ghandi into a justification for breathing the air and taking up a precious spot in medical school.

    All it says when you plagarize is that you are stealing somebody else's crap.

    I'm not sparing myself here. My personal statement (my real one, I mean) was also utter crap and I cringe in shame every time I read it which is not often because I can only take so much. I should have burned it and erased it from my hard drive but a certain intellectual honesty and the hope that one day I will have the fortitude to post it on my blog keeps me from doing so.

    They are all lies, maybe not in fact but by exageration. As if admissions officers don't know that all the wonderful things you did were done cynically and with the single-minded goal of padding your application, that you over-state your importance in these endeavors, and that you would have partied and chased girls like everybody else in college if you weren't so obsessed with medical school.

    I have a dream that one day, a medcial school applicant will say, on an interview, that he volunteered at a camp for HIV positive kids and the interviewer will say, "That's nice, but what does that have to do with your qualifications for medical school?"
     
  11. Darksmurf

    Darksmurf I'm the boy smurf
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    If everyone exaggerates, does that mean that the honest, nuanced, and thoughful personal statements are a disadvantage to their writers?
     
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  12. eikenhein

    eikenhein Supreme Commander Anesthesiologist
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    I don't think I exaggerated anything in my personal statement.

    Maybe that why I only got 2 interviews.

    Damn it... I am just too honest.
     
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  13. OncoCaP

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    I bet that if you can write like Panda, you could present arranging the magazines in the hospital reception area as a cathartic experience that made you want to become a physician ... and get accepted to medical school.

    A big part of the successful PS process is just being able to write well and and help the reader get to know you in a positive way -- a way that reflects well on you as a future physician. I didn't lie or exaggerate in my personal statement, and it did the job for me. I did put a lot of effort into it and make sure it was one of the best essays I had ever written.

    I'm sure we could find something fascinating in virtually any applicant if it was presented by a pro. The tough part is just figuring out what to talk about, how to present it, how to arrange it, etc. A professional comedian might spend 8 hours coming up with a couple of one-liners. We assume that because they are short, it didn't take long to develop them. Similarly, writing a great PS is just plain time-consuming. Copying parts of someone else's PS is just plain lazy.
     

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