Writing the college admission essay scares people.

It it okay to get help on a college essay? You bet! To not brainstorm essay topics with someone well versed in the field of selective college admissions, to not have someone review and critique those very essays can put an applicant at a disadvantage. Novelists don’t publish books without their editor, their editor’s assistant, and a team of readers first offering creative insight and proofing. In television, with a few notable exceptions like Marc Cherry’s “Desperate Housewives,” pilot scripts are rarely bought as completed products. Rather, they are purchased as ideas and, together with creative notes from studio and network executives, that pitch is shaped into a story arena, an outline, and, alas, a script that can be produced as a pilot episode.

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Question: What are the consequences of plagiarizing a college admissions essay and getting caught?

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Some students are fearful that this technology has a tendency to pick up strings of words that may not have in fact been plagiarized. But as long as admissions officers then review the batch of applications suspected of plagiarism, there should be no reason to fear if you are not guilty of lifting words, sentences, paragraphs, or entire essays!

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Plagiarism is hard to spot, but admissions officials usually can recognize it as something that doesn't ring true with the rest of the application, or as something they've read before, says Ms. Lewis, of Harvard. She and her peers say that they encounter a handful of plagiarized essays each year and deal with each case individually. The expectation, though, is that applicants will do their own work. "We do operate on trust," she says.

How Will Admission Officials Respond to Essay Plagiarism ...

Plagiarize college admission essay

"The name of the game in the admissions process is fairness," says Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Online-editing companies, he says, further widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots. "They allow less-accomplished but well-off students to improve their applications," Mr. Nassirian says.

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Many customers want to hedge their bets on getting into the most prestigious and selective colleges by going with companies that claim to have close links with Harvard, Stanford, and similar institutions. For example, on many of its Web pages EssayEdge says, "Put Harvard-Educated Editors to Work for You!"

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College Admissions Essay Plagiarism

Admissions professionals are also concerned that the companies warp applicants' expectations of what they must do to get into and pay for college. Robin G. Mamlet, director of admissions and financial aid at Stanford University, says: "I am concerned about the message that students must surely absorb: that who they are is not enough, that they must be packaged and presented in order to pass muster. Nothing could be further from the case."

What are the consequences of plagiarizing a college admissions essay and getting caught?

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Whether or not the essay is the linchpin, the companies argue that they deliver what they promise. Customer testimonials litter their Web sites. EssayEdge states that 94 percent of its customers are admitted to at least one of their favorite colleges and 66 percent get admitted to their first choice.

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Can you plagiarize college essays

It's not even clear whether such packaging and presentation of admissions essays really works. Students consistently overestimate the importance of the admissions essay, says Sarah Meyers McGinty, a university supervisor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who has studied the undergraduate application process. The courses a student takes in high school, the grades received, and scores on standardized tests are more important criteria at all but a few colleges, she says.