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Plagiarism Can Have a Serious Effect on Your College Prep

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

You may have done it before. You may have even done it dozens of times. And if you haven't, you might have at least thought about it. Now, though, you're risking a lot—especially your plan to go to college—if you do it.

What are we talking about? Digital plagiarism…copying from the Internet. Whether it is helping you through high school or is part of your college prep, it can really hurt you.

If you want to get into college, recognize that time does not stand still

Plagiarism has been around a long time. Don't you remember the focus your teachers put on assembling your references and your bibliographies perfectly? It wasn't just busy work. It was about giving credit where credit was due—and giving you the credit you were due. A long time ago—maybe ten years ago—it was a lot harder to prove plagiarism, but the times, as they say, are a' changin'.

With the rapid ascent of technology, media, and electronic reference, plagiarism is resurfacing in today's schools with a modern twist. The Internet has created easy access to the right words for a great essay. Point, click, copy, paste. So easy—and who would ever know? It certainly wouldn't be those poor men and women carting home armloads of college admissions essays to read every night.

Smart software becomes part of college planning
There's some old saying about things coming back to haunt you, and one could make that case when it comes to digital plagiarism. So much has been uploaded and downloaded that there are now digital records of thousands, perhaps millions, of electronic essays, themes, and term papers available online to read—or copy. All it really took was a few smart computer techs to figure out how to keep track of them.

Check out sites like TurnItIn.com and MyDropBox.com, and you'll find companies that sell services and software that actually read documents scanned in by high school teachers, college professors, admissions officers, and others, and then match passages from them with passages in the millions of documents found online—basically ensuring that they're not copied. Pretty amazing, eh?

Using a "digital fingerprint" of a student's submitted work, this kind of software can identify potential instances of plagiarism and can even tell the professors what document they may have been pulled from—which could make proving a case of plagiarism a lot simpler. Just think how this might affect all your college prep efforts when your final high school transcript arrives at the college admissions office with a notation that your AP English theme was "borrowed" from a grad student in Iowa. You will probably be able to kiss your college plan goodbye.

The growing industry found it easy to get into college

Many schools and universities are turning to companies like those mentioned above to identify students who aren't turning in their own work. At last count, TurnItIn services over 7,000 institutions in more than 90 countries. Several high schools, school districts, and international clients use the service as well, and the list is growing.

MyDropBox draws clients from numerous education markets from over 30 countries worldwide. Their client list includes several publishing companies as well, so even aspiring authors have to be cautious of how they fill in their blanks when writer's block hits. Better to fill it in tomorrow than risk losing your royalties advance.

If you want to go to college, this is the bottom line

If deadlines and stress have you thinking about taking any shortcuts to finish your next essay—whether its for English or college admissions—this should be the clincher that puts a brake on any such thoughts. Plagiarism has always been wrong, but hard to prove. But that's just not the case anymore. All your college prep and all your college planning won't help you get into college—much less out of high school—if the plagiarism police come knocking on your door.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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