B-Schools Give a Big Thumbs Down to Purchasing MBA Essays

Have you seen this recent story on MBA essays for sale in Bloomberg Businessweek? Two MBA graduates, a husband-and-wife team from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and Stanford Graduate School of Business, respectively,  have a website called Wordprom.com that has b-school admissions officials steaming.

Launched in August, the website offers potential applicants a crack at buying b-school essays from more than 400 current students or recent graduates. But judging by the response in Businessweek given by representatives from Harvard Business to School, London Business School and UCLA Anderson School of Management, the general consensus is that purchasing essays–even if supposedly used for inspiration only–is unhelpful at best and unethical at worst.

In my view, what Wordprom.com is doing is a complete rip off.  Let’s face facts: MBA essays have always been available.  You can ask your friend who applied last year, you can buy a book, or you can search the web.  Therefore, paying $50 for an essay is ridiculously expensive.

They are not giving any personal consulting – they are just giving a sample of what an essay looks like – again, this is available for a lot less elsewhere, and it is nothing new.  Selling them this way gives the impression that perhaps Wordprom.com is offering something special, but they are not.

Applicants may choose to use the essays for inspiration, but anything other than that is a mistake.  I always warn clients against getting too hooked on sample essays as they can harm the creative process and also be misleading.  Applicants may be admitted in spite of an essay, not because of it. What works for one applicant in the context of a full application may not work at all for someone else.

I don’t love clients using samples but understand why they want to.  However, given the recent spate of plagiarism detected by UCLA Anderson, and the uptick in business schools using Turnitin for Admissions to suss out the copy cats, MBA applicants must be extremely judicious about how they use sample essays. For some, the temptation to crib may be too hard to resist.

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