Study shows students copy university sites in their applications

A study conducted by Surrey University, which examined a random sample of 60 personal statement applications for postgraduate courses at an unnamed business school, has found startling similarities between the language used on the institution’s website, as well as that on the website of the parent university, and the language used in the applicants’ personal statements.

Of the 60 applications examined, the majority are from international applicants, the largest proportion of which being Chinese students, while only three were from British applicants. The study goes on to note that international applicants tend to mimic the British Council website, the UK’s international cultural relations website, in addition to the university websites.

Applicants used phrases such as “global reputation” and “excellent teaching quality”, which were commonly found on the websites. One student’s application read that the university “enables students to develop their competencies for working in multinational and multicultural environments”, echoing the business school’s website, which featured the wording “multinational and multicultural environment”.

The researchers suggest that applicants are parroting the language on the websites in order to “curry favour” with admissions tutors and improve their chances of being awarded a place. The study concludes: “Personal statements provide an opportunity to give reasons [for admittance] but they tend to be the reasons the applicant might think the admissions tutors want to hear.” Whilst this mimicry is in many ways understandable, it could be seen to show a lack of creativity on the applicant’s behalf.

TSR has a comprehensive Personal Statement reviewing service, conducted voluntarily by current university students and graduates. One of our dedicated forum assistants said “International applicants do it a lot. UK applicants do it too when they’re writing about their A levels. It’s noticeable as the entire style of writing changes from the punctuation to the actual syntax use.”

Read the original article, Student applicants ‘copy websites’.