Educators Question Value of Essays on College Applications; Professional Help Tainting process.(NATION)

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Byline: Ellen Sorokin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

College-bound students are increasingly seeking professional help when writing application essays to get into the school of their choice, a practice some educators say corrupts the process and can lead to plagiarism.

"Students take short cuts," said Diane Waryold, executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity in Durham, N.C. "They take those short cuts when they are out of time or when the stakes are high. And the stakes are high when it comes to getting into a good school."

The problem has become so expansive that some schools are thinking of eliminating the essay portion of the applications.

"There have been instances where college officials have seen the same essay," said Judith Hingle, director of professional development at the National Association for College Admission and Counseling.

Instead, schools may ask applicants to submit a writing sample from a school assignment, Miss Hingle said.

Even the College Board is considering adding a writing section on the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) - a move that could lead college officials to remove the essay questions from the applications, board officials said yesterday.

Duke University, for one, is making it clear to its undergraduate applicants that the school won't tolerate plagiarism or any other form of cheating on its applications. University admissions officials are now asking on the applications whether students had received any help in writing their essays. Duke is the only university to ask such a question on its applications.

"We recognize that all good writers seek feedback advice or editing before sending off an essay," the question on the application reads. "When you have completed your essay, please tell us whose advice you sought for help, the advice he/she provided, and whether you incorporated his/her suggestions. …