How to address plagiarism in the personal statement?

I know it is very very hard to get into medical school with this “deadly” record. In fact, I knew it four years ago when it happened to me. However, I decided to come back to pursue my dream and going to apply for school soon. I am sincerely seeking your advice how to address it in my personal statement (PS).

Four years ago, I was taking my very first formal writing course in my life in a school. I was charged with plagiarism for the first draft of that assignment, of which only the 3rd revision will be graded. I was a non-English speaker coming to U.S. from a different culture background. I made my first mistake by not making myself familiar with the plagiarism before taking this course. I made my second mistake by rushing into my assignment with coping contents from other resources, without putting it as the reference part in my draft. I thought it is a rough draft so I can put the reference later after I finalize my essay.

However, I never had a chance to do any further work on this essay. The professor submitted it to the department and charged me for the plagiarism. I explained. Although the academic committee knew the issue was because I was not familiar with the rule of plagiarism and also the language problem and I was not doing it for the purpose of getting a better grade, they made the decision based on what they saw in some other cases. Therefore I was suspended from the school for one year. Also they gave me a failing grade on this course and required me to withdraw it immediately. At the time, I felt so helpless in my life and my dream to medical school suddenly fell into pieces.

I tried to ask the school for reconsideration and went to have a meeting with the dean of the students. His attitude was very strong and he didn’t give me a chance to appeal this decision. He advised me to take ESL courses as my next step to move on. Therefore I took two years of ESL courses while working full-time. Later I came back to the same school and took the same writing course again and passed it with B plus. I am now taking another writing course.

I am drafting my personal statement now. I am not sure how much content I should put in my PS to address this issue.

I will definitely report it when I fill in the online application system. There is a section asking if I have received any institutional action in the past then giving me about 750 characters to explain. I am afraid it is not going to be enough for me to explain what happened in details, like I mentioned above. Should I mention more in my PS? If I should mention it, should I over stress it or under stress it? I feel if I talk more about what happened, it may sound like I am trying to make excuses. However, if I under stress it (for example, say that I admitted I made the mistake and learned from it. I came back to school and have successfully completed same course afterwards), it seems like I admitted that I used to have the character of dishonesty. I don’t want to let this incident define who I am or who I was. It is very against my own personality since I am never a dishonest person. I have never cheated in any stage of my education.

For what I understand, PS should be a place to address who I am and why I want to become a doctor. Spending half of the essay to explain the plagiarism does not serve the purpose. But if I don’t defend it for myself, will they assume I am a dishonest person by simply judging me from this record?

Honestly I don’t have to face it again if it is not for the purposed of applying for medical school. I have a good job and many expertise in my field. However, I just felt my life won’t be complete if I gave up my dream. I would regret for not giving it a try and just let this incident stop me to do what I really want to do. So here I am.

Any feedback is welcome and very much appreciated. Thank you in advance for your time and kind help! Best wishes to you.

“Due to a significant lapse in my English language knowledge, and understanding of plagiarism rules and regulations, I unintentionally plagiarized a document and failed to sufficiently notate where the information came from.

Given that situation, I was brought before a review board, academically dismissed, given an “F” for the course and refused readmission for a period of 1 year.

During that 1 year suspension, I took numerous ESL classes to ensure my understanding of English was extraordinarily solid and re-enrolled in that same institution, retook that same course and received a B+.

The lesson learned from the entire situation is well ingrained and it will never happen again.”

Use the 750 characters for that statement or something similar and do NOT put that into your PS.

I am NOT an adcom, will probably never be an adcom but that would be my advice.

You’re owning your significant lapse in judgment, showing what you did during your year suspension, and moving on.

Hey there,

I can’t really help much here but I will give you my opinion. First and foremost, don’t give up on your dream.

  1. It is important to recognize the error

  2. No matter what the justification is, the issue is not so much about what you did, but about what you could potentially do if pressed hard enough, i.e. in a difficult situation, if you had the opportunity to take a short cut, you would do it. I am not saying it would happen, I am saying that this is how it will be perceived.

  3. Given this, I would contact some adcom of school I want to go to and ask for guidance on the matter

  4. Given the circumstances, it would not be a bad idea to seek “professional help” with consultants, some of which are on this board. It may be costly (but frankly it represents peanuts in the grand scheme of things), but if you are really serious about going to med school, they probably have better insight. I generally do not recommend asking for help from a professional, but there are situations that warrant some professional guidance.

    All in all, I wish you the best of luck

I agree with Adoc2b - don’t think you could do much better than that. As far as contacting the adcom of a school, that’s a good idea but I might start with a school I DIDN’T want to go to, so as to not potentially prejudice a place you want to go to.