In addition to the commonly reviewed academic and professional qualifications that nearly all graduate admissions processes include, there is a baseline requirement: honesty. Admissions officers review lots of applications every year and develop strong sense of expectation and intuition. Sometimes a hunch about an essay or resume statement leads to further inquiry about an application.
Resumes should be accurate and honest representations of an applicant’s background and when there are inconsistencies, we look further. For example, stating one’s academic success as a merit scholar or dean’s list honoree is easily confirmed by a glance at the transcripts. Likewise, the language and tone of an essay can be a flag for admissions officers. When language seems suspect, essays can easily be checked against large databases of essay materials, such as TurnItIn. Another flag for additional scrutiny by an admissions committee is when basic information across different documents in an application does not match. Names, addresses, birthdates, etc. should all match across the various documents in an application package.
The moral is that ethical shortfalls are sometimes obvious and need to be investigated. The discrepancies described above can subject an application to additional scrutiny at the least and can prevent an applicant from earning admission to the school of their choice if the discrepancies cannot be reconciled. It is very disappointing to see a strong applicant make errors in ethical judgement and I hope it never happens again.