Sample Essay on an Ethical Dilemma

It's much harder to explain what sets apart a great essay from a mediocre one than it is to simply read a successful sample essay. Here's an essay that really does speak for itself, immediately bringing us along to experience the ethical dilemma that this student faced. Not only does she draw us into her struggle, but she comes out having made the best decision for herself and her school. While the topic can seem risky, it clearly conveys her strength of character and ability to realize how the decisions she makes can impact various lives. And which college wouldn't want those qualities on its campus?

I sat in my principal’s office along with two friends, wondering if I was making a serious mistake. My principal stared at us from across his desk and adjusted his glasses.

“Why are you all here?”

I hesitantly said, “We want to talk to you about plagiarism.”

One of our classmates, an extremely bright student capable of achieving excellent grades without cheating, had lifted a full lab report from the internet for our chemistry assignment. She was a friend of mine and we were often lab partners who enjoyed discussing the orbital distribution of electrons and the effects of a water molecule’s polarity. A week earlier I had sat at my desk reading her lab report, growing evermore frustrated and angry. The level of analysis in the report transcended anything she could have come up with on her own. No sophomore I knew could write as she had, and it did not appear to be written in her style. My classmates and I had spent hours upon hours working on the same report that we soon discovered she had simply copied and pasted from different websites.

I am a naturally empathetic person and pride myself on my loyalty to friends. I have made some great sacrifices on behalf of those close to me and initially wanted to keep this particular issue between me and my friend. When I approached her about this, she refused to listen to me. I suggested she simply re-do the report on her own and turn in a new draft, but she dismissed me. When I asked her again later to reconsider resolving this on her own, she accused me of ridiculous claims.

All the people I had asked for advice—my parents, my friends, even a teacher—had given me different suggestions. I’m not a confrontational person and try not to judge others, especially since I have made foolish mistakes in the past and have also at times stood on the sidelines in the face of injustice, waiting for someone else to step forward. But this plagiarism was so blatant, so in our faces, and our principal had just recently spoken to us about our honor code, which we felt would be relegated to a bankrupt phrase unless we, well, honored it here. Ultimately, my classmates and I agreed that school and the pressures to perform would turn into a charade if we ignored this.

As we sat in his office, we had to take our principal’s earlier discussion about moral dilemmas and apply it to an actual situation. If there is one thing in life I value most it is honesty. Each person has the responsibility to approach the many challenges he or she encounters with integrity—and just as important, each person has choice. My friend who had plagiarized was cheating her classmates, herself, and our school. And she was unwilling to listen to any of us, knowing that her grade would affect ours. So we made the difficult decision.

When our discussion with the principal came to an end, he said, “You were right to come to me.” Our classmate who had plagiarizedwas reprimanded and ultimately apologized to all of us.

“I’m sorry to have put you through that,” she later told me.

“I’m sorry, too.” Because even though I know we did the right thing, it didn’t always feel that way.

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