ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled College is saved to My Colleges.

Get Advice & Insights

Articles / Admissions / Do You Cheat in School?

May 19, 2020

Do You Cheat in School?

This bit of news applies to both high school students and college students. It appears that the pressure to succeed does odd things to ethical behavior. I chuckled to myself when I wrote that last sentence because I thought of the Wall Street mess that nearly collapsed America's economy, not to mention the Bernie Madoffs of the world. Speaking specifically of this country's students, though, it appears that the majority are willing to cheat to get ahead. At least that's what a new survey shows.

I raised this issue and the results of this survey on the College Confidential discussion forum. Check the interesting comments there. In the meantime, ask yourself about your own behavior, regardless if you're a high school or college student. Do you currently cheat? Have you ever cheated? What do you consider to be cheating behavior? Have you ever been caught cheating? If so, how has being caught changed (as in, hopefully, improved) your behavior? Do your friends cheat? How have you/they cheated?

However you may have answered those questions, let's take a look at some of the main points regarding this new survey about cheating.

Cheating In College Is Widespread — But Why?

There's an electronic resource out there that's providing college students with inventive new ways of maintaining their GPAs without required reading, tedious essays or hours of studying. It's the Internet, and it has led to a new kind of cheating that educators are trying to combat with technology and another look at what counts as plagiarism.

Don McCabe, a professor at Rutgers University Business School, has written extensively on academic dishonesty, cheating and plagiarism. He recently conducted a survey of 14,000 undergraduates over the past four years, in which about two-thirds of students admitted to cheating on things like tests, homework and assignments ...

... McCabe says students tell him that what they learned in high school is different from what colleges ask from them, and that colleges need to do a better job of communicating their expectations. In some cases, McCabe believes the plagiarism line is blurry enough that this may be true — but often, this defense is just an excuse.

McCabe says another commonly heard justification for cheating is that it's done to level the playing field.

"They see other students cheating and getting away with it and getting ahead in this great GPA race," which makes them feel like they're being "unfairly" left behind, McCabe says.

But Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, thinks the No. 1 rationalization for cheating is a heavy workload. He tells Conan that that sort of thinking can set cheaters up for a lifetime of cutting corners.

"Unfortunately, if you adopt that kind of convenience rationalization when you're in college, it will carry over as part of your character into later life," Hanson says.

McCabe and Hanson agree that while students at all levels resort to cheating, it's those at the top and at the bottom who tend to cheat more ...


For the rest of this fascinating analysis, be sure to listen to the complete NPR story. In the meantime, I have just two questions for you: (1) Do you cheat in school? and (2) If so, why?

Comment below. We would love to hear your responses.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

A-Z College Forums

Browse the College Forums

Find Your Best Fit

Find your best fit college and track your favorite colleges.