Cheating: What It Could Mean for Your College Career

college cheatingPart One of eCollegeFinder’s Three-Part Series on Cheating

College cheating is a serious crime in higher education and can have a grave effect on your academic reputation and your career after graduation. By not taking the time to learn material or create your own work, you are depriving yourself of valuable knowledge and putting yourself at risk of facing severe punishment. Enrolling in college means you’re investing your time, money, and effort toward a more successful future – don’t let all that go to waste by making the mistake of being academically dishonest!

In this article, the first in a three-part series, we’ll cover what is considered cheating, what the consequences of this offense might be, and give real-life examples of this infraction at major colleges and universities. In our next two parts we’ll cover the details of plagiarism, why students cheat, how to avoid cheating, and what to do if you’re wrongly accused.

What is Considered Cheating?

Cheating can take many forms on a college campus. The most well-known types range from copying from an answer list while taking an exam to plagiarizing someone else’s work in a term paper. However, there are also methods of cheating you may not realize are just as serious, such as letting someone else copy off of your exam or using a paper you’ve written for multiple courses.

Each institution has its own academic integrity policy or honor code that outlines what is considered cheating and what the protocol is for punishing offenders. You will most likely receive a copy of these rules during your freshman orientation, but if not, you can request this information from your student services department. Certain courses will outline their own policies in their individual syllabi as well.

Here are the most common forms of cheating in higher education:

  • Copying from another student’s homework, classwork, or exam
  • Allowing another student to copy your homework, classwork, or exam
  • Collaborating on individual assignments
  • Plagiarizing part or all of a paper
  • Turning in a paper you’ve written to multiple professors without approval
  • Obtaining, disseminating, or utilizing an answer list before or during an exam, test, or quiz
  • Turning in another student’s work or an ordered or downloaded paper as your own
  • Having another person take an exam for you
  • Using prohibited sources on a take home exam
  • Fabricating information or sources
  • Altering a graded exam and requesting it be re-graded
  • Not reporting other students who you know are cheating

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What Are the Consequences of Cheating?

Typically, once your professor has reported your infraction, your school’s Dean of Students or an honor council of your peers will review it. They’ll determine whether you’re guilty of cheating and what your punishment will be. In the third part of eCollegeFinder’s Series on Cheating, we’ll explain what to do if you are wrongfully accused of cheating.

Know that no matter the specific offense, when you get caught cheating, the relationship you have with your professor will deteriorate. By cheating, you’ll not only be gaining a failing grade, but you’ll also be losing a valuable academic connection that could lead to a recommendation for an internship, job, or scholarship later on. In addition, future employers who ask to see a detailed transcript will not take kindly to an account of cheating on your permanent record.

Depending on your history with cheating and the severity of your offense, additional consequences may vary. As we mentioned before, be sure to check your college’s honor code to see what is considered cheating and what repercussions may be.

Common penalties may be:

  • A verbal or written reprimand filed in your student record
  • A failing grade for the assignment you’ve cheated on or for the entire course – this failing grade will remain on your permanent record. It’s much easier to make up or replace an F that you’ve earned honestly than one you’ve earned by cheating.
  • Dismissal from the course
  • Academic or disciplinary probation – this means that any future missteps in academic integrity will earn you expulsion.
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion


Consequences in Action

Still don’t think cheating is serious business? While you may not always catch wind of the individual horror stories that transpire at your school, the media has picked up on some of the larger accounts of collective cheating.

Check out these examples of large-scale college cheating in the media:

  • 2012, Harvard University – 70 were forced to withdraw for cheating on a take-home final exam.
  • 2007, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business – 34 were punished in a take-home exam cheating scandal. 9 students faced expulsion, 9 received a failing grade in the class, 15 were suspended for a year and given a failing grade for the class, and 1 student received a failing grade on another assignment.
  • 2006 – 2007, Florida State University– 61 athletes involved in a major cheating scandal forfeited wins and received athletic probations along with other academic repercussions.
  • 7 other major scandals – Including Henry Ford II’s transgressions at Yale, the University of Virginia’s 2001 cheating racket, and the 24 Naval Academy expulsions of 1994.

Now that you know what cheating is and what repercussions it could have on your college career, stay tuned for the next two installments in our three part series on cheating. In part two, we’ll explain what plagiarism is and how to avoid it and in part three we’ll tell you why students cheat, how to avoid cheating, and what to do if you’re wrongly accused.