Cheating: How to Avoid it

Part Three in eCollegeFinder’s Three-Part Series on Cheating

Each year, between 75 and 98 percent of college students report having cheated in high school, according to Educational Testing Service. Despite the fact that cheating is so prevalent, it’s important to understand that as a college student, cheating jeopardizes your future. Continuing to cheat through college paves a path for habits to continue into your professional career where consequences for dishonesty can be even more severe.

If you’ve been following our series on cheating this far, you now know what cheating is and what its consequences are, as well as what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. In this article, the final part of the series, we’ll cover the reasons students have for cheating, how you can avoid academic dishonesty, and what to do if you’re accused of cheating, wrongfully or otherwise.

Reasons Students Cheat and How to Avoid Them

According to Educational Testing Services, certain groups of students tend to cheat more than others, for varied reasons. These students include:

  • Business or Engineering majors
  • Those with a future in business
  • Fraternity and Sorority members
  • Younger students
  • Students with lower GPA’s or those at the very top

If you have been tempted to cheat in the past, or you belong to one of these groups, where the pressure to cheat may be higher, it’s imperative that you understand the reasons students cheat and how to avoid falling into those traps.

Students Cheat…

To get by – If you are in over your head, cheating may seem like the only way out. However, know that there are other options before you turn to cheating. Ask your professor for extra help or coordinate with your college’s student services department to find a tutor for subjects you’re having trouble in.

If you are trying your best, seeking help, and still struggling, it’s much better to drop a course than earn a grade dishonestly. A dropped course will look much better on your record than being branded a cheater will. In addition, cheating to get through a course will leave you ill-prepared for the next step in your career. This is especially true for pre-requisite courses; cheating will only compound your problems once you advance to the next course without understanding the basics. Not knowing material upon graduation might also affect your ability to enter the workplace and complete entry-level job functions.

To get ahead – College is competitive, from admission all the way to graduation. However, if you want to get ahead, cheating is not the answer. Trying your best and learning material will make your courses more worthwhile. It’s better to come in second, but learn the subject matter, than to cheat your way to the top. If you’re caught, you most definitely won’t be getting ahead of anyone. Additionally, in a competitive atmosphere, your fellow students may be more willing to turn you in for cheating in order to get ahead themselves.

To avoid work or because they’ve procrastinated – College is a time to hone your work ethic and prepare yourself for a serious career. Being too lazy to earn material on time is no excuse for cheating. You are spending your hard-earned dollars on your education, so put forth effort that matches that contribution! Stay as organized as possible, schedule time for studying and homework, and attend your classes to make sure you’re prepared for tests, quizzes, and papers. Budgeting your time will help you balance your academic life with your personal life.

Because they don’t understand the rules – To ensure that you aren’t unintentionally cheating, it’s important that you know how your school defines academic dishonesty. Request a copy of your college’s honor code from its department of student services. This list may also be published on the department’s website.

Of the different methods of cheating, plagiarism is especially easy to accidentally commit. For more on unintentional plagiarism, review the second part of this series covering what plagiarizing is and how to avoid it.

Because it’s easyA study conducted at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business showed that when sent an email explaining how to download the previous years’ final-exam questions from a fictitious student, 69% clicked the link to see the exam.

Every student knows that the temptation to cheat will be present. It’s up to you to resist! When you prepare for an exam, avoid studying with students you know to be dishonest. When you enter the exam, leave your notes behind and turn off your phone. Avoid cheating by avoiding the opportunity to cheat.

Because a culture of cheating exists – Break the cycle! There is no shame in saying no to a friend who’s asked to copy your work or deciding not to copy theirs. Cheating in a group increases your chances of being caught, and creates a far larger scene when you do. If you don’t believe us, check out some of the large-scale cheating scandals in the first part of this series.

The additional examples below involve students who were seduced into cheating by a culture of academic dishonesty. In many of these stories, professors and graduate assistants encouraged, and even aided students in cheating to maintain an athletic status, ending poorly for all parties involved.

ECF Blog

What to Do if You’re Accused

First, remember that “I didn’t know” will never be a valid excuse. You should know your college’s policies on cheating and plagiarism and adhere to them before an incident occurs. Distance yourself from anything that might be considered cheating and try to avoid the situation in the first place.
If you are accused, whether legitimately or not, be prepared to take the following steps to help the process go as smoothly as possible:

    1. Understand your charges.
      It’s important to know exactly what you’re being charged with in order to ascertain whether or not you are being fairly judged and punished, or if you’ve committed the crime at all. When you are indicted, your professor should be able to cite the official rules you’ve broken and how you’ve broken them.


    1. Know the procedure.
      What happens after you’ve been accused should be covered in your college’s honor code. You should always be sure to do the following, whether you are guilty or innocent of charges:

      • Talk to your professor about the offense
      • Be prepared to state your case in a hearing, letter, etc.
      • Be open and helpful throughout the investigation process


    1. If you are wrongfully accused, know the appeal process. provides some great tips for appealing academic dismissal, all of which also apply to an appeal for an accusation of cheating. These tips include:

      • Choose to appeal for yourself in person if you can vs. writing a letter or having your parents step in for you
      • Be honest and don’t pass the blame
      • Have a plan
      • Be respectful


  1. Learn from your mistakes.
    If you are put on trial and/or convicted of cheating and receive a light punishment, chances are you won’t be so lucky during round two. Repeat offenders often receive more serious punishments.


We hope that this series has taught you more about what cheating is and how to avoid it. What did you learn from this series? Which parts were most interesting? Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comment section below!