Cheating Is More Serious in College Than in High School

Girl taking test looking at a formula written on her hand

Andy Sacks / Getty Images

No matter what you did in high school when it comes to cheating, you should know that cheating in college is quite different. It's a really big deal, and college administrations take cheating very seriously. It's not out of the question of for whole classes to be suspended or even expelled for "collaborating" or outright cheating. Harvard's cheating scandal in 2012 resulted in about 70 students suspended after cheating in a course on politics, with about 25 more receiving disciplinary probation.

High School Cheating

In high school, there's a tendency to treat cheating less seriously, perhaps because high school students are minors. In high school, we can survive if our teachers lose confidence in us, or even if they don't like us. College is a different story. In college, you're an adult. If caught cheating, you'll pay adult consequences.

Tuition and the Honor Code

Your high school education may have been funded by taxes, but your college education is probably funded by you and your parents. Whenever you cheat, you are wasting time. If you cheat in college you are also wasting money. And not just a little bit of money. When you fail a class (and if you get caught cheating, you'll probably receive a failing grade), you are losing the money you paid for tuition. This is likely many thousands of dollars!

That's why you will be introduced to the honor code at your college as a freshman. It will outline the rules for your particular institution. Colleges have honor courts, where students must go in front of a jury of peers to face charges of cheating or plagiarism, which isn't a pleasant experience for the first year of college.

Compromised Relationships

When you're caught cheating, even once, you lose all credibility with professors. This is a big loss in college. You're going to get to know your major professors pretty well, and you're going to need them for things like recommendations for internships, scholarships, awards, jobs, and special programs. To a great extent, your success will depend on their opinion of you. You can't afford to mess that up. Don't risk this important relationship and lose all respect.

Professors are good at catching cheaters. They are smart, they put a lot of time and energy into creating assignments and tests, and they have more time and more resources for catching cheaters than high school teachers. They also have tenure and a little bit more flexibility than when it comes to checking out their suspicions and following through with allegations.

Competition, Training, and Consequences

College is competitive. Your college or university experience is training for the professional world, where faking it to get by simply won't cut it. Fellow students will take cheating more seriously in college because they realize what's at stake. They're more likely to turn you in.

Cheating is for losers, and in the real world, you can't cut corners. How would you feel if your parents were accused of breaking rules or skirting regulations on the job? What if they were fired for putting a colleague's health at risk by cutting safety corners? They'd feel the same way if you were caught cheating in college. You don't want to disappoint your parents, waste money and time, or embarrass yourself in front of teachers and fellow students.

Resources and Further Reading