What to Do If You Know Someone Is Cheating in College

Know Your Options and Obligations Before Taking Action

Students taking test in class, one student looking at another's paper
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It's inevitable that no matter where you go to college there is undoubtedly someone cheating at your school. It could be a total shock when you find out or it could be absolutely no surprise at all. But what are your options -- and obligations -- if you learn that someone is cheating in college?

Deciding what to do (or, as the case may be, what not to do) can take a lot of serious time and reflection -- or it might be a snap decision made easy by the situation's circumstances. Either way, make sure you've considered the following when faced with a friend or fellow student's cheating behavior.

Your Obligations Under Your School's Code of Conduct

You might be a pretty conservative student who has never given your school's code of conduct or student handbook a second glance. At some institutions, however, you may be required to report when you know another student is cheating in college. If that's the case, then your decision to notify a professor, academic advisor or staff member (like the Dean of Students) about the cheating takes on a different tone. Are you willing to sacrifice your own success at your school because of someone else's poor choices? Or are you under no institutional obligation to let someone know about cheating you suspect or witnessed?

Your Personal Feelings on the Subject

Some students might be completely intolerant of others cheating; some might not care one way or the other. Regardless, there's really no "right" way to feel about cheating -- it's just what feels right for you. Are you okay letting it slide? Or will it bother you on a personal level not to report it? Will it upset you more to report the cheating or not to report the cheating? How will it change your relationship with the person you suspect of cheating?

Your Comfort Level With Reporting the Situation (or Not)

Think, too, about how you would feel if you left the cheating and cheater alone. How does this compare with how you would feel if you turned your friend or classmate in? Try to walk yourself through the rest of the semester. How would you feel if you never reported the cheating and watched this student sail through the rest of the term? How would you feel if you did report the cheating and then had to deal with being interviewed by staff or faculty? How would you feel if you confronted the cheater directly? There's already some conflict between you and the cheater, even if it's unspoken at this point. The question then becomes how you feel about addressing that conflict and with the consequences of doing so (or not!).

The Impact of Reporting or Not Reporting

If you're sharing a class with the suspected cheater and everyone is graded on a curve, your own academic performance and college success will be directly affected by this student's dishonest actions. In other situations, however, you might not be affected at all. At some level, however, everyone will be affected, since a cheating student is gaining an unfair advantage over his or her fellow (and honest) students. How does the cheating have an impact on you on a personal, academic, and institutional level?

Who You Can Talk to for More Advice or to File a Complaint

If you're not sure what to do, you can always talk to someone anonymously or not reveal the name of your friend/classmate. You can find out what your options are for filing a complaint, what the process would be like, if your name would be given to the person who you suspect is cheating and any other consequences that might occur. This kind of information might actually encourage you to report cheating in college to a professor or administrator, so take advantage of the opportunity to have all your questions answered before making a decision one way or another. After all, if you're faced with the awkward situation of having someone you know engage in cheating behavior, you have the power to decide how best to resolve the situation in a way that makes you feel most comfortable.

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Your Citation
Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What to Do If You Know Someone Is Cheating in College." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-to-do-if-you-know-someone-is-cheating-793151. Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2020, August 25). What to Do If You Know Someone Is Cheating in College. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-to-do-if-you-know-someone-is-cheating-793151 Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What to Do If You Know Someone Is Cheating in College." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-to-do-if-you-know-someone-is-cheating-793151 (accessed June 10, 2023).