<< An honest grade

By Fred Scarf, 17, Birmingham HS (Van Nuys)
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I noticed that many cheaters in my classes are determined to attend selective universities. Teachers make speeches on how “cheating is wrong”, yet they don’t stop cheaters from cheating. I wanted to interview a college admission officer to find out their opinion on cheating. I spoke with Jessie Royce Hill, a Yale admission officer.

L.A. Youth: Have you ever come across an application that states that the student has cheated?
Yale occasionally receives disclosures of disciplinary actions, including those taken for cheating. We use the Common Application, which asks both the applicant and the guidance counselor whether the student has faced disciplinary action. If the answer is yes, we expect the applicant to elaborate on the incident(s). In some cases, students themselves provide specifics.

L.A. Youth: Have you ever suspected applicants of cheating in their classes? If so, how does cheating or suspicion of cheating affect the Yale admissions process?
We cannot, of course, see beyond what we find in the application. If there is an indication of cheating, we will follow up to learn more about it. How it affects our process depends on what we find, but we certainly view academic dishonesty as a serious matter.

L.A. Youth: I watched one of my classmates cheat on a quiz and right afterward he started talking about all the highly competitive colleges he wanted to attend. Do you think such a student could succeed at a highly competitive college?
A student who cheats might get by at Yale, but success is defined by considerably more than academic markers. Yale asks much of its student body and we find our students ask even more of themselves, both inside and outside the classroom. They are actively engaged in the life of their residential colleges, in research, community service, the arts, government, sports and the list goes on. I think that a student who couldn’t keep up with the pace on his or her own merits would struggle to find a place in the Yale community.

L.A. Youth: We often hear that college is hard to get into and is very competitive. Do you think that anxiety about this makes students more likely to cheat?
It may be a contributing factor. The anxiety that surrounds the college admissions process can be insidious, and it is also unnecessary. Any high-achieving student who makes a realistic application to a place such as Yale will either gain admission here or to many other excellent schools. Whichever good school you attend, much more is going to depend on how you embrace and engage the wealth of opportunities there than is going to depend on which good school it is.  We find the students that most likely succeed at and enjoy Yale are those who have approached their high school careers from the perspective of curious learners. So take challenging classes that grab your attention and let your interest – rather than the grade alone – guide you.

L.A. Youth: What do you think we can do to stop cheating?
Well it’s great that you’re asking the question. That’s a step in the right direction. Some schools adopt honor codes and elect student leaders to serve on disciplinary committees in an effort to make students accountable for their behavior. They begin to see how cheating disappoints a whole community of learners. However, different approaches may work best in different schools.

L.A. Youth: I don’t test well but do well in my classes. I’m nervous that you or other colleges will be suspicious that I’m cheating. How do I prove to you that I’m not?
Standardized test scores are just one indicator of academic ability, and not on their own a very good predictor. Class standing and test scores don’t always correspond. The bottom line is that your job is to pursue your high school education with robust energy and integrity. Get involved inside and outside of the classroom, follow your true interests and strive to be the kind of person you’d like to room with in college. The fact is there are many excellent colleges and universities out there and you’ll land a spot at one of them.