2 months ago
Admissions Advice

Plagiarism on College Application

I attended Harvard Summer School over the summer but had to withdraw from a course because of cheating/Plagiarism. This will also be shown on my transcript. How bad does a transcript that shows cheating look bad on a college application? Should I not tell that I attended summer school in my college applications? or if I not tell, will colleges find out any way?

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Accepted Answer
2 months ago[edited]

If you want to minimize the collateral damage your foolishness has caused, then consider the following after talking to your HS counselor and your parents:

1.) Do not apply to Harvard, because you are already black-listed there. (And I would be cautious about applying to other Ivys as well because let's face it, everyone who runs these Ivy Summer programs knows one another).

2.) Do not include any mention that you attend Havard Summer School on any of your college applications including the Common App, Coalition App, or direct apps. That means do not put it on your education section, do not write an essay about it, do not put it in as an EC.

3.) If there is a blaring hole in your timeline, then fill it in with an EC that you actually did simultaneously.

This is a great post for all the other 9th, 10th, and 11th graders who are thinking about doing a Summer Program at an Ivy or an Elite College over next summer. Thank you for being brave enough to share your circumstances but everyone reading this should be aware of the following:

1.) Summer programs will not give you any admissions advantage in the ultra-competitive college admissions process. First of all, most admissions officers assume that these are naive high school kids who are entitled and wealthy enough to pay up to $6800 plus fees. And rarely can one earn more than 1 college credit. In the fine print, they actually tell you that attending these will have no bearing on your admissions to the college sponsoring the program.

2.) While a successful student can point to the completion of the 7-week program as evidence of some intellectual curiosity or vitality, in all honesty, there are many more impressive things you can do with your time, effort, and money. For $400 or less you can take a real college class and earn 3 credits and have a transcript with your letter grade on it. So if you took 2 real college online classes, that would look much better. If you need to boost your ECs, you can get paid or unpaid internships that will build up your practical knowledge of the field you are interested in and give you a future recommendation (one that is more meaningful than a Harvard Summer School instructors letter). If you are clever in the business realm, you can start a non-profit with that seed money and help change lives in your community or outside of your community.

3.) If you find yourself tempted to take shortcuts or cheat as many other HS students do because of parental pressure, peer pressure, or societal pressure, take a moment to understand that you have to break this cycle. I'll give you an anecdote. After the Queen's Gambit came on on Netflix, many more people wanted to play chess. But chess is very hard to master. So you can do it the hard way and practice and take chess lessons and play lots of games and do puzzles or you can do it the easy way and use a Chess Engine and rely on the computer to help you make the chess moves. It's very satisfying to win chess games and just like video games, your brain gets a dopamine rush every time you are rewarded and your score/rank goes up. So if you join an online chess portal like Lichess, it's almost impossible to play people that are not cheaters. Once you cheat with an engine your account gets flagged and you have a red text statement next to your name. I find that personally very frustrating because 99/100 are cheats. So I'm writing this because there is no long term upside to being a chess cheat because you never will play in a real tournament in person as a cheat, never have the satisfaction of saying you are any good at chess, and all the benefits of winning on your own steam will never be there. So now is the time to stop cheating or stop thinking about cheating.

4.) Lastly if you are applying to Ivy colleges and Elite colleges and gotten by in HS by cheating, I feel really sorry for you. Part of attending the best colleges is to believe in your heart you deserve to be there based on your proven track record and efforts, not because of your entitlement, privilege, or wealth. If you already know you are an imposter, just imagine when you try to keep your 4.0 GPA at a place like Columbia that has a Core Curriculum that everyone has to take, even Engineering Students. Do you think you will be able to rely on the kindness of strangers who got 4-5 hours of sleep for 4 years to get accepted there to help you? Maybe at a suburban HS school, you can find that bribing, bullying, or blackmailing people to help you cheat works, but when you are in the major leagues where 1/2 your class might be the sons and daughters of millionaires, billionaires, and powerful people, you will stress and struggle to find someone that cares enough about money to help you.

I personally do not take any of the Ivy/Elite summer school programs seriously and you can tell by what I wrote. Therefore I do not equate them with your official High School Transcript that your High School counselor has to submit to the College or University you are applying to. Now if you cheated in HS, and that is on your official transcript, I would say you are screwed and recommend you are obligated to confirm and acknowledge that. In the latter case, you would have to show contrition and evidence that you learned your lesson, perhaps write an essay about that in the add'l info section. These summer programs basically carry zero weight. They are not official scores like UWGPA, SAT/ACT, AP Scores, and other official markers or academic excellence.

2 months ago

First of all, did you cheat? If you did not cheat, is there any way to clear your record (can you prove your essay or whatever was your original work/is there someone who would be willing to tell the program leader that cheating is generally not your style)? If you did cheat, is there some way you could try to make things right (like issuing an apology to the university/program director)?

Second, either way they probably will figure out that you have cheating on your record, so I would not try to hide it because then (whether or not you cheated) it will make you look more guilty.

I hope everything works out okay for you!!!


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