Faked transcripts from MIT, a plagiarized Rhodes Scholarship application, and deceived parents. This may sound like a poorly- executed Frank Abagnale Jr. plot, but it's the true to life story of 23-year-old Adam Wheeler. Wheeler's higher ed hijinks were uncovered after he left Harvard over a plagiarized scholarship application and tried to get into Yale by claiming he was a high school valedictorian with perfect SAT scores. When Yale called to check, they ended up in touch with Wheeler's parents, who put an end to Adam's ruse.
This case received more attention than most acts of plagiarism in higher education, including a piece by the New York Time, which reported that "Mr. Wheeler was charged with 20 criminal counts, including larceny, because he received nearly $50,000 in scholarships and awards from Harvard."
Brazen acts like Adam Wheeler's aren't the only type of dishonesty coming to light at colleges and universities. Plagiarism and other forms of cheating are reportedly on the rise as well. The University of Colorado at Boulder reported that the number of students caught cheating had risen almost 40% compared to last year. School officials claim that there isn't a dramatic upswing in the number of students who are cheating, just the number who are being caught by automated tools like TurnItIn.com.
"Probably the same amount of cheating," agreed Steve Loflin, the founder and executive director of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, in a phone interview with WalletPop. The technology which University of Colorado cites for the uptick in the amount of cheaters reported is, according to Loflin, a deterrent in itself. He explains that as students become more aware of the technology available to catch cheaters they may begin to pay more attention to how they gather their research and do their work.
TurnItIn, a company which provides plagiarism checking software to universities also recognizes this and provides students with a WriteCheck, a tool that will check your work to ensure proper citations and summarizations as well as calling attention to possibly plagiarized sections. This tool isn't free -- it will run students $4.95 for a 5,000 word document, but it is an affordable price if your school doesn't offer a writing center to help you with similar issues.
Integrity, doing one's own work, expands way beyond the classroom. This is a message that the NSCS tries to demonstrate during "I Stand for Integrity Week," an event which celebrates integrity and reminds students of the important role it plays in success. The organization, with close to 250 chapters across the U.S., also sponsors one of the only student-nominated faculty awards to honor professors who serve as models of integrity on campus.
Not only success in the classroom, but in the job hunt as well. As a professor myself, I can assure you that a student who cheats will be last on the list to hear about requests for internship and employment opportunities. I would be more likely to recommend a student who turned in nothing than one who tried to pass off someone else's work as his or her own.
While copying your answers from the first page of Google search results isn't likely to land you in the NY Times, it can become a problem that follows you past graduation. Do the smart thing and turn in your own work. Trust me, professors don't always need a specialized tool to tell if the work you are turning in is your own, and neither will your boss or business partners. As Loflin puts it best, "Integrity is a part of everything you do."
Are more college students cheating these days?