The Effects on Students Who Get Caught Cheating in College


Just as there are levels of cheating, there are varying consequences to the action. A student glancing at a classmate’s paper may merely be scolded for the transgression. However, full-out intentional plagiarism can have dire effects on a student and his long-term prospects for further education and career opportunities. The severity of the penalty is generally tied to the type of cheating and whether or not it is a first offense.

Poor Grades

  • The irony is that students who cheat to get good grades may find their actions yield the exact opposite result. Copied papers and exams are often given failing grades or no credit at all. Grade recovery from a zero is much more difficult than bringing up a C, D or even an honestly earned F. Students at the University of Maryland, for example, sign a pledge at the bottom of every exam, averring that they have not received assistance. Students found guilty of cheating on a test receive a grade of XF at UMD, designating a failing grade as a consequence of academic dishonesty.


  • Cheating can have a lasting effect on a student’s reputation. While she is likely to lose the trust and respect of the teacher of the course in which she cheated, verified occurrences of cheating can reverberate through a department, school and entire college. The esteem with which the faculty holds students is particularly important for students hoping for future study opportunities or continued education. Letters of recommendation are often key components to post-secondary education plans, as admissions offices and elite programs look for traits of integrity and honesty in their candidate pool.


  • Students caught cheating in college can face course dismissal. Under some conditions at Brown University, students found guilty of cheating are dismissed and given a "directed no credit" on their transcript, indicating the violation of the code of academic honesty. Students may also be expelled from a school within a college. A student accepted to an exclusive business school, for example, may find himself thrown out of the program. Serious cheating incidents can result in dismissal from the college for a semester or longer. Being asked to leave one college can make others reluctant to give the student a second chance. Cheating can jeopardize a student’s entire educational future and derail intended career plans.

Legal Action

  • Copyright laws exist to protect the intellectual property of individuals. When a student plagiarizes, representing someone else’s work as his own, he doesn’t merely break a moral code, he breaks the law and can be held liable for the consequences. Fines for copyright infringement can reach $150,000 and for those whose cheating matches the finesse of famed and faked Harvard student Adam Wheeler, there’s even jail time. Wheeler got into Harvard on a faked resume and lots of work for which he claimed authorship. When the dust settled, he owed the school more than $45,000 in scholarship and award money, was found guilty of breaking several laws and sentenced to more than two years in prison.

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