This is What Happens When You Cheat in School

Student, The High School of Performing and Visual Arts

Apr   2016



Even when it seems like a harmless little shortcut, there are real and seriously harmful repercussions to cheating in school—whether or not you get caught. 

Stop cheating, Millennials!

Today, 75%–98% of college students admit to having cheated in high school. What?! Typically when one thinks of a “cheater,” they think of some hooligan who doesn’t even try to learn the class material. But now even the “smart” kids who make good grades cheat. Again, I say, what?!

Why so many students cheat and why that’s still unacceptable

“I want to get the grade, not the education”

With the pressure to achieve a high class rank and GPA, it’s easy to lose sight of what school is actually about: learning. You are in school to get a good education, first and foremost. Then, you are expected to demonstrate your knowledge in your good grades. Learn the material; the grades will follow. And if you’re so overwhelmed that you think cheating is your only way to keep your grades up, there are much better options—keep reading!

“If I cheat, I’m only affecting myself”

Wrong! By cheating, you’re stealing the work of another student who has put in the time to learn the material. By cheating and getting a good grade you didn’t actually earn, you can also hurt the curve for the entire class and make the students who are struggling with the material believe there is something wrong with them for not understanding.

“My teacher isn’t any good, so it’s okay if I cheat to get by in that class”

While it is unfair for any student to have a low-caliber teacher, it isn’t fair for anyone to cheat. When you cheat and make a good grade without understanding the material, the teacher thinks they’ve taught the criteria well, and they will continue to teach the same way or perhaps at a faster pace. 

Consequences of cheating in school

It’s way more than a Saturday suspension.

In high school

  • You could get an automatic failure for the assignment.
  • You could get an automatic failure for the whole course.
  • You could be expelled or punished in other ways.
  • Your teacher, friends, family, teammates, coaches, etc. could lose respect for you.
  • You could hurt your own self-esteem, mess with your ability to actually think critically and solve problems, and develop a warped sense of morality.
  • Cheating goes on your permanent record, which brings me to…

In applying for college

  • The black mark on your permanent record could cost you your chances of getting into your top college—or any college.
  • Scholarship providers could also see your permanent record and not offer you scholarships.
  • Teachers won’t provide you with good (or any) recommendation letters. Even if you don’t get caught cheating, when you need a teacher to write your recommendation letter for college or job applications, they’ll remember that one time your Scantron answers looked eerily similar to someone else’s, and they won’t hesitate to tell your dream college or future employer about it. (Your teachers aren’t clueless, even though you think they may be.)

In college

  • You could be suspended or expelled.
  • You could lose your scholarship(s) or, again, not get any in the first place.
  • You could face copyright infringement troubles. That’s right. You could be sued for cheating on a paper.

Then there’s the aftermath of cheating in the “real world.” You will not have developed that skill you cheated on. And if you think you “got away” with cheating in high school or college, you might be tempted to take other shortcuts in life. But out in the real world, those shortcuts have pretty bad repercussions too. You know, like getting fired. Not to mention losing the respect of those around you.

Alternatives to cheating

Okay, so you’re struggling in class. Cheating seems like your only option. Obviously, it's not and you should try to learn the material and do the work on your own. But if struggling to do that is why you’re thinking about cheating in the first place, here are some ways to rise above:

  • Ask your teacher, friends, or upperclassmen for help. You might be surprised by how much people can and want to help you!
  • Get a tutor. Your high school, college, or local library might offer free tutoring. Or if there is NHS at your high school, many of the inductees need to get volunteer hours and would probably offer free tutoring. Check it out.
  • Rethink how you spend your time. If you’re so overwhelmed with school work and activities that you think cheating is a solution, it’s time to rethink your priorities. Maybe it’s time to quit a club, change your class schedule, or give up your Tuesday night bowling league. (Or at the very least, rethink how you budget your time.)
  • Remember what’s really important. Yes, the learning. But if you’re hell-bent on getting the grades so you can get into a super selective college, you’re missing the point of what college is all about.
  • Use resources online. There are study guides and advice for basically every academic subject, every book you’ve been assigned, and every kind of homework problem. Watch some videos, read some stuff. (Just be careful relying on the answers you get from public online forums and familiarize yourself with what counts as plagiarism!)

Long story short, you shouldn’t cheat

Besides all the reasons listed above, don’t you owe it to yourself to work honestly? In the words of Journey, don’t stop believingin yourself and all that you can do. Not the guy sitting next to you in Physics.

Note: Did you know you could win a $10,000 scholarship for college or grad school just by registering on CollegeXpress? This is one of the quickest, easiest scholarships you’ll ever apply for. Register Now »

About Cathleen Freedman

Cathleen attends the High School of Performing and Visual Arts where she is preparing in the best possible way for college. She would also have to say writing in third person is as fun as you think.