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How Do You Feel About Cheating Your Way Into College?

Posted by Christie Zervos

updated over a week ago

An Increase in Falsified College Application Essays

Essay mills, always a thorn in the side of collegiate admissions officers, have gained wide use and acceptance by college applicants, especially foreign students entering US universities. In the past decade, the number of foreign students has nearly doubled. As the popular physicist Michio Kaku has pointed out, “In the United States, 50% of all Ph.D. candidates are foreign-born.” Kaku assures us this is good. The U.S. is a kind of “magnet sucking up all the brains in the world,” he says.

For many international students seeking admission to U.S. schools, the college application essay is a nightmare. Not only do many students struggle with the fundamentals of English grammar and vocabulary, but since writing styles and expectations vary across the world, students often struggle with how to even begin. Since foreign students aren’t familiar with the application format in America, many aren’t confident in writing their own essays. Similar stories are being told in other countries where the language gap is particularly wide.

As a result, admissions officers are seeing a huge increase in falsified college application essays. Sometimes applicants seek out ghostwriters online. Others take the slightly more credible route by hiring American personal tutors or seeking assistance from English language academies.

Blatant cheating with college application essays is astounding. In the past, CNN told how many admissions officers have seen tell-tale evidence of cheating with essays containing phrases such as “insert girl’s name here.” As the director of international initiatives for the National Association of College Admission Counseling said, “Obviously there’s competition and incentive to cut corners.”

A Threat to the Integrity of Educational Institutions

Despite the widespread use of essay writers for hire, we cannot and should not conclude that all foreign students are cheating their way into college. The vast majority of students are not outsourcing their college applications and are still succeeding.

If you were a college admissions officer, how would you deal with this problem? What measures would you recommend to ensure that your admissions decisions are fair and based upon trustworthy applications? It's imperative to keep the conversation going. 

Obviously, no university wants to admit known cheaters. These people can taint the academic integrity environment at the school. If they successfully complete their degrees and do not reform, they may contribute to the wave of cheating in scientific and academic research. They may join those who have been convicted of cheating in businesses and professions. These people can undermine all that a university professes to be.

This trend threatens the integrity of our educational institutions. As a society, we are at risk that our future leaders will not be trustworthy and will subscribe to the motto: “Whatever it takes!” In other words, the threat posed by students’ use of essay mills is real. The security of our educational system is in jeopardy. We need to take this threat seriously and be willing to help our universities deal with an influx of cheaters into our educational system.


Christie Zervos

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For more than 18 years, Caveon Test Security has driven the discussion and practice of exam security in the testing industry. Today, as the recognized leader in the field, we have expanded our offerings to encompass innovative solutions and technologies that provide comprehensive protection: Solutions designed to detect, deter, and even prevent test fraud.