In a recent “Wall Street Journal” article, “Admissions Police Bolster Efforts to Uncover Fraud,” Jon Weinbach discusses what can be a new trend in college admissions, the college admissions police.
“Before mailing out acceptance and rejection letters over the past week, thousands of colleges and graduate schools conducted their usual reviews of test scores, transcripts, and essays. But less publicly, admissions officers focused on something else: police databases, plagiarism checks, and reports by private-investigators.”
In our experience, we have found most students to be very honest in offering information on their college applications, but every now and then a student will ask us what if I embellish on the hours per week or weeks per year that I spend on an activity, what if I say that I was the president of a particular club, or that I invented this amazing gadget, or that I spent the summer cleaning Yala National Park in Sri Lanka? Our answer is always the same. You don’t want to risk getting rejected because you lied on your application, no matter how small that lie may seem to you. Not to mention…it’s just not right!
You have to assume that a lie or an inconsistency on a college application can be found out. Let’s suppose that you write on your application that as a member of your school’s chess club, you are involved 20 hours per week, 40 weeks per year. Then another student from your school applies to the same college(s) and says that as a member of the same chess club, he is involved only 5 hours per week, and 20 weeks per year. While it might be easier to believe the applicant who includes less time on his activity sheet, it’s just as easy to call the school and speak with the guidance counselor who can then speak with the advisor of the chess club.
Sometimes it’s those insignificant details that can make a difference between an admissions acceptance or rejection. In his article, Weinbach goes on to say, “Admissions officials at the Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley saw the desperation firsthand. In 2003, admissions director Jeff Pihakis tried to call an applicant to tell her she had gained admission. After several failed attempts, he reached a woman who gave him a cell phone number for the applicant. Looking again at the file, he saw the number he’d just been given matched the number the applicant had listed for a purported boss. That led Mr. Pihakis to uncover other fabrications, including false job titles and fake stationery for the sham company. The admissions staff ultimately investigated all 100 of the students it had admitted, uncovering four more applicants who had misrepresented themselves.”
The piece continues, “The next summer, Kroll approached the school about providing background checks. Since then, all accepted students have had to pass an ’employment and background verification’–and pay a $65 fee–before enrolling. In the past four years, only one has been rejected. ‘We were hoping it would be a deterrent,’ says Mr. Pihakis. ‘And it has been.'”
If you are lucky enough to gain acceptance to a college with your fabrications or exaggerations, just imagine while you’re still a student you’re asked to leave the university because it was discovered that you lied on your application. Then just imagine, years after you graduate, the college finds out that you lied on your application and now your degree is revoked. Fabrications or exaggerations may come back to haunt you, and it’s just not worth the risk. Whether you’re writing essays, filling out your activity sheet, answering personal application information questions, reporting test scores, or interviewing, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to tell the truth.
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