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4 min read

Cheating is a chronic problem across many classroom environments–including even the most elite colleges and universities. It seems that every year, another scandal comes to light: students who have paid others to take care of their work for them, or who have paid their way through school. Technology, in many cases, makes cheating even easier, since students can often access answers or experts with the simple press of a button instead of generating their work. 58% of high school students admit to cheating on a test, while 64% of students confess that they have committed plagiarism at some point. 95% confess to “any form of cheating” in their high school academic career. Unfortunately, those behaviors are unlikely to disappear as they reach the college level–and in some cases, students may become even more likely to engage in academic dishonesty due to the higher-stakes environment. 

What is it, exactly, that causes students to cheat, especially at the elite level? 

They fail to see the value of the content provided.

By the time they arrive in college, many students are prepared to take a specific academic track. They may have career aspirations and plans, and they assume that the classes they take will help them achieve their goals. 

Unfortunately, most college schedules are packed with “general education” classes that students may not need for their chosen career and major. Liberal arts colleges, in particular, may insist that students take dozens of class hours of those courses, which may provide them with robust overall learning opportunities that have nothing to do with their future professions. 

Many students fail to see the value in those courses–and so if they’re pressed for time, stuck, or struggling, they may be more likely to cheat their way through those classes to “get it over with” and focus on the classes that they feel ultimately have more value.

They see themselves as incapable in some way.

Often, students cheat because they do not feel they are capable of accomplishing the tasks in front of them without it. Imposter syndrome is rampant across many college and university environments. Other students may find themselves struggling with specific aspects of the college environment: writing effective papers, testing at the college level, or regurgitating a huge amount of information for comprehensive exams. Cheating seems to offer a way out, a way to create a higher-level finished product without putting the same level of pressure on themselves to perform. 

They feel extremely pressured to perform.

Grades matter at the college level, perhaps even more than they did when students were in high school. Some college students plan to proceed to graduate school after they finish their current degrees. Others know that they have to maintain certain grades to keep their scholarships or even their place in the program–and as a result, they know that every grade matters. Many college students feel as though they’re constantly stuck in a pressure cooker, needing to perform at a high level all the time. As stress levels increase, students may be more likely to cheat to alleviate some of that stress. They do not want to fail a class, which will mean having to repeat it the next semester or year–and potentially increasing their overall costs. A failed major class could mean completely derailing the student’s academic plans: in some cases, losing their place in their major program or even preventing them from graduating on time. Under those high levels of pressure, students rationalize and even moralize cheating to reach that higher goal.

Students may not clearly see the relationship between learning and grades.

To many students, learning and grades are two very separate things. Grades are an arbitrary measurement of student ability that often focuses on their capacity to regurgitate information, especially on tests and quizzes. Even grades on papers and projects may vary dramatically based on the professor’s specific grading scale or even his perception of the student. Often, students separate their grades, which represent the ability to progress through the class to the next level, and the learning that is taking place. As a result, they may choose to chat to maintain their grades without recognizing the learning loss that takes place. Technology has also enabled this attitude to a large degree: many students recognize that information is easily accessible via the internet, which makes them less likely to feel as though they need to memorize vital content from their classes. 

Student cheating is a rampant problem in many college and university settings–and unfortunately, technology has made it easier for students to cheat without getting caught. Students may, however, be less likely to cheat when they have a solid relationship with an instructor and feel that the instructor believes in them and will help them be successful despite the academic and nonacademic challenges they may be facing. Pronto can help facilitate that key communication and provide students with the tools they need to be successful without cheating. Contact us today to learn more.