Dishonesty on applications shouldn?t go undetected

By By Jeffrey Jenkins

By Jeffrey Jenkins

Cheaters never prosper” is a mantra that has been seared into our minds since grade school. Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite stuck. A study done by the Journal of College Student Development in the summer of 2007 found that from 1984 to 1994, student-admitted cheating rose from 54 percent to 61 percent. The study also referenced other studies that place the current rate anywhere from 52 percent to 90 percent.

With cheating so prevalent in college, it raises the question as to whether or not students are lying to gain admittance in the first place. Granted, it is difficult to cheat on standardized tests and completely falsify a GPA. However, it is easy to pad your application with extracurricular activities that you might or might not have participated in. In order to prevent the falsifying or exaggeration of extracurricular activities, the University of California has wisely instituted a system that requires a certain number of students to prove the awards, honors and activities they list on their application.

Instituting an integrity check such as the UC system is an ideal method of discouraging students from lying about activities to gain favor in the eyes of admission boards.

College admissions are becoming increasingly competitive at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Admissions officers are looking for candidates that will diversify a class profile. Extracurricular activities help to augment a student’s diversity and appeal to an admissions officer.

“Extracurricular activities can aid a student who is borderline admissible,” said Barbara Fortin, the U’s director of admissions. With so much emphasis put on non-academic activities that are so easily feigned, what is stopping students from padding their application with a few lies or half-truths? In reality, not much.

Graduate and professional schools also place a lot of emphasis on work experience, volunteer activities and other relevant experience when reviewing an application.

“Seeing involvement in the community is important to us,” said Paula Crow, an MBA adviser in the David Eccles School of Business. However, the U’s graduate school of business and the S.J. Quinney College of Law do not have a systematic approach to vet the claims of student’s non-academic endeavors.

Crow said, “I like to believe in the honor system.” However, Crow also said that she is not opposed to the idea of double-checking on applicants.

“We don’t have a system to verify, if questions are raised they are followed up,” said Reyes Aguilar, associate dean of admissions and financial aid for the law school. He said that if they find an applicant has lied, he or she will be reprimanded, which might include denial of admission or removal from the school if they are enrolled. Aguilar said he feels this approach has been adequate.

But with graduate and professional schools becoming so competitive and student integrity continuing to decrease, a method is needed to ensure that honest applicants are rewarded and dishonest applicants are denied admission. Even randomly requiring 10 percent of applicants to qualify their non-academic endeavors and continuing to follow up on questionable applications would help discourage students from being dishonest on their application with the fear that they might have to prove false claims. Having no method to preserve the integrity of student applications is uncomfortably close to awarding dishonesty.

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Jeffrey Jenkins