Students have many demands on their time: extracurricular activities, jobs, demanding college schedules, chores and family events. There may be a temptation to cut corners and cheat on an exam or download an essay from the Internet. Before temptation strikes, consider the penalties for cheating and plagiarism -- and whether or not the risks are worth the time saved.

Definitions of Cheating

Nearly all academic institutions have cheating policies in place. These usually outline what each high school or college defines as cheating and what the penalties are. Cheating usually is defined as attempting to take credit for the work of another, which can take many forms. Students always have been able to copy answers from other students' test papers. Technology today allows students to have answers on their cellphones or tablets, text answers to one another, download answers or view photos of things like textbook pages, study guides and notes. Cheating has entered the electronic age.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism involves using the writings of another. For example, a student who copies and pastes an entire block of text into his paper without citing the source is plagiarizing. There are two types of plagiarism: intentional and technical. Intentional plagiarism is when a student knowingly copies work from another writer. Technical plagiarism usually involves a student failing to correctly paraphrase, quote or cite another's work. Usually, someone else's writings must be cited unless the information contained in their work can be considered common knowledge easily obtained from a number of sources. Some high schools define plagiarism as a form of cheating, while others define it separately.

Penalties for Cheating in High School

Most high schools have cheating/plagiarism policies outlined in their student handbooks, and each teacher often has a cheating policy. High schools usually have their students sign honor codes, which include agreeing to the terms of a cheating policy. Punishment can include receiving a zero or an F, parents being notified and lack of eligibility for National Honor Society membership or for extracurricular activities. Students who persist in cheating may face suspension and a failing grade, which would mean retaking the course. Schools may choose to expel students for cheating in extreme cases for persistent offenders.

Penalties for Cheating in College

Colleges, because of the level of work involved, have rigorous cheating policies that outline all forms of cheating. Each college or university has its own policy that may vary from those of other schools. If a student is caught cheating by a professor, the professor may choose to handle the problem himself and give the student a 0 for the assignment, or the professor may choose to take the student before a committee that reviews such cases. The student may have to repeat the class at the professor's discretion. Repeat offenders may be expelled from the university. Most colleges and universities have their policies posted on their websites, with their guidelines and penalties clearly spelled out.