Cheating is a major concern for colleges and an issue that students need to contemplate. Cheating includes copying someone else's work or test answers, as well as plagiarizing, which means submitting another author's original work as your own. The cheating epidemic is affecting virtually all colleges and universities. A February 2013 "Harvard Magazine" noted that almost half of students in a 2012 government course at the Ivy League school collaborated inappropriately on a take-home test.


A January 2013 article in the "Johns Hopkins University Gazette" indicated that a primary reason students cheat in college is because they don't contemplate the ethics of certain behaviors. Plagiarism is rampant, in part because students don't consider copying paragraphs or portions of someone's work without citation cheating. This may be due in part to a lack of education on, and enforcement of, plagiarism policies in high schools. Thus, an intended effect from a college's perspective is to bring awareness to these issues by instilling penalties for cheaters who entered college thinking they could get away with it. The hope is that by addressing cheating violations in policy manuals, students become more cognizant of the importance of independent, creative work.

Minor Discipline

Discipline processes for cheating are normally spelled out in college student manuals. Professors normally have discretion in how to manage a cheating violation. A more minor offense, such as copying homework or copying a small amount of content in a paper, may result in smaller, class-related penalties. Failure of the assignment and a formal warning in your academic file are common on first or minor offenses. Some schools require that students complete an academic integrity workshop following a reported cheating violation. An escalated or more significant case of cheating may result in failing and having to retake the course.

School Withdrawal

One of the most direct, significant effects of cheating is forced withdrawal from school. Suspension and expulsion are closely related terms. In the Harvard case, the harshest penalty students faced was withdrawal from the school and a requirement to show evidence of employment for six consecutive months prior to an application for readmission. Semester or yearlong suspensions are common in more extreme cases of cheating, such as on tests or projects. Repeated infractions can lead to dismissal at some schools.

Student Record Implication

In most cases, student discipline is an issue between the school and student. However, colleges often have policies that cheating violations require notation on official transcripts for a period of time. The University of California-San Diego, for instance, retains transcript notations for seven years after the incident. If a student applies for transfer to another college or graduate school admission, recipients may consider a cheating violation as part of the admission decision.