Seven Shocking College Admissions Scandals

As we head into college application season, here's what not to do.

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The college admissions process is getting more and more competitive. Kids will do anything to get into schools—and schools will do anything to attract kids. From cheating to lying, we found all the worst admissions scandals to date. So as we head into college application season, here are things students and admissions officers alike shouldn’t do.

1. As many as 50 students cheat on the SAT in Long Island

Students at Great Neck North High School were paid as much as $3600 by their peers applying to college to take the SAT and ACT for them. At least 20 teenagers were arrested when the scandal was uncovered in 2011. Those who took the test were charged with felonies, and those who paid others to take the test were charged with misdemeanors.

2. Boy lies his way into Harvard
Adam Wheeler forged SAT scores, plagiarized essays and wrote fake transcripts from Andover and MIT when applying to colleges. Harvard not only accepted him as a transfer student in 2007, they awarded him $45,000 worth of scholarship money. Wheeler was only caught when he tried to use the same false information to apply to the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships his senior year.

3. George Washington University lies about admissions staistics.
In 2012, George Washington University became the latest institution to get caught reporting bogus admissions statistics. GWU reported that 78% of its freshman class were in the top 10 precent of their school, when only 58% were. (The school also only collected class rankings from 38% of freshman.) The school manipulated statistics in order to try to get a higher ranking in the U.S. News & World Report College rankings.

4. University of Illinois gets caught admitting students because of political ties
In a 2009 series, the Chicago Tribune reported that about 800 students got preferential admissions treatment at the University of Illinois due to the intervention of politicians or prominent alumni donors. The otherwise subpar students received special consideration or had their rejections reversed despite the protests of admissions officers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the politicians caught making calls for students were associates of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has since been convicted of unrelated corruption charges.

5. Claremont McKenna College lies about students’ admissions statistics

In 2012, the school admitted that their Dean of Admissions misreported SAT scores for years. The reported scores averaged 10 to 20 points higher per test section than students actually scored. Though such a small differential could not have significantly affected U.S. News and World Report rankings, the Dean may have altered the scores due to internal pressure to show progress in the academic quality of the students the school was attracting. But Claremont and GWU aren’t the only schools that have lied about the academic strength of their incoming class: the U.S. Naval Academy, Baylor University and Emory University have all been caught fudging stats too.

6. New York high school students cheat on tests to get into dream colleges

Though they didn’t cheat (as far as we know) on college entrance exams, students of the hyper-competitive New York City public school Stuyvesant cheated repeatedly on tests in order to keep up with their fellow students, the New York Times reported. 71 students were caught exchanging answers on tests. When asked, the Stuyvesant students described how they felt they had to cheat in order to stay competitive with fellow students who were already cheating for spots at schools like MIT or Yale—though they made the distinction that cheating on a classroom test was much more acceptable than cheating on, say, an Advanced Placement exam.

7. Someone sends false information to schools about NYC Prep School student

Someone sent false information to the schools to which a Horace Mann student was applying in the hopes of sabotaging said student’s chances, according to a letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal. The Bronx high school is still investigating who might have tried to block this student’s chances of getting into college.