Cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty occur at high frequency, according to a 2009 study by Donna Stuber-McEwen, Phillip Wiseley and Susan Hoggatt of Friends University. Furthermore, students often attempt to justify these actions with excuses ranging from personal hardship or ignorance that they were cheating to the false claim that cheating is a victimless act. The unacceptability of these claims aside, the consequences of cheating in school reach much further than than simply getting caught.
One long-term effect of cheating is that you do not have access to knowledge you never learned in the first place. For example, let's say you cheat on a structural engineering exam. A few years later, while working as an engineer on building a new pediatric hospital, you need to call upon certain skills that were covered on the exam on which you cheated. You never learned those skills, and so you can't apply them when you need them. As a result, you might have compromised the structural integrity of that hospital.
According to Sarah Sparks in Studies Find Cheaters Overinflate Academic Ability, "not only are students who cheat successfully more likely to cheat again, but as they cheat more frequently they rationalize their cheating to ease their consciences."
Sparks is concerned that students who cheat begin to value grades only for the grades themselves and not for the education they were supposed to have claimed. If this self-deception is enough to make students cheat at the highest levels of education — which studies show it is — then those ethical shortcomings are likely to last into adulthood.
Inability to Advance Academically
Colleges and universities each have their own academic integrity policies, and many are severe. For example, the Dean of Students at the University of Texas warns that disciplinary records can accompany your transcripts when you're applying for admission at another university or graduate school, and they can greatly impact your chances for admission. Furthermore, academic records can be requested if you apply for a faculty position, which will also serve as a discredit to your character.
Cheating not only affects how much school officials will trust you, but people in your personal life as well: parents, siblings, friends and significant others. Your willingness to cheat says your ethics have a limit. Whether you get caught or not, if word gets out that you are a cheater, it could affect how much the people around you trust you.
Flip Side: The Affected Innocent
Cheaters aren't the only ones affected by cheating. According to Jeff Jackson at Dusquene University, when you constantly witness successful academic dishonesty you can become disheartened and grow spiteful of others, along with the educational system that fails to catch them.
According to Jackson, you might begin to question why you put forth full effort while others simply cheat and achieve the same academic accomplishments, and so you might eventually become cynical of honesty in general. You might even decide to cheat as well, because you see how much easier it is, and perpetuate the notion that cheating is acceptable.
Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in "The Southampton Review," "Feathertale," "Kalliope" and "The Rose and Thorn Journal."