UNC Charlotte student studying in the student union

Cheating: a concept that has been implemented in our minds for decades now. And no, even though this is pretty common too, I do not mean being unfaithful in a romantic relationship. 

Cheating has worsened in schools over the years, but not just to “survive” as some would say, but to in fact outshine the student next to you. So far during my time at UNCC, I have seen my fair share of cheating encounters -- but who hasn’t? Whether it be students using quizlet to complete assignments for their course, or completing tests online using external sources, I am sure we can all agree that cheating in this generation is far more accessible then it used to be and unfortunately it has rid the idea of a fair competition in an academic setting. 

When we think of cheating, we think of it as a need, as something that is necessary to do in desperate times. The problem is, students that (in our opinion) may not actually “need” to cheat (you know, the ones that are already high up in their class), are still cheating. Donald L. McCabe, a leading researcher on cheating and professor at the Rutgers University Business School says, “…There have always been struggling students who cheat to survive, but more and more, there are students at the top who cheat to thrive.” Obviously no one genuinely needs to cheat, but it does bring an advantage to all the students that do it, especially those that are doing it to enhance themselves over anything else. So why is this? Maybe the cheating has gotten worse because of the laborious courses required of students, especially at the collegiate level, or maybe it is because of the continuous development of technology that makes cheating a simple click of a button. 

I think there is an extensive list of factors that come into play when it comes down to why cheating has become so normal; however, with all of this in my mind, one question really made me stop and think: Are certain colleges or classes really that difficult to do well in? Or is it just harder for students to cheat? No, I do not think that every difficult class or major is hard because you may not be able to cheat as easily in it; however, I do think our generation is so caught up in unrealistic expectations and wants good grades handed to them. With the increase in technological development also comes laziness. With a computer, phone, tablet, etc. at the edge of our fingertips, we are able to look something up if we do not know it. While that is extremely practical in this day and age, it has taken away the ability to genuinely think for ourselves or remember important things on our own. Nowadays, this has become parallel to our work ethics. Why try hard to study and remember information if I can just cheat and have someone else figure it out for me? You know, it’s not like our future careers depend on the stuff we’re learning in college.

No matter what, it is known that cheaters do in fact have higher GPAs, and to some, this may sound really good. What could be better than not having to work very hard to be on top? Well for those already on top without any help, it creates this unfair playing field in academics that I mentioned earlier. A poll conducted at Fordham University saw a significant difference in GPAs of those that cheat and those that do not, and surprisingly, most students do admit to cheating and do not regret it. On average, students that cheat have a GPA around 3.41 while non-cheaters have closer to 2.85. Let that sink in. At UNCC, any GPA below a 2.0 puts you on academic probation, and while that may seem far away from a 2.85, it would only take a few mistakes to get there. To me, what might be the most frustrating thing about this isn’t so much the gap in between GPAs but more about the opportunities and involvement that is being stripped away from those that are truly working their ass off. 

Like the famous expression, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Will you live up to this when school gets difficult and you must work harder to meet the challenge, or will you fall into the habits of cheating because it’s easier? Imagine if cheating was not so easy, if this idea of a “fair competition” appealed to more students. If our motive was less about being on top and more about successfully reaching our goals, maybe college wouldn’t seem so stressful.

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