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What happens if you get caught cheating in college?

Getting caught cheating in college can have serious consequences that can affect your academic career and beyond. Cheating refers to using dishonest methods to complete coursework or exams, such as plagiarism, using unauthorized materials, falsifying data, and collaborating with others when prohibited.

Why is cheating taken so seriously in college?

Colleges and universities have strict policies against cheating because it undermines the learning process and gives cheaters an unfair advantage. Academic integrity is a core value in higher education. Cheating goes against principles of honesty, ethics, and scholarship that are central to the mission of colleges and universities.

In addition, cheating devalues the college degree. If grades are inflated through cheating, it makes the degree less meaningful. Colleges want to assure that students earn their degrees legitimately through their own hard work and learning.

What happens when a student gets caught cheating?

The specific consequences for getting caught cheating vary between schools and instructors, but they are usually quite severe.

Failing Grade

The most common penalty is automatically failing the course. The student gets an ‘F’ grade on their transcript for that class, which will damage their GPA. Just one ‘F’ for cheating can ruin a student’s chances of getting into graduate school or securing certain jobs.


Some colleges will suspend or expel students for cheating offenses. This means the student is withdrawn from the college for a set period of time, such as a semester or a year. Not being able to enroll in any classes is a major disruption to the student’s education.

Permanent Expulsion

For the most serious cases of cheating, such as elaborate schemes involving multiple people, students may be permanently expelled with no chance to return to that college in the future.

Transcript Notation

If a student is suspended or expelled for cheating, this disciplinary action will typically be noted on their official academic transcript. This can create barriers to transferring or applying to other colleges.

Revocation of Degree

If cheating is uncovered after a student has graduated, the college has the right to revoke their degree. This usually occurs in cases of extensive cheating like falsifying research data.

Other potential consequences of getting caught cheating:

  • Removal from honors societies or extracurricular activities
  • Bars from graduating with honors/distinctions
  • Loss of athletic eligibility
  • Loss of campus leadership positions
  • Loss of scholarships
  • Loss of access to campus resources, housing, libraries, etc.

What happens in the cheating accusation process?

Colleges follow certain procedures to handle accusations of cheating. Students have rights including due process and the ability to appeal decisions.

The instructor reports the cheating

If an instructor detects cheating such as plagiarism or using unauthorized aids, they will document the evidence and follow college policy for reporting academic misconduct. This involves notifying the department head and/or the Dean of Students office.

The student is notified

The student will receive official written notice that details the cheating allegation against them and the basis for the charge. They may be summoned to meet with the instructor or an academic committee.

Student appeal

Students have the right to contest a cheating accusation through the campus appeals process. They may argue there is insufficient evidence or extenuating circumstances.

Faculty committee review

If the appeal moves forward, a faculty committee will review the case in detail and make a decision either to confirm or overturn the charge based on evidence.

Sanctions are imposed

Once the cheating finding is upheld, official sanctions will be imposed such as failure of the course, suspension, expulsion, or other penalties.

How can accusations of cheating be appealed?

Students who wish to appeal cheating allegations should follow these steps:

  1. Review the academic integrity policy and appeal procedures for your specific college
  2. Submit a written letter of appeal by the deadline stated in policy
  3. Provide persuasive arguments against the charge, such as proof of original work or confusion about policies
  4. Supply supporting documentation like emails, drafts, sources etc.
  5. Obtain statements from witnesses if applicable
  6. Follow up on the status of the appeal and request updates if needed
  7. Comply with all instructions from the appeals committee
  8. Accept the final ruling on the appeal, whether favorable or not

The better prepared and supported your appeal, the higher chance it has of being granted. But there is no guarantee appeals will overturn the original cheating determination.

How can students avoid accusations of cheating?

The best way for students to avoid allegations of cheating is to fully abstain from any form of academic dishonesty. There are also several precautions students can take:

  • Clearly understand instructor policies and penalties for cheating
  • Avoid unauthorized collaboration with classmates on work meant to be individual
  • Never purchase papers online or copy chunks of text from the internet without proper attribution
  • Don’t share course materials or old assignments with other students
  • Be careful not to facilitate other students’ cheating by offering them access to your work

If there is ever any doubt about permissible limits of working with others or using outside sources, ask the instructor directly for guidance. It’s better to clarify expectations beforehand than to end up in an ethics violation.

Can cheating offenses be removed from college records?

Having an academic dishonesty violation on your student record can carry lasting impacts. Is it possible to get cheating offenses permanently removed from your college files?

Unfortunately, the short answer is usually no. Colleges and universities typically will not erase records of proven academic misconduct cases even after graduation. Cheating sanctions are considered part of a student’s permanent academic record.

That said, students can submit written requests to amend certain details like getting suspension/expulsion designation removed after reinstatement or petitioning to have a transcript notation worded more neutrally. This requires approval by a records committee.

Your college student handbook outlines policies on permanent documentation of disciplinary issues like cheating. While unlikely, review procedures to see if you have options to request a modification of your student file.


Cheating in college comes with steep penalties that can derail your education and entire future career. Being caught cheating can result in course failure, suspension, expulsion, or having the dishonest behavior permanently marked on your academic record. Colleges and instructors take cheating very seriously as it violates codes of ethics and diminishes the integrity of learning. With so much on the line, it’s critical that students refrain from plagiarism, using unauthorized resources, or other academic misconduct during their college careers.