College is a time for honing skills, zoning in on a profession, building a network of friends and mentors and, most importantly, growing into adulthood. But for many students, becoming an adult is less about character and more about meeting expectations in any way possible.
That could explain why about 66 percent of undergraduates recently surveyed by a professor at Rutgers University admitted to cheating, plagiarism and "academic dishonesty." Academic dishonesty spans from copying others' homework to copying and pasting someone else's written material and claiming it as their own.
Bringing laptops and cell phones to classes and tests also opens up new doors for cheating. Consequences for this behavior range from establishing an ends-justify-the-means mentality to failing a class to getting kicked out of school.
Parents should be aware of the following warning signs, which might indicate a temptation for their students to cheat:
- Procrastination. Students who put work off in high school will have a rude awakening in college. By not studying enough or finding time to do homework, students find themselves with two options: get the answers from someone else or receive a zero on the assignment.
- Perfection. On the other hand, students who received straight As through high school may expect the same in college. With a heavier work load and more difficult classes, cheating to maintain a GPA could be more appealing than feeling left behind in the class rankings.
- Justification. Many students who are academically dishonest don't know that their behavior is unethical. College students can be notoriously busy, which makes "collaborative" quizzes or homework seem efficient and convenient. Students may see plagiarism or cheating as merely cutting corners.
In response, parents should establish the following expectations with their students to help guard against the temptation to cheat:
- Help plan. If daily wake-up calls and homework checks fueled your student's life in high school, procrastination could be a natural result of a more independent life in college. Send your student a planner with a calendar, encourage him to join study groups and let him vent about classes and homework - but make sure you allow him to figure out his schedule on his own. The only cure for procrastination is action, and your student has to take it himself.
- Forget perfection. If perfection is your student's vice - it's not as nice as it sounds! - let him know it's OK to fail. He won't master every skill, enjoy every class or impress every professor. Even if your expectations aren't for perfection, your student may still have unrealistic ideas about what success should look like. Keep the communication lines open, especially when the pressure to perform becomes burdensome.
- Prize character. It can be easy for your student to get wrapped up in GPA numbers and resume bullet points. Parents can help put those things in perspective. Remind your student that a grade he earned on a test won't matter in 20 years, but the habits he formed in the process will stay with him.