A lot of students don’t realize this, but being a cheater in high school can result in consequences other than getting suspended or expelled, and although those two should be bad enough to keep you from doing it, they shouldn’t be the primary reasons.
My entire high school career, I was a cheater. My cheating took on various forms. Sometimes it was the usual darting eyeballs during tests, and other times it was an orchestrated plan to make all the answers available for myself, also during tests. This included the multitude of online tutorials for creating unnoticeable cheat sheets, as well as my own creations (my creations mainly meant taping papers with the answers to my hairy legs). However, the real cheating was done before the exams.
Often, I would sit down with one of my close friends and get a personal ten-minute lesson from him that included everything I needed to know for the exam. He was a far better teacher than those assigned to us by the principal, and my memory was good enough that ten to twenty minutes were all I needed. Then I would go on to ace the exam and continue being lazy in class and with homework.
Most of my friends worked hard to earn their good grades while I spent my time searching for ways to amuse myself during lectures. My friends had no problem letting me leech off of them because we were all against the school system. We rebelled against any rules we could, staying within a reasonable distance from expulsion—except for me, because as I’ve mentioned once before, I cheated my entire way through high school—so although I never got expelled, I never felt threatened by the possibility.
It wasn’t until my junior and senior years when I finally started to feel the burn. The three friends I relied on most changed schools, and I was left to my own devices. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t cheating because I couldn’t understand any of it, I was doing it to spite the school, and because I was lazy. Still, cheating was a habit I had no idea how to get rid of. So, although I kept to my usual ways, my grades started to suffer, but because I was against school so much, it didn’t matter to me.
Teachers started worrying about me, telling me they knew I could pull my grades up, and rather than feel grateful, this drove me to hate school even more. “They think I’m not smart because my grades are low? They know nothing!” I would tell myself. Wherever I could, I would find reasons to build my hate up more and more. We weren’t allowed to wear headphones in between classes; hats were not allowed to be worn during school hours; showing up a minute late to school resulted in getting sent home for the day, and on it went. To be honest, I find it hard to believe I was one of the very few students who despised being in school.
In the end, I graduated just like everyone else, and that gave me a sense of satisfaction like nothing else. I put in less than half the effort as everyone else, and still got the same diploma they all did. Granted, I wasn’t convinced my name was going to be called at the ceremony because final grades hadn’t been given out yet, but when it was, the satisfaction came from knowing I had cheated the system, not from knowing I had finished my high school education.
It wasn’t until after high school that I started noticing the damage that was done. I tried to find my first job, but had no idea what my resume was supposed to look like. Checking the oil on the used car my parents bought me, or any other maintenance for that matter, seemed too complicated to figure out. Whatever came up in my life for me to deal with, I tried finding ways to cheat and get it fixed with some kind of hack. My parents had first jobs, so I asked them to take me step-by-step through what a resume should look like. My father cared about my car more than I did, so he took care of the maintenance for me.
Meanwhile, I was still fantasizing about everything just “working out” somehow. I knew I would become a famous writer someday or a professional poker player, but I wasn’t worried about the “how.” I thought cheating my way through high school was proof enough that I could do anything I wanted to, even if I knew nothing about the thing I was doing.
In the end, it all boiled down to this:
- There wasn’t always going to be someone there to help explain to me what I couldn’t understand. Telling myself that I would “figure it out” when I truly needed to was far from a good excuse. There was a reason I hadn’t figured it out yet, and losing the few people that were helping me wasn’t going to make matters any easier. Helplessness, like most problems, is a matter of now, not later.
- Nobody wants to be with a cheater. Whether I use friends, family, or a romantic partner for this example, it applies to any and all relationships. Think about it: would I want to be in a relationship with someone that had no independence? Someone who relies on me to fix their problems around the clock? This might sound harsh, or extreme, but it’s the truth. People want people they can count on to get things done on their own, especially future employers.
- Cheating is a dead end. I knew that they day I started doing it, but I didn’t want to fully believe it because that meant change. Instead, I thought, if I can cheat through this one final thing, then I will stop. Not only was I lying to myself, but I was also depriving myself of real success. What I mean is that even if I managed to somehow cheat my way through an entire lifespan, what would I have to look back on? What would there be to feel good about?