Welcome to Scam Academy, where you'll find stories of schemes and cheats from within the high schools and colleges of America. If you cheated and want to share how you did it and why, please email us here. Today we're hearing from a 23-year-old who let her friend copy her SAT answers in high school.
My friend Taylor and I went to school in a really rural town in central New Jersey. There's no high school and no cops. It was an empty town. If you drive by, you'll see horses, sheep, and cows. It's what you might imagine Kansas would be like.
I had known her since she moved there in about third grade and we got really close in high school. She just had a lot of other things going on in her life, so school wasn't her biggest focus. She was an amazing ballerina—she would go off to the city for summer camps. Dancing was number one. And then getting into recovery for an eating disorder was number two. She was always out of school. I was in honors classes; she was in regular courses. I would do her homework sometimes if it wasn't good enough. Her grades were like Bs and Cs. She wasn't a horrible student.
But then junior year came—that's the time to take the SATs. We got our first scores back, and she got less than half the score out of 2,400.
Taylor's parents were upper middle class—they were well off. She had taken SAT classes and even had a private tutor, but she still just couldn't get a good score. Standardized testing was hard for her. It was an institution I didn't really believe in as a measurement of someone's intelligence. I wanted to dupe the system and get away with it, so I said, This isn't going to get you in anywhere. We need to do something about this.
'It was my idea, and I was definitely not scared at all'
Honestly, I don't remember how it came up. We were probably just smoking weed somewhere. It was my idea, and I was definitely not scared at all. Taylor was definitely more anxious. Looking back, it was my own narcissism being like, They can't catch us. We need to get you into college and we have no other options. We had been touring all these schools together, and I remember thinking she wasn't going to get into any of them. If you're in these small towns you either go away to school or you go to community college and live at home. I just didn't see that as an option for her. She didn't want to have that life, so I was like, Alright. We're cheating.
I knew the rundown of how things would go the next time—the teacher would turn around to write on the board and we would also get a break. I knew we could totally pull it off. Teachers threatened us by saying, Oh, if you cheat on the SATs, you're not going to get into college, and all this stuff. But I knew we could do it so easily.
Before you go into the classrooms to take the test, you congregate in a big atrium. Other friends of ours were there and we told them we needed their help to get Taylor the same test version as me. We go in, and then the teacher turns around to write the break times on the board. Whoever had the first three sections that were the same as mine switched books with us. I took the test as normal and then held the book up like I was reviewing my answers so that she could see what I marked down. It was her idea to make sure she didn't change her scores too much at once. The first time she wanted to copy half my answers. She went up 300 points. The second time we did it, our friends dropped the books on the ground to make it seem more realistic. Overall, she ended up going up 600 points—from an 1100 to a 1700.
'I don’t think of it as an act of kindness'
She went to public school in Massachusetts. I don't think I knew she wanted to go to school for education at the time, but I knew she wanted to help people because she had been helped during her rehabilitation and just wanted to give back. I think she even graduated with honors. She was someone who was willing to put the work in, and college is completely different than the SATs or ACTs. I was just happy that she was happy. If she had ended up dropping out of school to do something else, I wouldn't have cared.
I went to Fordham, and I knew a ton of people who were not smart enough to be there. I was fine with it and didn't care; I still got my degree. I don't even care about the college admissions scandal—was this not a known way of people getting into school? At the same time, I do understand the perspective of a student who got shut out—like my brother tried to go to an Ivy and didn't get in. I'm sure he feels differently than I do. But he's going to school super cheap and it's a good program.
Ultimately, I really don't think of what I did as an act of kindness. It wasn't completely benevolent. I saw something that I didn't believe in, and I thought I was invincible at 16, so I did what I wanted. I don't think what we did was ethical at all, but it wasn't like I was trying to get my friend into Harvard. It was also 16-year-olds being like, We're gonna do this. We're so cool. Looking back, honestly, I would probably do it again
The above has been condensed and edited for clarity and names have been changed.
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