I Ran a College Cheating Business Out of My Frat
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I'm 31 and a high school teacher now, but I went to a big SEC party school. My priorities were not the ones that I would have now. But I feel that what I did was as much on the school and the customers as it was on me.
I was both in a frat and a journalism major—a combination that meant I was one of the only kids among my friends who could write a paper pretty decently, and fast. I basically opened a business for myself in which I would do people's homework for money. It's not like I kept a ledger or anything, but over those four years, I estimate that I probably made $10,000 total. In an SEC town, that's like a million dollars.
People knew that if they had something they didn't feel like they were capable of doing—or were just lazy, which was probably the more common thing—they could come to me and I'd probably be able to do it for them. It started when this girl in my freshman dorm who lived on my floor realized she had a paper due the next day that she had forgotten about. She was already drunk and not really capable of doing it. I told her if she gave me $50 I would do it right then, and that was the beginning.
'There was a lot of throwing in an Adderall'
My pricing system was based on a lot of different factors. If you gave me a bunch of notice and it was a couple of pages, I would probably do it for $25. But if I had to read a book or at least pretend that I had read a book, that would jack the price up. There was also a desperation factor involved—if I know you're not gonna do it yourself, I would charge way more, like over $100.
My favorite was for my friend, who to this day is probably the most stoned person on Earth. It was for a sports management class. It was not hard at all, and due a few days later, but there was no way he was gonna do this thing, or at least not well. I told him, "Give me $60 up front, and whatever grade I get, that'll be the total cost." He got 105 and refused to give me the extra $5—he was like, "Dude, I didn't know it could go over 100." The most I ever got was $400 for something that was ten pages and needed to be done the next day and also needed a bibliography and all that kinda shit. And I made him throw in an Adderall, too, so I could get it done in the library. There was a lot of throwing in an Adderall involved in this pricing scheme.
'When you're in a frat, you have access to a lot of lazy kids with disposable money'
There were times when I'd get paranoid and shut it down for a few months. But it really took off sophomore year when I moved into the frat house. It was a pretty consistent stream of business. When you're in a frat, you have access to a lot of lazy kids with disposable money.
We also had what we used to call "test files," which were mostly housed in the sororities, because they were just better organized than the guys were. There would be folders with the name of the class and the name of the teacher, and people would just put their old stuff in them at the end of the semester. Sometimes there would be papers and sometimes there would be tests—if you went to a big school, you know those teachers are just using those same ones year after year. This one media law class was probably the most notes-intensive thing I ever took. Somebody just put their entire notebook in there, and the very next year the notes were exactly the same.
'For some kids it was the difference between graduating and not'
Thinking about it now as a high school teacher, I know my kids sometimes cheat. Over Thanksgiving break, I gave my kids a packet of multiple-choice questions and a Scantron, and three of them came back with the same three questions wrong. And I know they're friends with each other. Clearly the three of them shared their answers, but sometimes you've gotta decide if it's worth it to call them on it. I decided to let it go, though I did talk to them. A lot of it is a cost-benefit thing. It's like, You're here to get an education, and if you choose not to do that, that's on you. Bothering to care is way more work.
Given what I do now, sometimes I think that for the people I helped cheat in college—that was on them. But for a couple of those kids it was the difference between graduating and not graduating. If they hadn't turned that paper in, it would have meant another semester of classes, and however much money they were paying for tuition. If I think about it, that person paid me $100 to save their parents $10,000. That was probably the right move for them at that moment. But there was also the thought that if I didn't do it, somebody else would have. I don't feel that bad about it. I should probably feel worse, but I really don't. I was baffled by how easy it was, and it makes me think I should have gone to a more challenging school. Like, If I could get a 3.5 and do all this other shit for other people, was it really that rigorous of a school?
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The above has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.