Stretching the Truth to Pursue College Dreams

By Lauren Fogelstrom

Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak

As November and January deadlines approach, anxiety and anticipation surrounding college applications increase for the senior class. Although most students have begun to fill the sections of the Common Application with basic personal information, activities and interests, essays and more, a disturbing question has arisen: How honest are these applicants?

To an extent, many seniors exaggerate on their applications to boost credit and accomplishments, but deciding where the line is drawn between exaggerations and lying is more complicated.

College counselor Kate Grant explained that while many people would consider lying to be something like submitting inaccurate amounts of hours for an activity, the student may genuinely believe they’ve spent around that time commitment and simply be mistaken.

“Often times I think people exaggerate about the amount of time they spend on an activity, but usually even that comes from a place of thinking that they really did spent that amount of time…So I can kind of see the confusion,” explained Grant.

However, many other cases aren’t as innocent. An anonymous senior admitted, “I’ve heard people say they’re a leader on their team when they’re not, or even had an undefeated season when they haven’t.”

Other rumors have included parents writing students essays for them or students hiring others to do so, and listing various positions of leadership at higher levels than actual participation.

Furthermore, several rules are posted under “Basic Application Ethics” on the College Board website. These include statements such as misleading a college about an intended major in hopes of increasing admittance chances, fabricating or exaggerating activities and accomplishments, or having someone else substantially contribute to your essay are all not allowed.

Grant commented, “All those little white lies can add up.”

A possible reason behind college application dishonesty may be due to how heavily colleges rely on the honor system.

While each Catlin Gabel senior is assigned a college counselor to work with throughout the application process, Grant explained, “I don’t even see anyone’s specific common app unless they personally show me.”

Furthermore, once college applications are submitted to colleges, the information included is assumed to be truthful.

Whitman College representative Adam Miller stated, “I notice when pieces of the application are inconsistent or seem too good to be true, and that prompts me to investigate further, but I don’t usually question whether the information in the application is legitimate.”

However, when colleges do discover lies in student applications, the consequences are harsh.

Miller explained that although each situation is different, “In almost all cases, students who submit untruthful information in an application would not be offered admission.”

While it may seem easy or unimportant to stretch the truth when applying to college, the outcome is never positive.

Grant speculated, “I think in the end, it hurts the person who [lies] more than it hurts the college. Either they get found out, or they have to live with themselves.”

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

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