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How to Handle Black Marks on Record

By Walt Gardner — February 14, 2014 1 min read
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Students who have been expelled from high school or have other damaging marks on their record are confronted with a dilemma when applying to college. The rash of student cheating scandals is a recent reminder of the problem (“Applicants should come clean about cheating allegations, colleges say,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 10).

I realize that the competition to impress admissions officers often drives high school seniors to hide their transgressions. But doing so eventually backfires. Few students have nothing in their backgrounds they are ashamed of. Lack of judgment caused by immaturity often is the cause of actions with serious implications, but however painful it is to acknowledge misdeeds, it is far better than running the risk of being found out later on. Lying is the worst possible decision.

The recent conviction of Mathew Martoma for insider trading is a case in point (“Ex-SAC Trader Convicted of Securities Fraud,” The New York Times, Feb. 6). He altered his Harvard Law School transcript when applying for a competitive federal clerkship. If he had fessed up to officials at Harvard when he was first confronted, he might have avoided expulsion. It is unclear why the Stanford Graduate School of Business didn’t catch this fact because it admitted him. Bottom line: Tell the truth. It almost always eventually comes out.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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