Be Honest on Your College Application

Last updated on November 15, 2017

When you sign your application—electronically or physically—you are certifying that you have filled out the application honestly and that you have done all of the work on it yourself.

You also acknowledge that your acceptance to a college is conditional and that it can be revoked if it is discovered that you were dishonest on your application.

Be Honest

It is very important that you list your extracurricular activities honestly. Some students let the stress of college applications lead them to exaggerate some of their extracurricular activities. It is critical, however, that you not misrepresent what you have accomplished.

Fudging your activities is unethical and it also throws up red flags to the admissions committee. Lying about your activities can result in a big fat rejection letter.

But how will they know?

Well, colleges can find out in a few different ways. Some schools actually audit your activity list to determine if you are lying about any of your extracurriculars.

Applicants to the University of California system, for example, are subject to an application audit. The UC admissions committees select a random sample of applicants to verify their extracurricular activities.

Students are required to submit proof of the involvement in any given activity, ranging from a letter from a football coach about a player’s contributions, to a pay stub from a job, to a playbill listing the student’s lead role. If students cannot provide documentation of their participation, their application is canceled.

In 2009, for example, a female applicant claimed that she was a volunteer soccer coach for a younger girls’ team. When asked to provide proof of her participation, the applicant said that she could not find any officials to support her claim. The admissions committee then asked her to provide a letter from a parent of one of the team members attesting to her volunteer work. The applicant never responded and her application was denied because of her dishonesty.

Other colleges may ask you about your exaggerated claims during an interview, putting you on the spot about your truthfulness regarding your activities. If you are lying, they can see it. A lack of honesty in your activity list will also show up in other parts of your application, thereby tipping off admissions committees.

In particular, your references may not support your fabricated activities. This could prompt the admissions committee to follow up with you or the organization you claim to work for. In general, admissions committees have pretty strong radar for BS on student activity lists.


In addition, some colleges are considering using anti-plagiarism tools like Turnitin to catch students who may plagiarize their personal statements from other students or from the web.

Graduate schools—including Ivy League MBA programs—have relied on Turnitin for the past five years to weed out applicants who plagiarized their personal statements.What’s more is that the Common Application is considering using Turnitin to catch plagiarized personal statements for undergraduate applications.

If you think that you can get away with lying on your application or stealing a personal statement from a friend or from the web, think again.

In 2010, Harvard officials discovered that Adam Wheeler not only faked his academic credentials to get into the school, but that he also illegally claimed $45,000 in grant and scholarship money. Wheeler was dismissed from Harvard, but he was also charged with twenty criminal accounts, including larceny, fraud, and falsifying documents.


Our advice is to not chance it. This is too important for you to get rejected because you embellished your student activity list. And the truth of the matter is that schools can easily find out if you lied.

Instead, take the high road and remain honest and truthful throughout your application. Your integrity will serve you well in both your college admissions process as well as your life.