How to Cheat your Way Through School

It was 9:30 pm and my assignment was due at midnight. 30 minutes to read what the tutor wrote, an hour to rewrite, 15 minutes to proof read and then 10 minutes to submit. That gave me a 35 minute wiggle room just in case something came up.

I had cheating down to a science.

This was the fifth essay I had “outsourced” and by now my grades were so high I could probably skip this assignment and not break a sweat.


The old way of cheating

When you hear about cheating in school, you hear stories such as paying another student to take your standardized test, using an app that does math for you, or my favorite, parents feeding test answers to their kids.

I believe that in the world we live in these techniques are no longer necessary. I learned to leverage the global online marketplace (think uber, airbnb, virtual assistants, etc) to excel in school.

Note: I do NOT promote or condone my actions. I was in a unique situation in my life where my personal life and physical health were deteriorating due to a combination of factors. My only goal is to discuss and reflect upon my experience.

In 2012, just before starting my second semester at university, my life fell apart physically and mentally. I had just gone through a break up when someone close to me was severely injured and I was starting to have serious anxiety issues. Thanks to close friends and my doctor I was able to recover somewhat but not without it having a serious effect on my grades. I had several options and dropping out of school was not one of them. I was in a strict program, an honors student and needed to maintain a 3.75 GPA for my scholarship. All in all, I knew that I couldn’t maintain the schedule and the grades to stay in my program.

How I felt everyday

Online “Tutoring”

Before I continue let’s talk a little bit about the world of online academic ‘tutoring’. With enough money you can get someone to complete (not necessarily well) your school homework, essays, etc. Thousands of tutors live on these sites begging you for a chance to help out.

In a previous life I had been involved in this business, earning around 800 dollars a month. Considering that this was during secondary school, when I had little expenses outside of food, it was a nice steady income that could for the most part go directly to the bank.

Back to the story at hand, I knew that the only way I was going to survive my next semester was to use a tutoring service. Specifically one that would allow me to get maximal return on my study time.

The first thing I did was change my entire schedule to classes that I could best use within the framework of my plan. These included classes like Academic Writing, Technical Writing, Speech, Calculus, etc. Next I had to find a site that could help me the most.

In the same way that Airbnb and craigslist can offer the same sort of services but attract different types of people, I had to find a tutoring service that could work for me. I eventually found School Solver a site that was easy to use and gave me the most flexibility in terms of tutors and questions, allowing me to negotiate with good tutors, who actually helped me the learn the material.

To their credit they don’t allow cheating in the sense of “please do my homework for me”, so I had to be careful of how I phrased my questions and asked for help. The help I received was far better than other sites I tried so it was worth the extra effort.

The Method

To pass my classes with the least amount of effort required I had broken my system into steps:

3/5 of my classes had all the assignments laid out in the syllabus. These ranged from writing discussion posts online to essays and a presentation or two. Every Saturday, I would take these assignments from the syllabus, create an outline of what I wanted, type up a semi-completed assignment and then post them to School Solver. Someone would look over what I wrote, improve, revise, and make sure it made sense, etc. Afterwards I would receive a pretty much complete assignment back which I would then finish and turn in.

For the other 2 classes I had to be smarter. An example of this would be my calculus class. No matter how much you pay someone, you can’t pass a test without knowing the material, especially in a class that had no graded homework or assignments. To combat this, I had to get a feeling of what was most likely to be on the tests.

The easiest way of doing this is visiting the professor during office hours. Bring out your book and start from the beginning of the material and move forward. Slowly ask questions and gauge the interest levels based on your questions. Being a charming young lad also helps.

Usually they’ll be nice and give you an idea of whats going to be important. The more passive he/she seems with the material the least likely its going to be on the test. From this you have an idea of what types of questions will be asked on an exam.

If that didn’t work, I would gather some example questions and post them on School Solver, asking for someone to guide me through them step by step. This served as my review guide for each test and what I would use to study.

The last method I had was the concept of daily review, especially with classes that involve lots of memorization. For this type of class I would make a quick set of notes from the material, be it a powerpoint or textbook. I would upload these notes to School Solver and have someone make flash cards for the program Anki, a spaced repetition flashcard program. Using Anki I could test myself just for 30 minutes every day and this allowed me to remember enough information to pass my class.

What happened?

Using this system I was able to stay in my program and pass through that semester without destroying my GPA. No, I didn’t get a perfect score but I got enough to keep continuing forward when I would not have been able to.

And for those of you who were wondering, why I did not just go talk to the school administrators to get some help, I did. To paraphrase what they said: It was a place where either you were playing the game or not. In the time since I had this experience, I have visited schools in other countries and I know this sort of behavior in the administration would be outrageous.

Aftermath

Following that semester, I took a summer break and focused less on school and more on getting better and spending more time with my family.

However there were still several lessons that I had to live with:

  • Pied Piper: Classes that were a prerequisite for my future classes became a problem. I had to work twice as hard to catch up in Calculus II .
  • Racks on Racks: In total it cost me around 2800 dollars to do everything I did, not including the normal cost of going to university. That was 2800 dollars that I could have put towards more important things such as a new laptop or materials.
  • Psychological: Going back to school felt like I was suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Having worked so hard in school before, coming back after such a strange semester felt awkward.

Now this is the part you’d expect me to reel it all in and tell you how awful the education system is because I was able to get away with this. But I won’t.

Because unfortunately our future rests in the hand of a piece of paper that won’t even do justice to the difficulties we went through. However, the semesters before and after, defined me as a person in the skills I learned and relationships I formed with professors and other students. Many of which I would not of had the opportunity had I not cheated my way through a single semester.

I was inspired to share this story after reading Doug Bierend’s recent article on “Disrupting the classroom

Please comment or share. Thanks for reading.

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