Student, 23, ‘cheated’ his way into America’s Ivy League institutions

Andy Nguyen

On paper Adam Wheeler had impeccable academic credentials. The 23-year-old won a place at Harvard University with a perfect score on his college entrance exam, glowing references from a distinguished private school and straight As from a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

While studying English at the elite university, he was showered with scholarships of more than $45,000 (£30,500). But Mr Wheeler’s high-flying academic career unravelled when he applied for the sought-after Rhodes Scholarship, for study at the University of Oxford, and Fulbright award, which enables Americans to undertake academic and professional development in Britain and vice versa. His application claimed that he had not only received perfect grades while at Harvard but had also co-authored numerous books, given lectures and even taught courses. A professor, reviewing a piece of work included with the application, noticed a suspicious similarity with the writing of another Harvard professor. It was clear, he thought, that Mr Wheeler had plagiarised almost the entire piece. After fooling some of the brightest minds in America for more than two years while attending lectures and passing exams at Harvard, Mr Wheeler has now been arrested, accused of making up virtually his entire academic record. Yesterday the alleged Ivy League impostor pleaded not guilty to 20 offences, ranging from identity fraud and pretending to hold a degree to larceny for allegedly stealing the scholarship money that he received — including two writing prizes worth$14,000 that he won at Harvard with a piece allegedly plagiarised from a Cornell University postgraduate work. He was released on bail until June 9.

“This defendant seriously undermined the integrity of the competitive admissions process, compromised the reputation of some of the finest educators and educational institutions in the country and cheated those who competed honestly for what he fraudulently received,” Gerry Leone, the local district attorney, told the court in Woburn, Massachusetts.

“Not only was this defendant untruthful on his application to the university and his numerous scholarship applications, he is also alleged to have stolen over $45,000 in grants, scholarship and financial aid money awarded to him on applications and submissions of documents that were based on lies and reproductions of other people’s hard work.” Mr Wheeler, whose parents own an interior design company in Delaware, won a place at Harvard in 2007 after what he said was a high-achieving year at MIT. In his application he claimed that he had graduated from the elite Phillips Academy. In fact Mr Wheeler graduated from the state-run Caesar Rodney High School, in Delaware, before attending Bowdoin College, in Maine, from 2005 until he was suspended for academic dishonesty in 2007. Instead of achieving a perfect 1,600 on his college entrance exam, as he claimed, he took the SAT test twice, with mediocre scores of 1,160 and 1,220. Student, 23, s Ivy League institutions - Times Online joel_b Hah, nice due diligence, Harvard. npatel Seems as this article is straight out of a movie. Reminds me of Catch Me if You Can. atreides Graduate Student The student could have probably gotten away with it and graduated from Harvard, if he didn't get complacent and start believing his own lie... Marko I am surprised that Harvard let him in....and it is Harvard. In this case, I wonder how many have cheated into these Ivy league schools so long as they can bullshit? bigbadwolf I am surprised that Harvard let him in....and it is Harvard. In this case, I wonder how many have cheated into these Ivy league schools so long as they can bullshit? With regard to admission, the dice are loaded anyway. Legacy students enjoy a definite advantage. Here's an article in the WSJ: Sons and daughters of graduates make up 10% to 15% of students at most Ivy League schools and enjoy sharply higher rates of acceptance. Harvard accepts 40% of legacy applicants, compared with an 11% overall acceptance rate. Princeton took 35% of alumni children who applied last year, and 11% of overall applicants. The University of Pennsylvania accepts 41% of legacy applicants, compared with 21% overall. Once admitted, it's not that difficult to graduate. Just be careful not to take the more difficult courses. Andy Nguyen Wheeler, 24, was sentenced to 10 years of probation, ordered to pay restitution of more than$45,800, ordered to continue attending counseling, and forbidden to make a profit from his story.

"I'm ashamed and embarrassed by what I've done," he said, apologizing to the court, his professors, his fellow students, and his friends. "As much as possible, I want to put this behind me and move forward."

He was expelled from Harvard in October 2009 during his senior year, after he upped the ante months away from graduation by applying for the prestigious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships using a fake straight-A transcript and work he plagiarized from a Harvard professor, prosecutors said.

But the expulsion did not stop Wheeler. He subsequently applied as a Harvard transfer student to Stanford, Brown, Yale, and a Williams College maritime program. He was admitted by Stanford and Williams, where officials said they discovered he had fooled them after learning of Wheeler’s alleged fraud at Harvard from news reports.

Katrina

This is very interesting ! It is hard to believe that Harvard doesn't check academic records, he probably would have got into one of these elite schools with a less than perfect record that would not have raised eye brow's

So much for his smarts

There is something fishy about this story. This guy actually got 1160 on SAT, but claimed he got 1600.
Then he faked academic transcripts from a school which he never attended.
The he faked reference letters.
Then he faked his way through four years of college courses and homework assignments and exams.
No one suspected anything or checked anything all this time. Even test scores like GMAT and GRE can be faked even when they are sent directly from the agency?
Seems to be an April Fool's joke. Can't be real. There is surely something which is not being disclosed how he managed to fake everything and why no one else has done this kind of thing.

TBeas

Yes, I'm curious how he managed to fake SAT scores and transcripts. These are normally sent electronically to the schools from the institutions/agencies.

Andy Nguyen

In an article published this week, the Globe does a marvelous job picking apart Wheeler's original Harvard application. The results are hilarious. His application was rife with inconsistencies, including a "gushing" letter of recommendation from Phillips Academy that stated Wheeler transferred to Andover as a junior, even though his transcript said he attended Phillips for four years (in real life, he went to a public high school in Delaware). Wheeler claimed he had taken near-impossible courseloads as a high school student, even knocking off a few courses at MIT (which Phillips doesn't allow). Wheeler included with his application letters of recommendation from his MIT professors, who waxed poetic about their golden student. But there was a slight catch: the MIT professors who "sent" the letters were actually Bowdoin employees, the one school Wheeler was admitted to in earnest (but from which he was later suspended, for plagiarism).

Student was full of errors, unlikely claims - The Boston Globe
Leah Finnegan: How to Get Into Harvard by Lying or: Why Adam Wheeler is a Modern Folk Hero

DominiConnor

It doesn't shock me as much as other people that there are 'glaring' errors...

I read many resumes, and find all sorts of shit in people who I generally believe have graduated from decent places. Resumes aren't read like novels, they are skimmed, and since a lot of people apply to Harvard do any of us really believe that each form is read out loud by Hugh Laurie to a team of top academics who spend the day pondering the worth of that particular person ?

The lazy journalists who wrote this article didn't go for the obvious story, who exactly processes Ivy League applications. Sure there's someone with 87 letters after his name in charge, but who does the work ?
I'd bet you'd find a gang of really low paid people in admin, none of whom have attended any top school, or perhaps even graduated from high school. I will bet money that some can't even read all that well. They are keyword matchers.
That's a glorious story, and of course one would grab some interns, and get them to write amazingly implausible stories, see how far they get.

I hope that everyone has read this:

I am genuinely puzzled how this dude faked the MIT transcript. The transcripts are printed on high-security paper with watermarks, raised seals, and other security devices. They can be easily checked online. How did he fake it?
Also, how did he change his SAT score from 1160 to 1600? This is really strange. If he could do this, I am sure that there are more people doing this but have not yet been detected.
He should write a book and release some info. I am sure that there are a lot of people who want to know how to do something like this.
I think the MIT transcripts would be a tough to fake. This guy must be a genius.
Everybody is describing WHAT happened. No one is explaining HOW he did it. That is what I am really interested to know.

I hope that everyone has read this:

Application packets for US universities are so much redundant horsesh!t. If nothing else, the country will drown in red tape. Redundant verbiage, both spoken and written, all around one. No wonder a third of the world's lawyers are in the US alone. A reminder to myself to reread Heller's Catch-22.

This story is so incredible that it may not be actually true. It is quite likely that some facts are being seriously distorted and that the newspapers are blowing smoke up your a.

euroazn

From the article:
“It is extremely rare to take 16 AP exams over one’s high school tenure,’’ said Jennifer Topiel, a College Board spokeswoman. “And to score a five on all of them is just exceptional.’’
No it's not. AP exams are a joke. I have already taken 10, got all 5's on them easily, and still have a-mores to go this year. I am not alone... you only need like 60-70% for pete's sake! Get a clue, people!

Stephie

Hacking is not impossible. A person doesn't need good test scores or ethics to be a great hacker. I know a trader who hacked himself a pay raise upwards of \$20/hr in college and continued working the job for three years before his check was flagged. His mother worked for the same company, and he was making more than her.

Okay let us assume that this dude was so brilliant that he was able to hack his way into the MIT computer systems and get an official transcript from MIT with his name, SSN, and date of birth on it. The question is, why did he just award himself "A" grade in some freshman level courses. He could have awarded himself a MIT MBA, M.D., or Ph.D. and then he could have still obtained an official MIT transcript with his name, SSN, and Date of Birth. Heck he could have handed out MIT degrees to all his friends and family members and he would have been a hero.
Also, changing the SAT score from 1160 to 1600 is not that easy. I am sure that more people would be doing it. Maybe they are, and no one is aware of it.
This guy may be brilliant. I am just curious to know how the heck he managed to do this. I am sure that a lot of people would love to have this knowledge.

Andy Nguyen

Wait till he comes out with a tell-all book.

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