Can grad schools tell if you are lying on your application?

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Updated: February 26, 2024, Reading time: 5 minutes

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Grad school admission committees are not always able to tell—not right away, that is!—if you are lying on your application. As they sort through the tens of thousands of applications each year, it becomes almost impossible for them to spot the ones fabricating information on their profile. However, bear in mind that exaggerated achievements attract their curiosity, and odd claims are almost always a giveaway!

A grad school admissions committee may not always check if you completed 40 hours of accounting internship or spent 30 hours for a professional development training session. Falsifying work or research experience is easy to verify: they can call your previous school or google the research project you claimed to spearhead.

At times, the admissions team doesn’t even try hard; they just know! These professionals have spent years upon years reading and reviewing grad school applications. They often have a good instinct if your application is faulty or extraordinary, and therefore false or inaccurate.

Let’s do an in-depth exploration of this subject:

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Why do candidates lie in their applications?

Grad school admission is competitive, and it is quite common for some candidates to exaggerate their applications to get ahead in the game. Lying in your application is seen as a quick solution to their accomplishment lists that fall short of expectations.

This pressure, coupled with the availability of any online information they can claim as theirs, lets students become the overachieving graduate school applicants they wish to present themselves to be. 

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One of the biggest issues that the admissions team regularly deals with is false transcripts, which compromise the grad school’s admission standards. Today, many grad schools are taking steps toward fully eliminating this common scenario by hiring an admissions consultant to validate the inconsistencies. They also use software and programs to verify the information.

Do your GPA and standardized scores match? Is your essay in sync with how you answer questions in the interview? Is your work experience in accord with your letters of recommendation? The pieces in your application will come together from your professors, teachers, managers, colleagues, and yourself and are taken together by the admissions committee as one. If the grad school admissions team sees two different persons in your file, it would be a big red flag on your application!

What happens when grad school admissions find out you are lying?

Some candidates get away with their lies, but what happens when the admissions team discovers that you are lying about your application? When they find something off about a candidate’s application, grad school committee members will try to reach out to your college.

Falsification of any misrepresentation in documents in your grad school application can lead to serious consequences! At the very least, the deliberate act of falsifying information gets you booted off the grad school applicants list.

Depending on the severity of your misconduct, these consequences await you:

How do you complete grad school applications without exaggeration?

Write your essays yourself!

The essay is one of the sections that most admission officers focus on. They get to know you first through your essays, how you write about yourself, and if it matches your scores. Someone with a high GPA or test score with poor composition writing is a warning signal to the admissions team.

A good essay does not only consist of impeccable grammar and sentence structure; it must also convey the message with clarity! Style it in a way that is appropriate to your age and personality. Help the admissions team understand your vision and plans for achieving your objectives.

Be “plain” with your extracurriculars.

Depending on the grad school, extracurricular activities may be useful in boosting your application. After all, grad schools do not only accept candidates with high grades and scores; they look for individuals who show active involvement in activities to enhance their interpersonal skills and exhibit their leadership potential. Do not exaggerate, though. Give the facts straight!

Your interests should match your profession or past accomplishments.

Unless your interest is directly related to your major or graduate program, do not talk or write about it. If your experience as a volunteer had you leading a team, and you think it helped accomplish your goals, explain the details. If you claim to be immersed in English literature but haven’t become part of the Literary Arts Journal clubs in your college, you may have some explaining to do!

The Bottomline

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Lying in your application is a waste of time. No one wants to be fooled, and no one wants to suffer the consequences of misleading someone. Fraud is poison to the graduate admissions program and the entire graduate study system. Being yourself and putting your best foot forward could be nerve-wracking, but honesty and integrity are the most in-demand qualities of a candidate.

Grad schools do not expect an un-flawed candidate. They want the best candidate familiar with what it takes to be a successful graduate student. Normally, a grad school looks for applicants who have gone through hardships, speak about their shortcomings, and how they were able to get back on their feet.

So, present yourself and be genuine. The right school or program will be glad to have you.

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