When applying to universities that look for more than scores from multiple-choice tests, some Thai students have gone so far padding their applications that at least one Western university now regards all of them with suspicion.
During the 2013 application season, Daniel Grayson, an admissions official at Tufts University in Massachusetts, reveals he had to throw out a quarter of all applications from Thai students who were suspected of cheating or just making up wonderful stories to impress screeners.
One Thai student claimed in his letter he was inspired by his friend’s tragic death to make a documentary on illegal abortion which became a great success on the Internet. Grayson emailed the applicant, a senior at an unnamed Bangkok international school, and inquired to see the film, which of course turned out to be a three-minute slideshow of stock photo images uploaded the day before.
And then there was the student who said he’d invented an elephant motion detector to help protect agricultural fields in rural Thailand. Uh huh.
In recent years, CNN reported there has been a continuous increase in too-good-to-be-true applications, many of which were likely written by pricy “education consultants,” which help students create a letter appealing to the American academic audience.
“There do seem to be countries where getting unwarranted ‘help’ isn’t considered cheating as much as it is seen as a necessary way of doing business,” said Therese Overton, an associate dean of admission at Wesleyan University. “As the stakes rise and more people are apprised of the possibilities, it does appear the problem is getting worse.”
Pressured by social status and the idea of “losing face,” many Thai elite and upper-middle class families feel the need to secure for their children an education abroad at a top university, preferably in the United Kingdom or United States, because it reflects the family’s wealth.
By pampering their children with interview coaches and private mentors to help them pad and lie through the process of admission, the credibility of Thai students in general has worsened. We can’t help but feel sorry for those smart kids who fight for a scholarship fairly and work hard to pay to study abroad, only to automatically be suspected as one of the “liars” in a stack of submissions.
Photo: Mike Park/ Flickr