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By Matt Thomson-Ryder
Perfect grades, fluent in five languages and author or co-author of six academic books – all whilst still an undergraduate.
Adam Wheeler, a Harvard English student, must have thought his application for one of next year’s Rhodes scholarships to Oxford was guaranteed to succeed.
But Wheeler, 23, instead had almost his entire academic record exposed as fraudulent after one of his professors who he asked to give a reference noticed striking similarities between the sample of his work he was planning to submit to Oxford and the work of another professor.
Wheeler is now under arrest in Boston, charged with twenty offences, including the theft of the $46,000 in scholarships he fraudulently obtained from Harvard.
Wheeler’s list of claims included a perfect score of 1600 in his SAT test (the predominant exam American universities use for undergraduate admissions), something that would have put him in the top sixtieth of a percent of American high school students.
In fact, Wheeler received mediocre scores, and then only after he sat the test twice. He also falsely claimed a grade point average of 4.0 for his work at Harvard – the highest possible mark – and lied about being fluent in Classical Armenian, Old Persian, Old English and French.
Wheeler had managed to fool Harvard’s admissions office when he applied in 2007, claiming that he was in his first year at MIT and wanted to transfer.
Yet despite MIT being next door to Harvard, across the Charles River, Harvard did not realise that Wheeler had in fact never been to MIT.
Instead, he had studied at Bowdoin, a Liberal Arts College in Maine, but had been suspended for academic dishonesty.
In response to Wheeler’s fraud, Harvard maintained that their admissions process had to involve a degree of trust. Oxford refused to comment on the case.