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Md. high students change grades

Jenna Johnson

Right before deadline last night, we got a hot tip: A group of students at one of the top high schools in the country had hacked into teachers' computers and changed grades.

Soon after we filed the first version of the story for today's paper, the topic of college admissions came up: What happens to the students involved? Have any of these grades already been sent to colleges?

Then a student emailed me another question late last night: What about students who didn't have any grades changed, but attend the school? Will their reputation be marred?

I posed these questions to Daniel G. Creasy, the associate director of undergraduate admissions at Johns Hopkins University, and here's what he had to say:

Sadly to say it seems like every year now I am hearing about a similar situation of students hacking into their school's databases to change grades. I remember a few years ago there was a case in upstate New York that not only involved school administrators, police, but also the FBI. Such actions are crimes and for obvious reasons in admissions we take such incidents very seriously.
For the students directly involved in the changing of grades, I assume that the school will suspend them or take even stronger action. Under such conditions, those students if current college applicants will have to contact the schools they have applied to and update their application with this disciplinary violation. Unfortunately, every year we receive such updates from applicants who have had minor to very serious disciplinary infractions in their senior years, and we evaluate each situation on an individual basis.
At Hopkins as well as many other institutions, an applicant's personal qualities are part of the application review. In our evaluations, how an applicant has behaved within and toward his/her community is something we regard as highly relevant in our decision making. The students we select are students who we want to add a positive presence to the classroom but also equally to the Hopkins community as a whole. In selective college admissions, personal qualities and fit into the university community are equally as important as the academic factors and non-academic achievements.
As far as applicants from this school not involved with the incident, I would say to them that they don't have anything to worry about. Such publicity about a school is not going to influence the decisions we make about an individual applicant. An applicant is judged on their own merit, not on the school they attended, the actions of their peers in that school, and whether a school has a strong computer security system. Yes, in this area of the country there will be a buzz about Churchill H.S. for a while, but when my colleagues and I sit down to look over a Churchill applicant not involved in this incident, our opinions are not going to be swayed by these news stories.

What do you think? Leave your take on this in the comments section or shoot me an email.

College Inc. blogger Dan de Vise has also posed this question to school officials, so check out their responses.

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By Jenna Johnson  |  January 29, 2010; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions  | Tags: Johns Hopkins, admissions  
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