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How Did Adam Wheeler Fake His Way Into Harvard?

First Posted: 05/20/10 08:50 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:30 PM ET

At Harvard

It's the question on everyone's mind -- how did Adam Wheeler, a 23-year-old with an active imagination and a too-good-to-be-true resume dupe one of the country's best universities into granting him admission?

Harvard officials are staying mum. But others have their theories.

The Harvard Crimson spoke with Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, who wondered if the school's admissions officials missed telltale signs of fraud.


Nassirian pointed out the many layers of defenses against plagiarism inherent in documents produced by third parties, such as school transcripts and standardized test scores.


"Did the envelope match the letterhead? Did the envelope have a stamp on it? Did the postmark cancellation match the location of the institution from which the document should've been mailed?" he said.


Wheeler somehow mimicked real documents convincingly enough to bypass these questions, or such checks were overlooked by admissions staffers.

Another official, Robert Bardwell, secondary level vice president of the American School Counselor Association, said that the staggering amount of paper that comes through any admissions office makes it nearly impossible to vet every single document that comes in. In his line of work, he said that "you have to assume people are honest."

See the Crimson for a detailed timeline of Wheeler's hoax.

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Filed by Leah Finnegan  |