"And, in the highly selective schools like Yale, padding on the resume hurts. Ms. Dahl said many applicants state that they were president of their class or captain of the soccer team when they were co-president or co-captain.
"In isolation," she said, "such self-aggrandizement is not enough for us to reject the application, but it will raise a question about the student. It's bothersome. Let's just say it doesn't endear them to us."
Or things like failing to report all S.A.T. scores, instead of just the highest one. "For example," [Yale admissions dean] Ms. Dahl said, "a number of applicants fail to report a low test score when our directions on the application instruct the student to report all scores."
"On the other hand," she said, "when they self-report a poor test score we say, 'Isn't that nice he told us.' It makes the student look nicely honest. We like that."
Breaking the early-decision application rules is another common offense. Applicants for early-decision are supposed to apply to only one school. Some cheat and apply to more, Ms. Dahl said.
"If they're irresponsible, we react," she said. "We let them know they didn't play by the rules. And then we withdraw their names from the early-decision group."
Despite a generally trusting approach to applicants, the highly selective schools say they take common-sense precautions to prevent deception. They require original copies of all letters of recommendation. Transcripts of grades must bear the embossed seal of the student's secondary school. And S.A.T. scores must be submitted directly from the testing agency.
When asked if the process were vulnerable to deception, Mr. Wrinn of Harvard would say only: "With any application, we rely on the integrity of the process."
Ms. Dahl said that her office sends out postcards to some of the writers of letters of recommendation to say thanks. "We hope people will respond if they never wrote any such letter," she said. "If there's a whiff of anything funny, we get right on the phone. We have conversations with a great many school guidance counselors."
"If we're suspicious," Mr. Stetson said, "we'll go to the school and ask if that's really a valid writing sample, or whatever." Bogus Candidates Sometimes Slip Through the College Admissions Screen - New York Times