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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Elite College Hoaxer Showdown: Stanford Vs. Harvard

Posted By on Thu, May 20, 2010 at 12:59 PM


News this week of Adam Wheeler, the 23-year-old who lied his way into Harvard and almost into Yale, brought back fond memories of Azia Kim, the dorm-squatter who was discovered posing as a Stanford student two years ago.

We have to ask: Who's the better college hoaxer?

TV movie-ready back story:

  • Azia Kim was, by all reports, a sweet, church-going Korean American girl with less than stellar academics at a high-achieving Orange County high school. She had told her parents she'd gotten into Stanford, and apparently had to keep up the ruse.
  • Adam Wheeler was a middle-class public high school student from Delaware, who seems to have thought himself clever enough to swim with the big fish at Harvard. According to Gawker, he was a Talented Mr. Ripley in training, "cutting a lonely, romantic figure in a vintage letter jacket." The Twilight fans would go wild. 


  • Kim showed up on campus in fall of 2006, and promptly convinced unwitting students to let her squat in their dorm room, explaining that the university had a technical mix-up and left her out. She enrolled in Santa Clara University's ROTC program, taking military science classes at Santa Clara much of the academic year.
  • Wheeler attended Harvard after being accepted via a fraudulent application, on which he claimed he'd gone to MIT and a fancy East Coast prep school, and had a perfect SAT score. He applied for and nabbed some $45,000 in grants and scholarships.
click to enlarge On the East Coast, Adam Wheeler...
  • On the East Coast, Adam Wheeler...


  • Kim entered her dorm room via the window since she didn't have a university key card -- and at least one of her roommates never even noticed. She hung out in the dorm lounge, bought textbooks, and studied with classmates for tests she would never take. She fretted about finals and homesickness on her social networking sites.
  • Even after getting into Harvard on a falsified application, Wheeler had the guts during his senior year to submit false applications for the Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships. He went on to apply to Yale with a bogus application as well.

Potential Criminal Conduct:

  • Kim broke into a roommate's e-mail account to permanently delete messages asking about her from university housing. She then wrote back to the officials posing as the roommate saying Kim didn't live there permanently. She also created a fake transcript of good grades to show her JROTC instructors, who awarded her a special Dean's Award ribbon for her uniform.
  • In addition to allegedly concocting fraudulent transcripts, Wheeler forged letters of recommendation, plagiarized essays, and doctored SAT scores.
click to enlarge And on the West, Azia Kim
  • And on the West, Azia Kim

Fall From Grace:

  • Kim was found out when the dorm resident assistant decided to make a memory book and didn't have any information about her.
  • Wheeler's elaborate lies finally caught up with him when Yale's admission office called his parents. Wheeler has now been indicted on 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree.


  • For Kim, the benefits were a little unclear. Since she wasn't actually enrolled in the school, she would never earn any credit or degree.
  • Wheeler is at least infamous. And he's got 278 new friends. On Facebook

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Lauren Smiley


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