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I'm wondering whether dismissal / withdrawal from a PhD program should be listed as disciplinary action on subsequent applications. A Master's program application usually asks questions like:

Have you ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at any post-secondary institution you have attended, whether related to academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct, that resulted in a disciplinary action?

I was academically dismissed from a PhD program after four semesters for not being able to maintain the minimum GPA. I plan to fully include this information in my application (e.g. through transcripts from the institution from which I was dismissed), and address why I was dismissed (and what steps I have taken to address academic concerns) in my Statement of Purpose. However, I am not sure if my dismissal counts as one that is due to "disciplinary violation" related to "academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct". I was simply dismissed due to not being able to maintain the required grades. Should I answer the above question in the negative?

Background

After completing my Bachelor's degree, I began full-time work in the field. While working I decided to attempt a PhD program in a unrelated field.

I started in the program, while continuing to work full time. Due to some poor time management skills, study skills, and personal issues, I could not maintain the minimum academic requirements. I was dismissed from the program after 4 semesters, because I received 3 C grades (the program's requirement is no more than 2 C grades). I had by that time taken my prelim exams, and passed some but not others. With this dismissal I can not be readmitted by at that univerity.

After this, I took 2 classes at at another university in order to improve my grades so I can apply to Masters programs. I expect to do OK in these courses. I am currently in the process of applying to Master's programs in the area.

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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

"Academic misconduct" is not the same as "Lack of academic performance." "Academic misconduct" is things like claiming undue credit, fabrication of research or sources, outright plagiarism, etc. Simply not making the grades might reflect on your academic aptitude, but (unlike academic misconduct) does not necessarily reflect upon your character.

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I believe that failing to meet the grade standards do not constitute an academic misconduct or a behavioral misconduct. In my opinion, those refer to cheating, sabotaging others' research projects etc. So I would answer that in the negative. Actually, I would want to be more sure than a random StackExchange answer in answering that question, so I would contact the department to ask, or ask one of my professors from undergrad/grad school.

By the way, as a word of advice, many schools have a separate section ("other circumstances" etc) for explaining that awful thing on your application. If I were you, I would save my SOP for actually talking about the research that I am interested in, and not make that a place where I make excuses. You have to give them a reason to be excited about you. By explaining your circumstances in the SOP, you lose your best shot, and they would at most feel mediocre about you.

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It's good to see the purpose of the SOP set out in this context, and it's a good idea to contact the department to ask: this answer will be helpful to others in a similar situation in the future. –  EnergyNumbers Dec 28 '13 at 13:51
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