I cheated on a homework assignment. The professor found out. I am afraid of what is going to happen. I know I should face the consequences. I am thinking about just withdrawing from my PhD program now, before his complaint gets to the dean.

He said that he would not report if I write an email admitting it and saying that I would never do it again. But this seems a way to get me admitting it with proof. I already admitted in front of him. I don’t know why he needs an email saying that.

Should I provide this e-mail? Is it a trap?

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    You might be interested: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/30539/…
    – Allure
    May 30, 2019 at 0:32
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    " i dont know why he needs an email saying that" Most likely just to have something to show to you later in case you do it again and deny any previous history of misconduct. He has no reason to trust you more than you trust him.
    – fedja
    May 30, 2019 at 1:54
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    Welcome to Academia SE. Please edit your question to clarify: 1) I suppose you want to know about possible motivations for your professor asking for your e-mail or how to react to this (and not general information on why cheating is bad). Please clarify what it is. 2) Answers to this question can strongly depend on what academic system you are in and how it normally handles cheating. Can you specify this? (You don’t need to name your university, just outline the procedures.) 3) In what country/culture does this happen?
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 30, 2019 at 9:22
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    Another point: cheating is an administrative burden. If you cheat, your professor needs to deal with it. That’s an annoyance that they don’t want. By admitting via email they’re avoiding a lengthy process for the two of you. Your professor is trying to help you!
    – Spark
    May 30, 2019 at 9:45
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    I think the situation is pretty clear (but I have to put this as comment as the question is on hold). The professor wants 2 things with his action: (1) By writing it down he forces you to self-reflect over it again and not just say "Sorry" and forget about it. (2) He has proof of your misconduct and if he later sees that you misbehave again (and does not have proof in this new situation - e.g. seeing you copy from another student during an exam) then he can use the written proof of the first incident to still get you into troubles. Conclusion: Do not drop out but stop misbehaving in future!
    – lordy
    May 31, 2019 at 12:48

2 Answers 2


You betrayed your professor with this cheating behavior and lost his trust. But trust from others is the most important value in academia and in science. It is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for any kind of research in any scientific domain. It is necessary for any homework (the goal of any homework is just transmission of skills and of knowledge, nothing else; correcting and grading home-works is the worst part of any teaching job). And when you read any research paper, you have to trust its author. If you cannot, the author committed academic dishonesty. Unethical behavior is the number-one enemy of science.

Your professor is responding by asking you some email (that is some formal confession). He is likely to not use it now but could use that later.

I would have behaved as he did. He is giving you a last chance. Be grateful to him!

We all make mistakes, but you should try hard to avoid repeating yours. Errare humanum est

Your past behavior (described in your question) was unethical, not an adult one and incompatible with any PhD studies.

Most of us cheated at least once in our studies. My best teachers in French high school (collège) told me: "don't try to cheat, at your age, I cheated more than you can now". And I'll be 60 years old in August 2019.

I am thinking about just withdraw my PhD right know before his complain gets to the dean.

Doing a PhD is hard work, and you'll make a lot of mistakes. They are part of the job (and that is why I like so much the "Philosophical degree" in US academia: in France I am just a "Doctor" of computer science, but the only thing I really know is that I know almost nothing; read more on the etymology of the Doctor word).

NB: I am not a native English speaker, since I am French. During my own PhD I did pay for professional help from a psychotherapist, and as a human being (probably as old as your own father), I believe you should do likewise, at least to increase your soft skills and probably to be able to achieve your PhD. It is a really hard journey.

I welcome any private email about this question (cited by its URL) and my answer above if it is written in French by a non-French native speaker.


Cheating is wrong and has serious consequences. If you weren't caught early, you could have continued cheating for longer. When you cheat, it indicates that you are deficiently studying. You require discipline to study and need avoid procrastination. In addition, you need banish all fear of failure from your mind, because that causes you to procrastinate. It seems you cheated out of despair.

When you prolong cheating, you will be caught eventually. In career life, you cannot cheat easily and fool your employers and colleagues. Your incompetence will be revealed in workplaces and result in your job loss. If you are a cheater, you are wasting both your money and time on university education.

When your employer discovers your incompetence and mediocrity, he or she will distrust other graduates who attended same college as you. Cheaters like you are hurting honest graduates' chances of employment.

If you find studies too complex and daunting, try breaking them down and simplifying them. Alternatively, seek help. If professors are too busy, try external sources.

If studies are too stressful for you, you could perhaps take a year off from college and study up what you have fallen behind. My sister did that for medical reasons. She was allowed a year off after a surgery requiring months of recovery. While sick, she pursued her studies and was well-prepared for the following year. By then, she had less stress in studying as she had already prepared herself in advance.