I have one incident of academic misconduct on my record from my sophomore year (I was guilty), and I received a grade sanction and disciplinary probation. This does not appear on my transcript and I am no longer on disciplinary probation.

I am now applying for PhD programs and some applications ask about conduct. On one application, I'm not sure whether I have to disclose my academic misconduct because of the wording of the question.
It asks if I have ever been "disciplined for academic performance" and gives examples like "academic probation, dismissal, suspension, disqualification, etc." For the same question, it also says: "Academic Infraction: Indicate whether you have ever been disciplined or placed on academic probation while attending an academic institution."

At least at my university, academic probation is something you receive for poor grades (like having a dangerously low GPA), whereas disciplinary probation is something you receive for misconduct (anything from underage drinking to academic misconduct). So I'm thinking I can answer "no" to this question, since I was disciplined for misconduct not academic performance, and it was disciplinary probation, not academic probation. It seems that "academic infraction" would be discipline for poor grades. But that "etc." makes me nervous and I wanted others' opinions.

I don't want to answer "yes" and put myself at a disadvantage when I don't have to, but I also don't want to mistakenly answer "no" and then be caught and have my application disqualified (or worse, get accepted, have someone find out about my academic misconduct halfway through my PhD, and be dismissed). I want to make sure I'm being truthful, but only as truthful as I have to be. For obvious reasons, I don't want to disclose this unless directly asked/required. Do you think I should answer "yes" or "no" to this question?

Edit: To be clear, I am not intending to deceive by being so particular about the word choice. I have disclosed my misconduct on other applications where it was clear that my answer should be "yes". I think it's understandable that I want to be absolutely certain that I am required to disclose it before I do. I am trying to be honest and accurate.

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    Tough call. I won't even venture an opinion. Is there a faculty mentor (perhaps one of the people writing a letter of recommendation for you) you are close enough to so that you could ask? Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 2:50
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    I think it is really clear that you need to. Trying to weasel around the words isn’t a good look. Will it ‘disadvantage’ you? Perhaps, but you were cheating in order to ‘advantage’ yourself. Own it and be prepared to explain it.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 13:15
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    If in doubt you can always contact the program coordinator to confirm one way or another! If they agree with your assessment that they are not asking for your kind of probation then it's unlikely they will make your communication about administrative details part of your application that will be evaluated by the committee. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 13:50
  • Thanks, I was thinking I should double check with someone who knows better. Would it be appropriate to contact my academic advisor about this, or someone on the academic integrity board at my university? I am hesitant to talk about this with people in my field (besides my academic advisor), because I am volunteering the information and people are free to talk. @user2705196
    – josh
    Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 18:37
  • Moderator’s notice: Any answers that do not address the asker’s question about what is formally correct and instead are about what is ethically or strategically best will be deleted without warning.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jun 21 at 9:00

3 Answers 3


It seems that "academic infraction" would be discipline for poor grades.

That is wrong. Misconduct is a type of infraction. You were disciplined for an infraction. Disclose it.

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    Since the OP is confused about the meaning of words, it might help to give a definition of infraction, which means violation (of law, rules, agreement, ...). E.g., merriam-webster.com/dictionary/infraction
    – Kimball
    Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 15:26

I received a grade sanction and disciplinary probation.

Receiving an adverse penalty or outcome for your conduct means that you have been "disciplined" for that conduct, so this falls within the scope of those questions. Attempting to split hairs using a distinction between "academic performance" versus misconduct seems willfuly evasive to me. The correct answer for both questions is yes.


Rather than try to parse the words and not disclose, I would actually directly address the whole episode in the letter or statement included in the application. Write openly what happened, why it happened, and how you think about it now. I believe that such openness—especially if it shows that you learned from your past—would turn a possible negative into a positive part of your application.

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    While it may or may not be the right thing to do, in my experience, disclosing a negative thing you are not obliged to disclose does turn a positive application usually into a negative application.
    – user111388
    Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 8:38
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    @user111388 I agree in general with what you said, but the whole point of the question is that the OP is indeed obliged to disclose what happened.
    – Tripartio
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 11:20

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