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I plead guilty and was suspended for plagiarism (for a lab exercise) during my first year in undergrad. I felt extremely bad and apologized to my professor on the spot without even thinking of defending myself. I took the penalty suspension of 2 months which automatically forfeit my entire first semester for my sophomore year. Those two months were filled with anxiety and depression and I almost dropped out of college because of it. Safe to say I committed myself to continue pursuing my course because I was very passionate about it, I powered through, and I'm currently in my last year as an undergraduate.

The field I want to get into usually requires a graduate degree and I was thinking of pursuing a master's degree after I graduate, however when I was looking up some applications some of them required that I mention and explain if I've ever had academic delinquency.

I was wondering if anyone has had a similar experience who took up a master's degree or knows something about this situation. How would you suggest I go about this?

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Only if the application explicitly asks, then it is best to be honest but brief. (If they do not explicitly ask about this, then you certainly should not say anything.)

If they do ask, then you could briefly explain the circumstances and--most important--express your deep regret for your behaviour without making any excuses for yourself. Then spend a bit of time explaining how you have worked hard and honestly after that difficult learning experience. One paragraph should be enough for all this.

I would hope that with an honest account with sincere regret where you take full responsibility for your past actions, many admissions committees would look favourably at the rest of your profile, assuming that you have had good grades after the incident. If, however, some reject you for being honest when they asked you to be honest, then, in my view, it is probably a good thing to not attend that kind of school, so I would not worry too much about that.

Again, if they do not ask you, then do not say anything. This suggestion is only for applications that ask.

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  • Thanks for the insights, unfortunately, once I got back after my suspension, a few months in and the pandemic started so we shifted to the online setting. Honestly, my academic journey's been pretty rough. The pandemic on top of our universities adopting a new curriculum (with our batch being the first experimental one) hasn't made things any easier. I heard companies and universities are having second thoughts on looking towards graduates from the pandemic since the grades are so-called "skewed". In spite of this, I have been trying my best ever since. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 12:12
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    @doyoulikemycar, on Academia SE, if you find someone's answer somewhat helpful, please upvote it. You do not have to accept any answer as the best unless you feel one answer best answers you question, but you can upvote as many answers as you find somewhat helpful.
    – Tripartio
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 19:21
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I'll defer to Tripartio on actions to take (or not take), but to answer the question explicitly, yes, you can apply to grad school and most won't consider it an issue.

The problem was solved in the past and you took any punishment that was appropriate. That ended the matter and will settle it in the minds of most people. You got an education to learn something. You learned from a mistake. Fine. Done.

If asked, saying you learned from the mistake is plenty.

If someone tries to punish you again for a past transgression they are being unfair to you. For something like plagiarism, however, you might need to assure them that you understand better the issue and the need to avoid it.

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  • Can you elaborate on someone punishing them again? I cant imagine that 100% of the cases in which the application being declined due to a past transgression is being punished again. I can think of scenarios in which the past transgression and the combination of selected program/institution wouldn't be a good fit. Its a fairly common worldview to believe if someone does something once, they are more likely to repeat it than someone who has never done it to do it. Also, some actions will have consequences that outlast acute punishment, those are not additional punishments.
    – David S
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 16:13
  • @DavidS, actually you don't have evidence that someone didn't do it in any case. Most institutions don't make settled transgressions available. People can learn. People recognize that. Your mileage may vary, of course.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 16:23

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