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During my last semester of college, I was going through many difficulties. I could get into detail about everything I was experiencing and feeling during this stressful time but it would be too long.

Anyways, I had an important capstone project, including other assignments piled on top. It was during the last few weeks of school that, once it was time to turn things in, I lied about the project implementation and I paid to get the final project paper and a few of my other assignments done. This was the only time I’ve ever thought to do this. I edited/changed the work, I didn’t 100% copy/paste during this period but I feel very terrible that I resorted to this and I want to confess and return my degree.

I had thoughts about dropping out before but felt this wasn’t a choice because of my family. My mind went to a dark place so I felt if I failed I couldn’t do another semester especially since my family was expecting me to graduate. I don’t even plan to pursue anything with the degree, I felt pressured from my family and didn’t stop to think what I truly wanted so now I’ve just been stuck about what I did last year and I don’t know how to forgive myself or what God would want me to do. Any kind advice would help, please.

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    Did you seek therapy regarding your difficulties? It sounds like that would be more fruitful than worrying about the degree.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 14:02
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    If you wanted to, do you think you'd be able to do the work by yourself? Or did they do work that you can't do? Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 16:10
  • return my degree I (seriously) wonder if this is a thing.
    – WoJ
    Commented Apr 29, 2023 at 12:49

6 Answers 6

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Your post seems to suggest that you have learned from your mistake. Given that, I'd suggest that you let the past be the past and move on, hopefully to better acts in the future.

Returning the degree (if it would even be accepted) won't do anyone any good, provided that you behave ethically going forward.

We all fail in some ways at some point in our lives. Learn from the mistakes and don't repeat bad behaviors.

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    Thank you so much and yes I have learned the hard way! Thanks again
    – user170472
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 23:54
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    To keep the spirit of academia, I would go back and re-do all the assignments that you paid someone else to do. Nobody's going to grade it. It's not going to count against you, but you should see how well you could've done now that you're in a better place. Also learn how to avoid the "dark places" and don't let anyone push you that far. In the "real world", this is called a burnout, or just straight up depression.
    – Nelson
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 6:27
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    In extremis, redo those jobs yourself for your own peace of mind.
    – Lucas
    Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 8:27
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You seem to be in search of attonement or absolution. Trying to achieve that through the university's administration seems unwise: at absolute best you might get a lukewarm "well, it's done now, don't worry about it". At worst, you could create a big mess that will cause a lot of work for a lot of people, and not actually make anything better for anyone.

I'd suggest looking for your forgiveness through other channels, whether they are therapy, prayer (your mentioned God), or acts of community service. Maybe you could look at mentoring young students or something (for free) as your act of penance.

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    +1 for seeking peace through community service. A mistake was made, but the context is you lacked support. Become the support you needed and you could save other students from this turmoil.
    – vspmis
    Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 10:38
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You were lucky to not have been caught apart from your conscience. You found integrity in yourself. This will prove useful - you will now know its value going forward, more so than someone that never saw temptation. There is not much value to make the system punish in this matter you if you have seen the error of your ways yourself and are determined not to repeat them.

I pick up another point that others pointed out, unfortunately only in comments: do the work again, yourself. Submit it to the court of your own ambition to convince yourself that you would have been able to do that. If successful, it means that you have, in a way, "taken out a loan of skill" which you now pay back. If you can, try to pay it back with interest, with a more ambitious version of the work you should have done.

To be sure: I do not condone cheating at all, I think it is wrong for many reasons, and not just fairness. But you have deeply understood that it's wrong and, for this integrity you found in yourself, you deserve respect.

"Go forth and sin no more." - There's wisdom in these words. Good luck!

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I don't know if this is possible in your case, but I've re-taken classes before. It wouldn't be "easy" but it would satisfy everyone and everything, permanently.

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    This would assuage your guilt and help ensure that you learn what you were supposed to learn in the class. You might ask the instructor if you could audit the class since you took it the previous semester and felt like you didn't fully understand all the material at the end. Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 13:39
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You arent alone, especially with COVID a lot of people did college this way. Learn from it and move on. Dwelling will just hurt you more.

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I recommend a three-pronged "attack" to your personal road to perdition1-like journey:

1. Don't do anything sudden

This one is nicely covered in several other answers and comments here. It is not likely the system is equipped for this, and blurting out admissions without planning could trigger all kinds of permanently damaging things you and your family do not deserve.

That you have posted a question here in Stack Exchange to help think this through shows that you may already recognize this possibility, so kudos to you!

2. If you are like me, you may feel things that were not done right or correctly should eventually be corrected when possible.

Other answers indicate that one way to "make things right" from your own perspective and feelings 2 would be to find a way to retake or re-audit the class. That may be impossible right now, but go ahead and find out what the processes might be and make a plan to do it as some point in the future.

Make an effort to find out all your options along these lines, and do it in such a way (via emails with dates) that it is documented and your intentions are clear. That's the beginning of your...

3. Cleanup in Aisle 7

In my answer to a somewhat different circumstance What should I do if I did someone else's homework a few years ago? I wrote

Times are different. This is the age of the internet, and "The internet’s not written in pencil... it’s written in ink."3

You don't know where your future will take you. I can speak from personal experience that turmoil, confusion, depression, "bad places" we go mentally generally get better over time, and in future years and decades you may be supporting yourself and your family in a position with some visibility.

You might even end up in a situation where they do background checks or there's competition for a competitive position, or eve running for political office some day, perhaps at a local level or beyond.

If you have made some "atonement" or efforts4 to deal with the situation by retaking or re-auditing, or at least exploring those possibilities in a documented way via emails, or even taken a similar class later; basically taken some action, then when you follow others' good advice here and put it behind you (i.e. focus on the future, deal with present responsibilities of job and family) you can then

  1. put your worries here aside and focus on all the new worries and challenges that life keeps putting in front of us
  2. but know that if this somehow ever comes up again, you can demonstrate that this bothered you and you took what actions were available for atonement while simultaneously not putting your responsibilities towards your family at risk. You chose a course of action that was reasonable, reasoned, recognizant, and responsible.
  3. did not engage in "scandal cover-up behavior" that could cause trouble later4

  • 1Tom Hanks says no-one ever talks about his favorite movie Road to Perdition Wikipedia, IMDB
  • 2 or if some day this ever finds its way back to you during a background check for a future job or by some bad-intentioned individual
  • 3 Erica Albright quote from The Social Network
  • 4 While the twelve step process does not apply here directly, they do contain some elements - feelings of guilt and/or regret do haunt us sometimes and cause trouble later. A summary of steps #8 and #9 would be that we should try to make some effort to fix stuff, except when the fix could cause even more problems for others (in this case your family) or you. In those cases, letting "sleeping dogs lie" is recognized as the most compassionate and correct course of action.
  • 5 for an extreme example of "trouble later" see: Washington Post's June 15, 2019 Echoes of Biden’s 1987 plagiarism scandal continue to reverberate and Wikipedia Joe Biden 1988 presidential campaign Had he taken remedial action at the time in a way that could be pointed to after the fact, it would have been better.

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