Does Academic Probation Count as "Disciplinary Action"?

A question from a reader:

I graduated from college 5 years ago. I believe that I might have been put on Academic Probation for one quarter due to a serious illness that caused me to have to take 2 W's and a C and a D. I honestly can't remember if I actually was put on Academic Probation because of that quarter or not. I have a call into the school, but I was wondering if that is the type of situation referred to on law school applications asking if one has ever had any academic disciplinary measures taken against them by their university? I want to make sure I am following the rules to a "T".

Law school applications almost all require you to disclose instances of "disciplinary action" or "disciplinary measures" taken against you in college. Academic probation would definitely fall into that category, so if some deep fold in your brain is reminding you that you might have been put on academic probation but you're not entirely sure, you are right to be contacting the powers that be at your school to get more information.

If it turns out you were in fact on academic probation (whether or not it was later taken off your transcript), you would need to disclose that, and also write a disclosure addendum explaining what measures the school took and why, and what the resolution was. If your school tells you that were never on academic probation, that's happy news for you, because then there's nothing to disclose.

Whatever you find out, make sure to document your exchanges with your school so that you can refer back to your notes if anyone ever challenges your disclosure decisions on your law school or bar applications. For that reason, email exchanges with your college are preferable to phone calls, because then you have a (digital) paper trail. If phone calls are your only option, email yourself your notes so that they are date stamped (proving you didn't just take "notes" on the conversation the day after some bar committee or admissions committee challenged your application), and also so that you can find them again if you ever need to dig them up.

What kinds of other things would fall under this disciplinary umbrella? In plain English, disciplinary action or measures were taken against you anytime you were officially busted or reprimanded for something. Maybe your grades fell below a certain threshold and you were put on an academic warning. Maybe the campus police caught you peeing in the bushes late one night after a party and wrote you up (I hadn't realized how many guys do that until I started reading disclosure addenda as an admissions officer). Maybe you were busted for underage drinking. Maybe a professor accused you of cheating on an exam and either gave you a failing grade because of it or hauled you in front of a disciplinary committee. All of those things would count.

Those are just examples to give you a sense of the range. Do you have to have been found "guilty" of the infraction you were accused of? Not necessarily. As long as disciplinary action was initiated in some way, that would trigger disclosure for many law school applications if they are asking about "disciplinary action" or "disciplinary measures." Of course, in your disclosure addendum you can and should explain what the final outcome was, and in some cases, applicants can share the happy news that they were cleared of whatever the disciplinary charges were.

And a final reminder: If language in an application requires disclosure of something, do the right thing and disclose. Law schools, LSAC, and (later) the state bar take failures to disclose on your application very seriously, and you do NOT want to get caught up in the Misconduct and Irregularities process, let alone jeopardize your future bar membership. If you get caught, the consequences for the cover-up can be much worse than they would have been for disclosing the underlying infraction to begin with.

Good luck, and let us know what you find out from your school.


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Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).