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Lied to future adviser please advise


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So I was only accepted to one program, it's a top ten but it was the only one I was accepted to. 

In my meeting with my potential adviser, he asked me, what other offers are you considering ? 

And I lied and told him the name of a university that rejected me. 

What should I do ? Should I come clean? Is there any chance he will find out? Would appreciate any advice. 

Feel really bad about lying. 

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While you shouldn't have lied, since it sounds like it was a pretty pointless one, I would just forget about it.  The chances that this will come back and bite you are slim. Think about all of the factors that would have to fall into place for this to even come up again. I know as grad students we have a habit of catastrophizing things, but try to bury this one.

In a couple of years, when you've developed a relationship with your advisor, you'll probably end up bringing it up and laughing about it because we all know that impostor syndrome and nerves cause us to do silly things.

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I agree with @jrockford27 think you should come clean, but I also would not stress about timeline on when to come clean.

The more sense of humor your advisor shows about their own human foibles, the sooner I would be inclined to tell them.

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eh it really depends on what field you're in and what school you lied about. Most likely it won't come up again (generally speaking, I imagine professors have better things to do than talk to other people about potential admits). 

With that being said, I'm in rhet/comp and our field is smalllllll, when I went on school visits nearly everyone knew my current advisors and there were plenty of people who came up and asked me about certain people (to say hi or ask whether I worked with them). But our field is small and I'm at a well known program. If you mentioned a lesser known school or are in a much larger field it probably won't matter at all. I wouldn't address it as it will probably never come up again, but as you clearly know it's not the best habit to get into. 

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How do you know the lie is pointless @jrockford27?

What do you guys think will happen if he finds out in some other way-- will he not want to be my adviser anymore ? Will he think I'm immoral? How do you think he will think about the lie? 

How would you react if you found out about such a lie? And why do i feel so bad about it ?

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I know the lie was pointless because the school wasn't going to rescind your acceptance if they'd learned you hadn't been accepted anywhere else, and it wouldn't result in you being treated worse than your colleagues.  As has been said here many times, there are people that get accepted to a school in the top 10 or top 5 who were rejected by schools in the 20s and 30s. This is common knowledge.  The professor was probably just curious, programs like to have that data so that they can know a bit more about their applicant pools.

My admittedly armchair psychoanalysis is that when you were asked, you had a moment of impostor syndrome panic (which happens to the best of us), and wanted to seem more impressive to your future advisor.  It is perfectly understandable, but, like so many other behaviors associated with impostor syndrome, is unnecessary and leads to unnecessary anxiety!  Going forward, just remember that they wouldn't have admitted you if they didn't think you were a smart person with a whole lot of potential who will fit nicely into their department culture.

He isn't going to find out. I can't think of a conversation in which it could possibly come up without really wracking my brain to concoct a series of coincidences. If he did find out, it's possible that he wouldn't want to be your advisor anymore, but I think that would speak to a lack of professional maturity and empathy that would not be becoming of an advisor anyway.  If it were me, I would probably chalk it up as one of many incidences I've experienced of an anxious graduate student having a gaffe and saying the wrong thing or behaving in a baffling or frustrating way. I would probably use it as a teaching/mentoring moment to prevent you feeling like you need to lie to me in the future. 

But you don't know this person, and you don't know how they'll react. It is exceptionally unlikely this will come up again as anything other than a joke at your dissertation defense.  So just bury it and move on.

 

 

Edited by jrockford27
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6 minutes ago, jrockford27 said:

I know the lie was pointless because the school wasn't going to rescind your acceptance if they'd learned you hadn't been accepted anywhere else, and it wouldn't result in you being treated worse than your colleagues.  As has been said here many times, there are people that get accepted to a school in the top 10 or top 5 who were rejected by schools in the 20s and 30s. This is common knowledge.  The professor was probably just curious, programs like to have that data so that they can know a bit more about their applicant pools.

My admittedly armchair psychoanalysis is that when you were asked, you had a moment of impostor syndrome panic (which happens to the best of us), and wanted to seem more impressive to your future advisor.  It is perfectly understandable, but, like so many other behaviors associated with impostor syndrome, is unnecessary and leads to unnecessary anxiety!  Going forward, just remember that they wouldn't have admitted you if they didn't think you were a smart person with a whole lot of potential who will fit nicely into their department culture.

He isn't going to find out. I can't think of a conversation in which it could possibly come up without really wracking my brain to concoct a series of coincidences. If he did find out, it's possible that he wouldn't want to be your advisor anymore, but I think that would speak to a lack of professional maturity and empathy that would not be becoming of an advisor anyway.  If it were me, I would probably chalk it up as one of many incidences I've experienced of an anxious graduate student having a gaffe and saying the wrong thing or behaving in a baffling or frustrating way. I would probably use it as a teaching/mentoring moment to prevent you feeling like you need to lie to me in the future. 

But you don't know this person, and you don't know how they'll react. It is exceptionally unlikely this will come up again as anything other than a joke at your dissertation defense.  So just bury it and move on.

 

 

I second everything @jrockford27  said. An extremely thoughtful response.

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8 hours ago, Leenaluna said:

So I was only accepted to one program, it's a top ten but it was the only one I was accepted to. 

In my meeting with my potential adviser, he asked me, what other offers are you considering ? 

And I lied and told him the name of a university that rejected me. 

What should I do ? Should I come clean? Is there any chance he will find out? Would appreciate any advice. 

Feel really bad about lying. 

Seconding everything @jrockford27 said. The lie was totally unnecessary and speaks to the stress you're in more than anything. I personally would choose to move on from this. At this point you don't know your potential advisor well enough to know how to "come clean" to him without causing yourself potential harm. The chance that he'll find out exists but isn't large (it depends on who he might know at the other department). The chance that finding out about your lie will actually cause him to drop you as an advisee seems very small. This topic of conversation is most likely in the past and won't come up again. If it does, at some point in the future, you'll have a better sense of how to handle it once you know your advisor better. If it does, I think the way to put it is precisely as it was described above: an almost instinctive reaction to impostor syndrome and a fear of how you'd be perceived by your new advisor. A moment of weakness that's led you to do some serious thinking about how you perceive yourself as an academic. But again, I really think it's best to move on.  

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Thanks everyone for the responses, I super super appreciate it. 

I guess I'm just worried that the advisor will tell other people in the department I was accepted to about the other fake offer and they will find out through the grapevine that I didn't get in and the whole faculty will know about this lie and I'll have to live with the embarrassment for the next five to ten years lol 

 

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@Leenaluna If it comes up, you say: "I know, right? It's so funny the things you get stressed about sometimes!" Treat it like it's funny (it's kind of funny) and everybody else will treat it that way, too. I really don't think it will come up, but if it does, now you're prepared to handle it.

People say sillier things than this to their advisors fairly regularly, and nobody ever remembers for more than like three weeks.

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I would also say that there's a good chance he won't necessarily even remember exactly what you said, especially if he finds out the truth. I know that I certainly have a bad memory and if I find out conflicting information later I am in the habit of questioning whether I remembered correctly or whether I interpreted info in a way it wasn't meant to be communicated. If he were to find out (which I agree is unlikely), he may think "Maybe I misheard" or perhaps "Maybe we weren't communicating clearly." Obviously we don't know what his response will be, but were I him and I found out about the lie, I would likely shrug it off as a miscommunication or mis-remembrance on my end. Either way, I agree with everyone else here; I think we all have moments of knee-jerk lying/bending the truth in times of anxiety (at least, I know that I have before).

Edited by Cassifrassidy
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