Can I get into College with a Criminal Record?

Everybody makes mistakes, especially in our early years.  Children are often given more responsibilities when they hit their teenage years, and sometimes they make poor decisions.  Although it’s important that teens learn from their mistakes, a lapse in judgment shouldn’t cost a child the chance to further their education.  Below we provide some tips for applying to college if you have a juvenile criminal record.

1.  Do some research – Some schools require that you disclose your criminal past while others do not.  Oftentimes public universities and community colleges will not ask for this information, while private schools will ask that you provide it.  Depending on your past convictions, you may be better off applying to a school that doesn’t request this information up front.

2.  Learn about Federal Aid restrictions – If you plan to take out a loan to pay your way through school, you might have a tougher time receiving student aids or scholarships because of your previous convictions.  You may not be able to receive federal aid if you have previous drug charges, but state and school funding may still be possible.  Keep your budget in mind when picking a college.

3.  Tell the truth – If you are asked about past convictions on your college application, tell the truth.  If a prospective student is caught lying, it can automatically disqualify their application, even if they’ve already received a letter of acceptance from the school.  Telling the truth is the first step in showing the college that you’ve accepted responsibility for your past behavior.

4.  Be prepared – As we alluded to in our previous blog titled, “How to Job Hunt with a Criminal Record”, be prepared the answer questions about your past if the school asks you to come in for an interview.  Some important things to stress are that you’ve accepted responsibility, you understand your mistakes, and you’ve moved on.  Try to put a past conviction in a positive light by emphasizing what you learned and how you were changed by the incident.=

5.  Write a cover letter– Some colleges ask you to write a personal statement or cover letter to accompany your application.  If the application asks you to list past convictions but doesn’t give you ample room to explain your story, the personal statement can be a great spot to talk about your past.  Even if the college doesn’t require a personal statement, you may want to consider adding one if you feel like your juvenile record needs to be explained.6.

6.  Apply to multiple colleges – Most people apply to more than one college, but it is especially important if you have a criminal record.  Ultimately you don’t know how the admissions office if going to view your past convictions, so you’ll increase your odds of getting accepted if you apply to multiple places.

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Avery Appelman

Avery Appelman is a criminal defense lawyer and the founder of Appelman Law Firm. While his practice is primarily recognized for its work with DWI and related offenses, he has 16 years of experience working with clients on drug, assault, theft, traffic, criminal sexual conduct, and prostitution charges.

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