A new school year is under way, but for high school seniors, now is the time they’ll start doing college visits and begin thinking about where they want to apply. Applying for college can be a strenuous process, especially if you have the weight of a criminal conviction hanging over your head. That said, a past conviction shouldn’t deter you from applying for admission at the school of your dreams. Today, we share some tips for applying to college with a past criminal conviction.
How To Apply
Here are some things to consider when applying to college.
1. Be Honest – Whether it’s a job application or college application, the best policy is always to be honest. If the school asks if you’ve been convicted of a crime, tell them the truth. If they do a background check and find out that you lied on your application, it’s almost guaranteed that you won’t be accepted. You always want to be honest about a conviction if the application asks for it. That said…
2. Don’t Overshare – Some schools ask about criminal convictions, while others are only interested in more severe crimes, like felonies. If they don’t ask about a past conviction, there is no need to bring it up on your own.
3. Flip the Script – If the school asks about your conviction, they’ll also likely leave some space for you to explain your conviction. There’s no perfect answer, but if you legitimately made an error in judgment, then own your mistake. Turn it into a positive and explain how you grew from the experience. If you aren’t given a specific area to explain your conviction, make your essay about putting it in the past and maturing as a person. Don’t let the conviction define you!
4. Consider Financial Aid – The federal government does not give financial aid to any teen who has been convicted of a drug offense, whether it be a felony or misdemeanor. If you know you’re going to need financial assistance for college but won’t qualify for federal loans, plan ahead. Pick up a second job, or apply for a wide range of scholarships.
5. Request an Interview – In some cases, interviews may be a part of the application process. If you aren’t given enough space to explain your criminal conviction, request a meeting with someone at the Admission’s Office. Not only will this allow you to speak about the incident, but it will also help personalize your application. It’s easy to say no to someone who checked a box marked “Yes” when asked about a criminal conviction, but that becomes a lot harder when they meet you in person and feel that you’re committed to moving on with your life.