If your teen was involved in criminal activity and arrested for it, you may worry about how the arrest will affect his or her chances of getting into college. Though it is true that an arrest is a not a conviction, the admissions officers at the universities for which your teen applies may worry that a youthful mistake indicates a propensity for bad behavior and poor choices. As a result, your teen may struggle more than others to obtain a higher education.
According to the University of Maryland, 66% of colleges still collect criminal justice information. This includes information regarding arrests and convictions. That said, not all schools use arrest or conviction information to make admissions decisions.
Moreover, most colleges use the Common Application, which allows students to apply to multiple schools with a single document. This document also asks about criminal histories. However, ComApp only asks if an applicant has been convicted or adjudicated guilty of a felony or misdemeanor crime; it does not inquire about arrests, acquittals or dismissals, which means your teen may be able to answer “no” to the dreaded question in good faith.
Though the university does warn applicants and their parents that colleges ask for more information than employers, it reassures them that a criminal record is not always grounds for an automatic “no.” In fact, though many schools still ask for criminal background information, few base their decisions on this information alone.
Bearing that in mind, the university provides tips to help your student improve his or her chances of receiving an acceptance letter. It recommends that your child apply regardless of his or her background, as most universities do not have a “zero tolerance” policy. You should also consider applying to public and two-year schools, as they are less likely to ask about criminal history. Finally, if it comes down to it, you and your teen should discuss your circumstances with an attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can advise you of your rights and possibly help you obtain an expungement.