Browse through the pages of your average college application, and you’ll find some fairly predictable questions. Your standard application will request your grades and SAT scores, and ask about any extra-curricular activities and after school jobs. Some applications might ask you to describe your achievements and goals, while others may inquire about a person you admire or a hobby that is meaningful. Some applications may even ask more unusual questions, such as what your favorite word is or what “YOLO” means to you.
But nearly all college applications will feature a little box for applicants to check or leave empty that indicates whether or not they have a criminal history. Despite its small size, this box can play a major role in determining your future educational and career opportunities.
The practice of asking applicants about their criminal histories became standard in 2006, when questions regarding past convictions were added to the Common Application. Today, the Common Application is used by nearly 500 colleges and universities, including Colorado State University, Colorado College, and University of Colorado Boulder. In addition to requiring students to check a box admitting to a conviction, many institutions also perform background checks on all prospective students before making admission decisions.
College and university admissions boards claim collecting criminal background information on students is necessary for campus safety. However, admissions boards don’t just look at violent crimes—they also take minor offenses, such as alcohol and marijuana charges, into account.
The result? Many highly qualified, intelligent students who pose no danger to their fellow classmates are turned away from colleges and universities that would have otherwise welcomed them. In addition, many students with criminal records become discouraged during the application process and simply give up before completing it.
The college application process’s unfair bias towards students with criminal histories has many advocates calling for reform.Click To Tweet
In a recent editorial from the New York Times, it was noted:
“Americans who have criminal histories are often stymied when they encounter college entry applications that ask if they have ever been convicted of crimes. The process, which often brings greater scrutiny to people who answer “yes,” is driving away large numbers of people who present no danger to campus safety and are capable of succeeding academically.”
Kids with Criminal Records May Not Be Able to Receive Financial Aid
As tuitions skyrocket, securing financial assistance of some kind has become necessary for the average American who is seeking secondary education. However, students with a criminal history are often ineligible for government loans, grants, and financial aid.
Applicants with drug offenses, misdemeanors, or felonies on their records are unlikely to be able to qualify for financial assistance. For many students, this means attending college or university will be impossible—even if they do manage to get accepted to a school despite their criminal history.
How Parents Can Help
Even the most responsible, well-mannered, and brightest kids make mistakes. If an error in judgement, an impulsive decision, or bout of bad luck lands your child in trouble with the law, your actions as a parent may determine what happens next. If you are able to guide your teen through this difficult time, you may be able to help him or her avoid a criminal stain on their permanent record.
Before conviction. Upon learning that your child has been accused, arrested, or charged with a crime, you should contact a juvenile defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can intervene on your child’s behalf and prevent the case from proceeding to court. And if it does become necessary to go to trial, your attorney can fight aggressively to keep your kid out of juvenile detention and their record clean.
After conviction. If your child has already been convicted of a crime, however, there are still legal actions you can take to help protect their educational and future opportunities. In Colorado, juvenile records may be expunged from public access in certain circumstances.
An expunged record is essentially destroyed, and cannot be accessed by anyone—including college admissions boards. Once your kid’s record has been expunged, it is essentially as if the crime in question never happened. Legally, you and your child can deny the existence of a criminal record if questioned by college admission board officials, prospective employers, and nearly everyone else.
If you are interested in learning more about having your kid’s criminal record expunged, contact a Colorado juvenile expungement lawyer. With the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney, you may be able to expunge your child’s criminal record and protect their future education, career, and overall happiness.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.