However, one aspect that every school will be looking at and judging the applicant critically for is their criminal history. A college is more likely to want someone with a clean record over someone with a drunk driving charge or an assault conviction. It is not only the universities that will be looking at your record, but many scholarships, financial aid, and even housing may turn you away if your criminal record is not to their liking. If you are already in college, then a misdemeanor or felony charge may even see you expelled. A Fort Mill and Rock Hill student criminal defense attorney can work to prevent a criminal conviction.
What's the difference between citations, misdemeanors, and felonies?
Our younger years are typically the time we make a lot of mistakes in our lives. We aren't sure of the consequences, we're trying new things, we're out on our own for the first time. That should be the time when we should be allowed a little leniency with our mistakes, but with colleges that leniency does not exist.
There are three different types of classifications for infractions and crimes:
- Citations generally apply to small, non-violent offenses like a noise ordinance violation or a traffic violation. These are usually not something colleges are too concerned about when looking at prospective students, despite citations often showing up on a background check.
- These are offenses punishable by law. Not as severe as felonies, misdemeanors are still serious, and will show up in your criminal record. Examples include shoplifting, graffiti, and trespassing. When colleges do a background check, they see your criminal record, and having a misdemeanor in your history may be what has them choosing someone without a criminal record over you. Misdemeanors come with fines, community service, and possible jail time.
- These are the most serious crimes, such as rape and murder. The consequences of being convicted of a felony are years in prison and hefty fines. The likelihood of getting into or remaining in college is slim.
How can a criminal record affect my college career?
There are many ways in which having a criminal record can not only affect your probability of getting into college, but also interrupt a college career that is already in process. Three ways in which committing a misdemeanor or felony can halt your educational goals include:
- Enrollment. According to the Center for Community Alternatives, “a majority (66%) of the responding colleges collect criminal justice information, although not all of them consider it in their admissions process. Private schools and four-year schools are more likely to collect and use such information than their public and two-year counterparts.” Having a wide range of criminal convictions is seen as a negative when considering admission, even if they are all misdemeanors. Many colleges rely on self-disclosure by the students in order to gather criminal history information; however, if the student does not list that they are a criminal offender, and the school discovers this later in the admissions process, it is likely that student will be denied.
- Housing. Apartments and other housing on campus can deny you from living there if you have a criminal history. The Centers for American Progress reports that one in three Americans have a criminal record, and many formerly incarcerated people are denied housing, which many in the community believe is unfair, and only offers more hurdles for those who are trying to overcome their criminal past.
- Financial aid. The Financial Student Aid program offers student loans and financial aid to students who may need the help in order to attend college. If you have a criminal record, however, you are not eligible for certain loans, such as federal Pell grants and federal student loans. Private loan lenders can also turn away who they want, and are more likely to give loans to a borrower without a criminal history.
From these examples, we can see how it can be quite unfair for those who have a criminal record, even for something as simple as graffiti or shoplifting. Should crimes such as these keep you from seeking out an education? From seeking out ways to better yourself? An attorney may be able to help.
What is expungement?
If a criminal record is preventing you from enrolling in college, then you may wish to seek to have your criminal record expunged. According to South Carolina law, an expungement wipes a criminal charge from your record: “An expungement, also known as an Order for Destruction of Arrest Records, commands all records of your charge to be deleted from the files of each state agency that maintains that information.” It is as if that crime never happened, and when you are applying to colleges, and later to jobs, this can make a world of difference.
In order to have a criminal charge expunged, there are requirements you need to complete, necessary applications and documentation, the issuance of the order by a judge, and the order to spread the expungement throughout state agencies.
Having a criminal record when you're applying to colleges and universities can be incredibly discouraging and disappointing. Not only can you be kept from being accepted to a college, but you may be kept from getting the financial aid you need to attend a school at all. And if you are accepted, finding housing may be impossible. That is why seeking out the counsel of a juvenile defense attorney can save you a lot of pain and hardship.
At Holland Law LLC, we work to ensure that your criminal conviction is properly expunged, so that you can continue your educational career. If you are facing criminal charges, we work to have them minimized or dropped. To find out how we can help and to schedule a consultation, call us at 803-219-2630 or use our contact page. Our firm has offices located in Fort Mill and Rock Hill. We also proudly serve the people of York, Chester, and Lancaster Counties.