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Do Colleges Do Background Checks?
The college application process is stressful enough, but it can be even more so if you're worried about being rejected because of crimes you committed when you were younger. The good news is this: while, yes, most colleges do run background checks on prospective students, it doesn't mean they will reject you.
One study shows that 66.4% of colleges collect criminal background information on at least some of their applicants. However, 38% of colleges don't factor criminal history into their application process (see above study), which means past crimes don't automatically disqualify you.
It might look as if the majority of colleges run background checks, but they may not be doing a deep dive unless there is probable cause. Many colleges use the Common Application, which has a self disclosure question asking about an applicant's criminal past. This might be the only "background check" a college does, as only 20% of colleges say they conduct more formal background screenings.
That said, it's not recommended to lie on your application. Why you should be honest stems from the reasons colleges run background checks in the first place.
Why Do Colleges Do Background Checks?
College background checks are completed in part to keep students on campus safe. Since many students will live in campus dorms, colleges will look in particular for any sexual offenses, violent convictions, or arrests due to drugs and alcohol.
Colleges also do background checks to meet the requirements of affiliation agreements. At some point in the course of their college careers, many students will complete an off-campus internship, volunteer at a local organization, or participate in a work-study program. The organizations offering students these opportunities require access to the same criminal information they'd get when running employment background checks on non-students.
Depending on the type of crimes and convictions, a student with a criminal history might not be able to work with these university-affiliated organizations, and therefore might not be able to complete their degree. This is especially true when an applicant wants to work with a vulnerable population such as children or the elderly. Thus, you want to be honest on your application to ensure you can fulfill all the college requirements for completing your degree.
So, Do Colleges Run Background Checks?
Yes, colleges run background checks on applicants. However, this doesn't necessarily mean you'll be rejected. Whether you will be accepted depends on the kind of check they do, the type of crime, and how recently it was committed.
If you find yourself asking, "Do colleges do background checks?" and are concerned about any convictions you might have, speak with an attorney about possibly having your juvenile records sealed. You'll need to be 18 years old to make this happen, and your offense can't have been a serious one, but it could be worth a try.
Resources for Students with a Criminal Record
I. The National Transition Jobs Network (NTJN) - This body is a national coalition dedicated to serving ex-cons. They do this through helping you face the barriers to unemployment success. They offer education supportive services and skill training to ex-cons. Additionally, they work with federal state, and city policy makers in an attempt to further advocacy and anti-poverty efforts.
II. The National HIRE Network - Helping Individuals with Criminal Records is a national clearing house for helping people with criminal records. They do this by finding job opportunities and counseling ex-cons thereby increasing their employable skills. By doing more research, there are many more resources, which former convicts can use to pursue their goals.
It is important to approach your college like someone who made mistakes and is learning from them. You do not need to run away from it or even lie about it. Face it in a positive manner for it to help you pursue your college education.
How do you determine which college degree is best for you?
The best way is to look at it from an employer's point of view. If you have criminal records on the theft of money, for example, accounting should not be your option. It is essential to recognize that you need to become a behind the scenes guy. For those with a violent history, companies might want to keep you at a distance with the customers.
Fortunately, the field of engineering is very promising for former convicts. A degree in this area can secure you a place in the factories programming and be making robots instead of operating them in the field. You can be sure of a decent income with minimal discriminations. Currently, the demand for such experts is higher and the more you are educated, the more companies will want you to work with them.
People convicted of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, which is a lesser offense to a felony, can follow them for up to ten years. Therefore, a job requiring much driving is not a viable option for them.
For sexual and violent crime offenders, the education field may present hiring biases, especially when working with minors. Besides, some colleges have adopted strict hiring processes. A university or a post-secondary college may consider you if the incident took place over ten years ago. Additionally, more qualifications such as Ph.D. and prior teaching experience may come in as an added advantage.
Getting a degree is the main thing to keep in mind. You just need to have a working plan and go steps further to asking companies what degrees would suit their future needs.The major go-for-it degrees are electronics, computer technology, art, graphic design, foods industry, law/legal studies, landscape architecture, language translator, and vocational fields such as mechanic, construction, and plumbing among others.
Financial Options For Ex-con Students
Having a criminal record will reduce your eligibility chances of some of the financial aids. Incarceration or any conviction will limit your eligibility for the federal student aid. Whether you are in a state or federal institution, you cannot get federal student loans or Federal Pell Grant. The same will apply if you are in a private college.For those on probation or parole, you are eligible for federal student aid. However, your eligibility may be limited if your conviction was for drug-related or sexual offenses.
If your criminal record was on a forcible or non-forcible sexual offense, and you are subject to involuntary civil commitment, upon completion of the incarceration period for that offense, you cannot get a Federal Pell Grant.