Can You Go To College With a Misdemeanor?

Answer: People go to college with misdemeanors all the time, but not all colleges/programs will accept them.

In the article that follows, we’ll explain.

Can You Go To College With a Misdemeanor? (Discussion)


The contents of this web page are for informational purposes only, and nothing you read is intended to be legal advice. Please review our disclaimer about law/legal-related information on this website before taking action based upon anything you read or see.

General Education vs Specific Programs

Generally, universities have no need to prohibit the admission of students on the basis that have been convicted of a misdemeanor.

After all, obtaining a college education might be the primary way an individual would overcome the circumstances that resulted in the misdemeanor in the first place.

However, not all programs within all schools will accept the enrollment of students with any criminal history, or criminal history in specific areas.

For example, students who intend to pursue careers in law enforcement may struggle to be accepted into the prgraom.

Students who want to pursue training in medicine or pharmaceuticals may struggle to get accepted with substance related convictions.

Students who are interested in pursuing working with children may struggle to get accepted if they have any criminal history involving offenses against children.

While there would likely be no issue with the student obtaining the education, the existence of the conviction on their record would impair their ability to utilize the degree post-graduation.

Graduate Programs, Teaching Positions, Technical Work

As a student works through school, a next step may involve working for the school or an outside company as an intern or teaching assistant.

While there are many areas that employers are not allowed to consider during the hiring process (race, gender, sexual orientation), an individual’s criminal history is fair game.

In fact, in certain positions, an individual’s criminal history may be highly relevant.

For example, if the individual has been convicted of crimes involving dishonesty, the employer may not want to hire him for a position that involves trust (like handling money).

If an individual has been convicted of crimes involving substances abuse, the employer may not want to hire him for a position that involves handling or administering medication to patients.

There may be policies in an organization that requires a clean criminal record to handle volatile chemicals or perform certain duties in a laboratory.

If a student is unable to obtain a necessary internship or external experience to complete the requirements of his degree, he may struggle to finish.

Cleaning Up Criminal Record

Many states have a process that allows someone with convictions to ‘clean up’ their record.

If the motion is approved, the individual would be able to treat the conviction as though it never happened.

This process may have other names, but a search for ‘expunction’ or ‘expungement’ in the state should direct the individual to the state’s laws on the topic.

Reviewing the state’s expunction statute will help the individual understand whether or not the convictions can be expunged, and if so, when the convictions would be eligible.

Further, each specific court will likely have it’s own forms or procedure for pursuing the clean up.

If an individual is interested in pursuing an expunction in order to be able to apply for certain jobs or to attend certain educational institutions, this could be a time to confer with an attorney who specializes in expunctions.

This attorney can review the individual’s record of convictions, and let him know whether or not the motion would likely to be granted.

The attorney could also provide the individual information and advice about how to file the motion without representation, if the individual cannot afford the assistance of counsel.

Checking Before Conviction

One thing people rarely do before entering a plea or guilty or taking a care to trial (which could result in a conviction) is explore whether certain educational programs, employers, or careers would accept someone with that specific conviction.

“I had no idea that this would impact ________.”

Another thing to consider is whether or not that conviction would be expungable, and if so, how long until the motion could be filed.

Knowing these details could cause the defendant to agree to enter a plea to resolve the case on a guaranteed outcome, or roll the dice at trial to try and get everything cleared.

Moving Forward

If a potential student has a misdemeanor on his record, he’ll want to do a lot of research before the application process.

This may involve calling the admissions offices of schools, talking to regulatory boards (like the nursing board), and conferring with the employment departments of potential employers.

Getting some information in advance could make the application process easier, cheaper, and more likely to succeed.

Wrap Up

Want to learn more about your justice system?

Browse our free legal library guides for more information.

Can You Go To College With a Misdemeanor