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3 ways a youthful charge can hurt someone’s college dreams


A college education could help your child earn better wages and develop social connections that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. However, getting into college can be a frustrating and highly-competitive process. Especially for those hoping to make a smooth transition right after high school, any blemish on their personal records could harm their chances of pursuing their collegiate dreams.

When a teenager gets arrested for a juvenile offense, parents may want to let the system run its course to teach them about the consequences of their decisions while they are still young enough to receive compassionate consideration from the courts. Unfortunately, using this kind of scared-straight approach to a criminal charge for a teenage defendant can negatively affect their college goals in three different ways.

Limiting enrollment options

Some colleges have relatively strict admission rules and require a clean criminal background check. Others will allow prospective students with criminal records to enroll provided that they have learned from their mistakes and committed themselves to making positive changes in their lives.

Limiting federal aid options

Depending on the kind of criminal charge a student faced and how recent it was, it may limit their ability to qualify for federal student aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) asks about criminal convictions.

Although federal reform has improved opportunities for students with criminal records and eliminated prior lifetime ineligibility rules, a recent conviction can still hurt someone’s chances of getting federal student aid. It is quite common for private scholarship funds to perform background checks and to expect a clear criminal record for the recipients of the scholarships they award.

Reduced housing and employment options

Some colleges may have rules against criminal convictions for on-campus housing, forcing your aspiring college student to live off-campus. A criminal record will create challenges even for those seeking an apartment on the private market. Most landlords will ask about criminal records.

In fact, most employers will too. A new college student with a criminal record may have a very difficult time finding a place to live or a job to support themselves. The criminal record could also affect their internship opportunities in their later years at school, which could undermine the benefits they derive from their degree.

Recognizing the consequences a guilty plea could create for your teenager may help you decide how to handle their pending criminal charges.

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