Answering Questions About Juvenile Arrests on College Applications

Answering Questions About Juvenile Arrests on College Applications

Getting into college can be really hard. Especially if you have a juvenile record. Colleges ask about arrests on applications which can be super stressful. But having arrests as a kid doesn’t mean you can’t go to college. Lots of schools give second chances if you’re honest. This article explains how to deal with the arrest question on apps.

Do Colleges See Juvenile Records?

The law says colleges can’t see sealed juvenile records. But they might find out anyway. It depends on the state. Some states seal records at 18 automatically. Others you have to ask a judge. Federal privacy laws like FERPA also limit what schools can see. But they make exceptions for safety issues. So colleges might see juvenile records if there’s concerns. They can’t use them to reject you without reason though.

The bottom line is colleges might find out about juvenile arrests somehow. So don’t count on records being totally secret. Be prepared to explain just in case.

Should You Admit Juvenile Arrests?

This is a tough call. If colleges don’t ask, you don’t have to tell them. But if they ask directly you shouldn’t lie. That could get you in more trouble later. Admitting arrests shows maturity and honesty. But it also looks bad obviously. There’s pros and cons to think about.

Pros of Admitting Arrests

  • Shows honesty and integrity
  • Demonstrates you’ve learned from mistakes
  • Prevents issues if school finds out anyway
  • Might help explain gaps in grades or activities

Cons of Admitting Arrests

  • Makes you look risky or dangerous
  • School might reject you automatically
  • Opens up chances of bias against you
  • Forces you to relive difficult experiences

There’s good reasons for either choice. You have to decide if honesty is worth the risks. Think about the school and your comfort level. There’s no one right answer. But lying is definitely not recommended if asked directly.

How to Explain Juvenile Arrests

If you admit arrests, how you explain them matters. Don’t make excuses or blame others. Take responsibility for your actions. But also highlight the circumstances and how you’ve changed. Give context but don’t justify bad behavior. Here’s some tips:

  • Be brief – give just the key facts
  • Focus on the positive – what you learned and how you grew
  • Emphasize remorse and making amends if possible
  • Tell how it motivated you to improve yourself
  • Assure the school you’re committed to academics and rules

Also prepare to explain gaps in your record caused by arrests. Show how you got back on track after. Help them see you as more than just your record.

How Colleges View Juvenile Records

Colleges say they understand kids make mistakes. Many have lenient policies for juvenile crimes. But in reality some still hold it against you. It depends on the school and record. Violent crimes especially make admissions very hard. Small stuff like shoplifting or vandalism may not matter as much. Top schools tend to be stricter too.

We don’t want to punish youths forever for bad choices. But we have to balance care with campus safety. Certain serious offenses raise red flags we can’t ignore. – Admissions Dean at Ivy League University

You usually won’t know how they’ll view it until you try. Have backup options in case schools reject you. Consider starting at community college then transferring. But don’t assume arrests will keep you out everywhere. Many admissions officers genuinely believe in second chances.

Students Who Overcame Juvenile Records

Plenty of students with juvenile records get into great colleges. It’s inspiring to see them use education to turn their lives around. Here’s two real life examples:

Marcus, 18 – Accepted to NYU

Marcus got arrested for selling drugs as a 15 year old. He was struggling in school and fell in with a bad crowd. After a 6 month probation, he changed his life. Marcus got counseling, improved his grades, and even launched a youth mentoring program. On his NYU application he was honest about his past. He’s now a sophomore studying social work.

Alicia, 21 – Accepted to UC Berkeley

Alicia got a misdemeanor assault charge for fighting when she was 17. At the time she was in foster care and lashed out from the stress. After counseling and community service, Alicia found stability with an adoptive family. She explained all this in her UC app. Berkeley saw her potential beyond past mistakes. Now she’s thriving there and wants to become a lawyer.

The point is you can overcome early challenges. Colleges care about the whole person. Juvenile arrests don’t define you. Keep working hard and don’t lose hope.

Help for Students with Records

You don’t have to navigate this alone. Many non-profits help students with juvenile records get to college. Here’s some great resources:

Connect with groups like this for advice and support. You deserve a chance to pursue your dreams.

Moving Forward with a Record

Having a juvenile record makes getting into college harder but not impossible. The key is taking responsibility, being patient, and highlighting your growth. Colleges may be cautious at first. But by being honest and working hard, you can show your past doesn’t define you. What matters most is who you are today and your potential for tomorrow. Don’t let mistakes stop you from a bright future.