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.
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