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Expunged Criminal Record and Graduate School Applications.

ProximityProdigyProximityProdigy Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
Today to mostly take some of the edge off of the requirements that I'd ultimately need to provide, I decided to preview a graduate student app for a top college I am considering.

I saw a section of the application for my literal #1 graduate school choice and was taken back a bit... It seems that I have to disclose something about myself and need a bit of advice.

Not only did they ask me about proverbial felonies, (I have none) but there was also a question about pleading nolo, first offender etc. for anything including misdemeanors.

When I was a junior in high school I had less than an oz of marijuana, was arrested, pleaded first offender, did community service, paid the fine(s), and ultimately was never *actually* convicted. In addition, I was told that the only people who can "see" the conviction are law enforcement and it was effectively sealed/expunged from my record.

I've since worked about 2-3 jobs including Walmart who I've heard do extensive background checks as well as federal work study, and several on-campus positions I'm wondering if it's ok to simply check 'No' in the box.

Still, i've been so shaken up lately since even while I made president's list status last semester, research, involvements, etc. that i'd still be reduced being to a convict.

It may seem that I'm over dramatic, but It literally feels like my hopes of GOOD graduate school are all but slipping away (especially from a top, competitive choice!)

I mean who would keep a former drug user vs. someone with a clean record if it came down to a limited number of seats in regard to the amount of applicants.



I am considering putting 'No' in the check box. I'm not sure if this will this get my application tossed, but I am hoping someone could offer advice? If I do disclose, I'm almost certain it'll end up at the bottom of the hypothetical stack if not tossed regardless...

Replies to: Expunged Criminal Record and Graduate School Applications.

  • GloriaVaughnGloriaVaughn Registered User Posts: 427 Member
    You need to know exactly what happened to your record. Sealed and expunged are two different things that would require different responses. Sealed means that no one can view the details of your case, but you would still have records come up in a search. Expunging means that after a period of time, usually 5 years, if you haven't re-offended it's removed from your record. FYI for these purposes, pleading is the same as a conviction. If your record is sealed, then you need to check yes because a good background check would show that you were in court charged with something. Better to get ahead of it than to let admissions speculate or get kicked out because they find out and you checked no. If your record has been expunged, you're ok to check no because the purpose of expunging is to make it like it never happened.
  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom Registered User Posts: 753 Member
    If you were a junior in Hs,you were most likely not 18? That would be a youth offense and not seen after you turn 18.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 29,978 Senior Member
    edited April 14
    Talk to the right folks on your campus who can advise you. Maybe that's the advisors for kids applying to grad school. In general, dumb underage mistakes aren't showstoppers. Not on the level of misrepresenting. Ahem.

    How did you handle this question on the undergrad app?
  • JanieWalkerJanieWalker Registered User Posts: 159 Junior Member
    edited April 15
    FWIW, in 2000, I got into every graduate school to which I applied, including Harvard (my specific department accepted me and four others out of a pool of over a thousand applicants) by checking “yes” and explaining why exactly I had been guilty of being Drunk In Public (at the age of 26) in Virginia on a Saturday night in 1996. What happened was this - my sister was getting a divorce, so I went to visit her. We went to a bar to properly drown her troubles, I drank maybe three or four glasses of wine, then my sister disappeared to use the bathroom - I didn’t know where she had gone. I stepped outside to see if she had gone out to get some air, spoke to a cop who was literally standing right outside the bar (I described my sister to him and asked if he had seen her), and was promptly arrested for being Drunk In Public. I spent a night in a cell by myself (and sang Broadway showtunes in protest of what I felt was a bs arrest), signed something that admitted my guilt (I did not want to deal with a trail, I just wanted to get back home to NYC), paid $50, and was released the next morning. I explained all this in a respectful way (minus the part where I sang showtunes in my cell all night) on my graduate school applications. No one seemed to care. I got in everywhere, and a few schools offered me academic/merit awards (I had top GRE scores, great grades, published papers, etc etc etc).

    All of the above is a long-winded way of saying that I think you should check yes and explain what happened in a straightforward and respectful way. If you think it will help, add what you feel you learned from the experience. You made a mistake years ago, and have since shown how responsible, mature, and intellectual you are with jobs and great academic achievements, etc. I know I applied 18 years ago and you are applying now, but I still think that if you check yes and explain it all honestly and respectfully, you should be just fine. Better that then to check “no,” then have them find something...

    Definitely get your advisor’s take on this too, of course.
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