College admissions and felony arrests

Hello! I am a return student, 35, a prospective transfer student from Community College with an Ass. deg in liberal arts. Presidential scholar, PTK, 4.0, great recs, heavily involved both at school and in my community (tenant organizing, community board, volunteering, etc). I am a part of a recovery community for ten years and have great friends, a wife, excited to start a family.

12 years ago this was not the case. I come from a broken home, exhibited substance abuse early, and spent my late teens and early 20s in a very disturbing state. I did well one year at college, at 18, trying to stay sober on my own, but quickly collapsed.

On my record there are multiple arrests for drunk and disorderly and one felony lewdness charge, which I am not proud of, but being older, I am able to look at the progression and understand that period of my life for what it was. That arrest ended up saving my life: I was forced into rehab, found recovery, and I’ve spent the last 12 years making amends for my old ways, and building my life as a good community member. I decided in the last two years to go back to school and have done well.

In terms of academics and life awareness, I know I am fit for some top universities. Several have been suggested to me: Columbia Gen Ed, Amherst, Williams, Emory, Hamilton, many safeties and reaches. My record is going to soon be expunged, but not in time for transfer. What are my options as a student who has turned his life around? Any suggestions on how to deal with having a record while applying to undergraduates? Am I completely shutout of any competitive universities?

Any feedback on this is appreciated and can provide more detail if needed, thanks!


I think that you should just go ahead and apply, and explain yourself the same as you have here. BTW, I think that you should add Bard college to the list. They have been involved in inmate education, so I think they would be understanding to someone with a remote felony conviction.


No idea how universities will react, but I think for your application essays, writing about your life and how you turned your life around, including what you did for yourself and how you let others in to help you, will be very compelling and can set you up for acceptances. Good luck. All of these universities should be clamoring to have you study there.

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Some universities no longer ask if you have had a felony. I read another article that says what you have done (going to community college first) is a great way to get into a university for someone with a felony. It certain shows your dedication to your education and future. I’m sure you have done online research already, but here are some articles:

Thank you both for the encouraging words and the information. Yes Bard is definitely on the list! My good friend who is an author and GW Prof. loved his time there, I think what they’re doing with inmate populations is incredible and they offer adult students a chance at the Bard Bac scholarship, which covers tuition. And I did notice that many, over half of the schools no longer ask about felonies and misdm, or they only ask about within the last seven years. The Ivy leagues like Columbia do, but I’m going to have faith that our top universities should be able to be truly holistic in their process, or there’s no point in going there anyway. Thanks again for the encouragement.


An arrest is not a conviction.

Deferred adjudication may be what occurred regarding your felony charge.

Whether or not deferred adjudication must be revealed on a college application depends upon the specific wording of the question & upon the laws in the jurisdiction when & where the matter was handled in court.

I just want to thank everyone for their feedback. For my first few applications, I was accepted to Bard on a full ride scholarship, as well as my forever top choice school, a small, well known NE LAC, with a very low transfer rate. Extremely grateful.


You really have a lot to be proud of.

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This is really great news !

I have no doubt that you will cherish your time in college.

You should be able to add a mature & interesting perspective to your classes.

Really, really great news !

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Congratulations on your acceptances! And a full ride as well!

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Thank you!

I can’t imagine they would rescind at this point especially since it is being expunged. Perhaps call admissions first to inquire about the reason for the question at this point in the admissions process?

Thanks, that’s good advice!

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