Student Advocates Question Whether Colleges Should Inquire about Criminal Convictions on Common Application

February 26, 2016 | By admin

Students who apply to college have a difficult enough time as it is without having to worry about whether a past indiscretion, such as an arrest or criminal conviction, will end up coming back to haunt them. However, most colleges currently ask questions about previous disciplinary actions on student applications. In fact, the Common Application, which is used by more than 620 universities and colleges and affects 860,000 students per year, asks multiple discipline-related questions. The discipline questions were first added to the Common Application in 2006-07.

Now some legal advocates are calling for the removal of discipline questions from college applications. The questions are typically “yes or no” questions asking whether the applicant has ever had any issues with law enforcement or been disciplined in an educational setting.

The problem, say certain experts, is that young people are prone to making mistakes – and these mistakes should not affect them for the rest of their lives. That’s why several legal groups, including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Center for Community Alternatives in Syracuse, New York, are asking college admissions boards to stop inquiring about past disciplinary actions taken against applicants.

One major concern being raised by critics of the Common Application is that minority students tend to be disproportionately affected by the discipline questions. Minority students, many of whom live in impoverished neighborhoods and have a more difficult times making it through high school and going on to college, tend to be suspended, arrested and otherwise formally disciplined at far higher rates than white students, according to federal statistics.

Although some admissions officials have said that the discipline-related questions are necessary because they provide colleges with a vital piece of information about whether a particular student will “fit” on campus, the reality is that most colleges lack formal policies about how to interpret or use the information they get from the Common Application.

For further information on this developing situation, read the article, “Should High School Punishments Go on College Applications?”


If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a crime in New Jersey, it is imperative that you talk to a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The experienced criminal defense lawyers at Lombardi and Lombardi, P.A. can help you address your criminal charges and avoid the most severe penalties. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation about your case.


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