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Busted: How a Conviction Can Affect Your College Potential

Being arrested and convicted of a crime involving drugs can have important consequences on your chances of going to college. From having colleges accept your application to applying for financial aid, your options can be severely limited if you have served time or have a criminal record for a drug-related offense, including selling or being in possession of illegal substances. Destinations for Teens has deep experience in guiding adolescents and young adults through drug addiction treatment so they can get their lives back on track.

Applying for College

If you end up with a drug-related offense on your criminal record, you might have to disclose this information when applying to colleges. While colleges aren’t required to ask about your criminal background, many do so on their application forms. Some also go a step further and conduct criminal background checks on applicants. In fact, 66 percent of colleges collect information on applicants’ criminal backgrounds, according to a survey done by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and the Center for Community Alternatives. While this does not mean that applicants with a criminal background are automatically rejected, it could have an impact on whether or not the college accepts them. If you list a criminal offense on your college application form, you will most likely have to provide additional information, such as information on your incarceration, or be expected to explain your actions to the college admission department before they will consider accepting your application.

Effects on Financial Aid

Financial aid helps make college affordable for many people, but you might not be eligible to receive certain types of aid if you have a drug conviction on your record.

  • If you have not received any aid previously and the crime was committed before you turned 18, your eligibility will not be affected unless you were tried as an adult.
  • If you’re already receiving federal student aid when you commit a drug-related crime or fall into the ever-growing Adderall trend, your eligibility could be suspended. You’ll need to pass drug tests or complete a federally approved drug rehab program to regain eligibility.
  • If you commit a crime after sending your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, you could lose your eligibility and be expected to pay back any aid you’ve received so far.

Disadvantages of Not Going to College

While not everyone goes to college, the benefits associated with higher education are important to consider. Those who have at least a bachelor’s degree are less likely to be unemployed. For example, the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree was 7 percent compared to 17.5 percent for those with only a high school degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. College graduates are also more likely to earn more money than those who didn’t go to college. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that those with a high school diploma earn an average of $651 per week, while those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $1,108 per week.

How Destinations For Teens Can Help

If you’ve been struggling with a drug problem, it’s not too late to get help. By seeking professional help for substance abuse, you can lower your risk of committing a drug-related crime and hurting your chances of improving your life by getting into college. At Destinations for Teens, we understand the unique challenges facing adolescents and young adults. Therefore, we offer several different therapeutic services geared towards teen needs such as:

Contact us at 877.466.0620 to learn more about our addiction treatment services.


  1. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment Projections: Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment. Mar. 24, 2014.
  2. U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid. Free Application for Federal Student Aid: Drug Conviction Affecting Eligibility.
  3. U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid. Students with Criminal Convictions.
  4. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. The Condition of Education 2014: Labor Force Participation and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment. May 2014.
  5. Weissman, M, Ph.D., Rosenthal, A., Esq., Warth, P., Wolf, E. Ph. D., and Messina-Yauchzy, M., Ph. D. Reconsidered: The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions. Center for Community Alternatives.