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Do Colleges Run Background Checks?

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Felons typically find that most things are challenging when they return to society, especially finding a job. Much of society seems to turn its back on felons, and opportunities are not easily found.

Often, felons must consider different options, including returning to school for additional education. For some, this might mean completing a GED while for others it could be attending a trade school or even going to college. What would that mean for those felons who want to go to college? Would they find themselves blocked there as they are in trying to find employment?

This blog post will address whether or not colleges run background checks.

  • College Application
  • College Background Check?
  • Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
  • Recommended Action


College Application

For all those interested in attending college, an application is of course required. For those unfamiliar with a college application, specific basic information is required:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Other personal data (citizenship, ethnicity, marital status)
  • Standardized test scores (SAT or ACT)
  • High school transcript

Currently, over 500 colleges use a standardized application called the Common Application. In addition to the information listed above, the Common Application requires an essay to be submitted along with letters of reference from someone outside the education system.

Colleges Run Background Checks?

Felons will face challenges when applying to many colleges or when applying for housing, but it isn’t impossible to be accepted by a college. There are approximately 1400 four-year colleges with 612 of those being public universities. That gives felons a lot of schools to choose from. There are also 1462 community colleges offering two-year associate degrees.

The Federal government will not allow all students with a criminal record to receive grants and loans. Anyone convicted of a drug offense, misdemeanor, or felony, are not eligible to receive financial aid. For any other type of felony, a felon can receive grants and loans if he or she qualifies financially.

Recent but many of these schools do not have a formal procedure. For many schools, their background check consists of only including a question regarding convictions for a felony or misdemeanor with no specific action taken.

It is in a felon’s best interest to be honest on a college application if asked about criminal offenses.

Most schools are concerned with students with a violent past or who have sex offenses as they might jeopardize the safety of other students.

If a formal background check is required, it is necessary to comply. Applicants who do not allow the check will be automatically rejected.

The criminal investigation part of the background check involves a search of criminal history files for any criminal activity. A criminal background check will show all convictions and non-convictions, including cases dismissed or not prosecuted.

Convictions can be reported with no time limit while a non-conviction shows up for seven years. Having their record expunged will prevent a crime from showing up on a background check.

Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?

Yes, you can run a background check on yourself.

Doing a background check on him or herself before applying for a college will allow a felon to know exactly what will be discovered when the college does their review. Don’t wait and take a chance on the results. If there are any questions, he or she can contact an attorney.

There are different types of personal background checks that a felon can do:

  • The court in which he or she was charged to provide records
  • A credit report will help determine how financially responsible an individual is
  • Driving records for any job involving driving, such as a truck driver
  • An educational report through the National Student Clearing House
  • Social media accounts

For someone wanting to do a more complete background check on themselves, the best option is to contact a company specializing in background checks. By doing a personal background check, a felon can get a heads-up on what will be seen by the school and whether there are any errors that need to be corrected.

Recommended Action

Felons wanting to attend college know it will take effort and persistence in finding one. They can take the initiative and seek to have their record expunged. Also, taking the time to run a background check on themselves will allow them to see what colleges view on their check.

These measures, along with support from family and friends, will give felons their best chance for success in finding a college. With all of the four-year and two-year college options available to them, there is a place for felons to continue their education and find a new career.

What do you think about this blog post? Are you or someone you know had a college run a background check? What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below. 

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