How to Answer the Disciplinary Questions on Your College Application

Did you get into some trouble during your high school years? Many college applications ask for students to discuss their disciplinary violations. This may be causing a little stress because of the unknown. Will your past infraction affect decisions when college admission committees are considering your application?

Students who have been in trouble, even for minor offenses, have a lot of questions about the disciplinary questions on college applications. A common type of question counselors receive every year is, “Do I really have to tell colleges about the time I was suspended freshman year?” Students are scared their disciplinary issue will have a negative effect on their chances of admission. While it is true many colleges have used disciplinary violations to make admission decisions, it is not always a deal breaker.

If you have had a disciplinary infraction during your high school career, here are some tips on how to handle it.

Be honest

Be honest if you have been in trouble. If you are not upfront about your offense, colleges can still find out. Recommendation forms ask about disciplinary offenses and many schools will disclose the information to the colleges. In addition, unfortunately, colleges sometimes receive information from other outside sources. For example, I received phone calls and emails from other students and parents letting me know about an offense another student committed. Once I had the information, I had to do some investigating to find out the truth. If colleges find out about an offense from someone other than the student, it can lead to an automatic denial. Even if colleges find out after they offered admission, they can rescind their offer. Own up to your mistakes and be honest with the admission committee.

Take responsibility

If you answered “yes” to any of the disciplinary questions, you will be asked to share details about the offense. Colleges do not care if your friends made you do it. Don’t brush off the offense and act as if it were nothing. Take responsibility for what you did and admit that it was wrong.

What did you learn?

Share what you learned from the incident. By owning up to the offense and sharing what you learned, it can show the admission committee maturity. It can also show the admission committee that you are committed to not doing it again.

Talk with others

If you are concerned about the disciplinary issue, talk to your recommendation writers. The writers will be asked to disclose this information as well. After sharing your concern, the recommendation writer may decide to take up your case in the letter and reiterate your growth and maturity since the offense.

Some infractions will be seen as more serious than others. Academic dishonesty and violence, especially if there is a pattern, can be a deal breaker at some colleges. Students can be proactive and contact the admission office to ask for a meeting to discuss the issue. The willingness to discuss the issue can show the admission officer your maturity. It can also show the admission officer that you have learned from your mistakes and will not do it again. However, with more serious offenses, students should have some safety colleges on their list and be prepared to discuss the infraction with every college on their list.

College admission committees do look at disciplinary violations. However, many colleges know students sometimes make poor choices. A minor infraction will not make a difference at many colleges, especially if students can show they have learned from their mistakes and will not continue the behavior. While it can be scary to share your history, by owning your mistakes and taking responsibility, colleges will see maturity and integrity.

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