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College Admissions: Disciplinary Disclosures On Your Application

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


It’s possible that you have been in minor trouble at some point in your high school career. Maybe you got called out for plagiarism by “Turn It In” software that showed too much of your essay was lifted from Wikipedia. Perhaps you were at a party where there was underage drinking, and it got reported to your school. Maybe you defended a kid who was being picked on during lunch, but you and the bully both got pulled into the principal’s office. Regardless of the circumstance, it is possible that you have a disciplinary infraction on your school record.

When you apply to college, it is critical for you to know whether there are any disciplinary infractions on your record and what your school policy is about reporting these infractions to colleges. You can get this information from your school counselor by asking. Many school districts publish their disclosure policy in a school handbook. For example, some high schools keep all records closed and disclose nothing to colleges. Other high schools disclose any infractions from 9th grade onwards. Some schools don’t report infractions from 9th and 10th grade, but do report those that happened in 11th or 12th grade. You can take appropriate action once you understand what a college will be told.

On most college applications, there is space for you to explain any disciplinary infractions. The college is giving you a chance to tell your story.

If the school reports an infraction and you do not address it in your application, chances are you will be denied admission. If the school reports something and you own up to what happened and take full responsibility for your actions, you stand a chance of being admitted.

Here’s what doesn’t work: blaming someone else (my friend passed me the joint); brushing it off as trivial (everyone copies stuff off the internet); or being defensive (I would not have punched her if she didn’t pull my hair first).

Here’s what does work: tell the story in a factual way without emotional or judgmental language; reveal exactly what you did and why; and tell the reader what you wish you had done differently and what you have done since to make amends.

Jodi Walder is the founder of Portland, Oregon-based College Admission Coach LLC, which helps students identify and gain admission to right-fit schools where they will thrive academically and personally. Contact her at [email protected].


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