College & Work: What to Know If You Have a Criminal Record

College & Work: What to Know If You Have a Criminal Record

Entering the workforce or going to school is a life-changing decision. Pursuing either option requires a lot of foresight and planning. Although it is possible to go to college and/or be employed if you have a criminal record, there are a few important details to remember.

What to Know if You Want to go to College

A criminal record does not disqualify you from going to college. Increasingly, colleges are willing to consider prospective students who have a criminal record for enrollment. Within college applications, questions concerning your criminal history are asked. If you have a criminal record, there may be additional requirements during the application process, such as:

  • Submitting your conviction records
  • Submitting letters from parole officers and prison superintendents
  • Interviews with security personnel.

One important potential barrier facing prospective students with a criminal record is college funding. Whether or not a student receives financial aid or a Federal Pell Grant depends on the type of crime he or she committed.

  • If you are in a state or federal institution, you cannot receive federal student loans or a Federal Pell Grant.
  • For those on parole or probation, you are eligible for federal student aid.
  • Your eligibility may be limited if your conviction was for drug-related or sexual offenses.
  • If your criminal record involves a forcible or non-forcible sexual offense and you are subject to involuntary civil commitment upon completion of the incarceration period, you cannot receive a Federal Pell Grant.

What to Know if You Want to get a Job

If you have a criminal record and would like to get a job, there are also a few things to consider. Companies can request information through a background check or a criminal record check, one of which must be agreed to by a potential employee. A background check can investigate the following:

  • Current and sometimes past addresses
  • Marital status
  • Bankruptcy filing history
  • Felony status or serious driving offenses (e.g., a DUI).

A criminal record check is employed to investigate the following.

  • Specific arrests, convictions, and penalties (including parole and probation details).
  • Identifying marks and traits, like height, weight, race, tattoos, hair, and eye color.

No federal laws prevent a company from asking you about prior arrests or criminal history. In North Carolina, employers are legally allowed to ask a job applicant questions regarding a criminal past. If you want to find out about what types of questions an employer may ask, you can contact North Carolina’s Department of Labor for additional information.

What to Do if You Want to Return to College or Work

If you have a criminal record and you want to go to college or apply for a good job, there are legal options available to help you. It is important to retain an attorney who can work on your behalf to protect your rights and have any applicable records expunged. If you live in or around Cleveland County or in the Shelby, NC area, contact us today for more information.