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Can a DWI Keep You Out of College?

Updated: Sep 28, 2023 @ 11:41 am

Less than 1 minute Reading Time: Minutes

College admissions can be competitive. If you have your heart set on a particular university, you would probably do anything to get in. One thing you need to avoid is lying on your application or giving the university any reason to deny you.

In this article, we need to talk about how an arrest or conviction for DWI can impact your chances of getting into your dream school. The fact is that many colleges and universities ask about criminal history on their applications. Some schools also have access to a database that contains information about your criminal history.  This is a delicate issue. Tad Nelson is available to discuss any concerns you have.

What to Do if You Have an Alcohol-Related Conviction

So you get the application and realize there’s a question about your criminal history. It’s probably buried at the back of the application and says something like, “Disclose any criminal arrests or convictions, other than parking violations” or something along those lines.

You were arrested for DWI. What do you do?

U.S. News recommends honesty—and we agree. The last thing you should do is hide a criminal conviction or try to make dishonest excuses. Instead, confront reality head-on. Admit the fact that you were arrested.

Will it keep you out of college? Maybe not. You can always explain any extenuating factors. Maybe you were really young and made a mistake. Admissions officers know that young people often mess up, and that doesn’t mean you’ll make the same mistake twice.

You can also explain what you learned from the experience and how you have improved yourself. This step is key. Explain how you’ve grown. Did you stop drinking? Develop other hobbies apart from partying?

Discuss tangible steps you have taken so you never got behind the wheel again while drunk or high. The application should have space for you to provide a narrative explanation, or else you can attach a separate piece of paper with this information. This is your chance to explain how you’ve moved one.

Avoid Lying at All Costs

Never lie. Lying is probably worse than driving drunk. You must see things from the eyes of a college admission counselor. Cheating is rampant in many colleges, and many students get kicked out for violating honor codes related to plagiarism or stealing. If you lie on an admissions application, you are giving a big flashing signal that you aren’t trustworthy.

By contrast, being upfront shows your maturity. An admissions officer might be more impressed by your ability to overcome adversity and improve yourself.

What if Your Records Were Sealed?

Many juvenile records are confidential. Other people get an Order of Non-Disclosure which seals the record, or else they get the record expunged. You have nothing to worry about, right?

Unfortunately, many colleges ask that you disclose an arrest or conviction even if you sealed or expunged the record. They might even ask about juvenile offenses. That might sound unfair. After all, people get records sealed so that they can move on with their lives—and here is a college demanding that you reveal a criminal arrest that you’ve erased!

What should you do here? Remember, lying is probably viewed as a greater offense than a DWI—especially if you have only one criminal arrest when you were young. Proceed carefully. Even if you expunged/sealed records, the admissions committee might find out about it. Also, if you hope to one day work as an attorney, the Texas Bar will hold it against you that you lied on a college admissions application. (Yes, this is really true.)

It might be in your best interest to still disclose the criminal arrest or conviction, even if you have sealed the records. The college might be impressed by your honesty in divulging juvenile arrests. Talk with an attorney to think this through.

Fight the Arrest

You can make life easier on yourself by fighting to get DWI charges dropped or acquitted at trial. Then you can honestly tell any college that you were arrested but never convicted. Maybe you were swerving in traffic because you were tired or lost—but you weren’t driving while impaired.

Call Tad Nelson & Associates today. There are many collateral consequences to a DWI. Difficulties with college admissions is one of them. Some schools are very competitive, and they look for a reason to deny an applicant, even one with excellent credentials. You should do everything possible to get charges dismissed so you can move on with your life.

Attorney Tad Nelson - Board Certified in Criminal Law

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Houston DWI Lawyer Tad A Nelson is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the TBLS.

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