Can You Go To College With A Felony?

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CollegeRanker is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Defining a Felony and its Repercussions

A felony is a serious crime, such as murder or rape, that is punishable by a lengthy prison sentence, fines or even the death penalty. Felonies are considered to be the most serious of all criminal offenses and can have serious repercussions in an individual’s life. Depending on the severity of the crime and jurisdiction, a person found guilty of a felony may face up to life in prison and/or be required to pay heavy fines.

In addition, convicted felons may face a number of collateral consequences, including loss of certain civil rights, such as the right to vote or possess firearms. A felony conviction also makes it difficult for individuals to find employment, housing, and other opportunities that require a background check. In some cases, employers will not hire or promote individuals with a felony conviction.

The stigma associated with having a felony conviction can follow an individual throughout their life and can have far-reaching implications. Being convicted of a felony can also impact the ability of an individual to go to college and pursue higher education.

Types of Offenses That Count as a Felony

A felony is the most serious type of criminal offense. It is a crime that can be punished with a prison sentence for more than one year, or sometimes by death. Depending on the state you live in, some felonies may also be classified into different levels of seriousness.

The types of offenses that could be considered a felony depend on your state’s laws. Here are some common examples of offenses that are commonly classified as felonies:

  • Murder or manslaughter
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Aggravated assault and battery
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Drug possession (specifically for intent to sell or distribute)
  • Fraud or identity theft
  • Weapons or explosives violations

In some states, a conviction for any of these types of felonies can disqualify you from obtaining certain professional licenses, and cause you to lose your voting rights. Additionally, if you are convicted of certain felonies — including violent crimes, drug crimes, and sex offenses — you may be required to register as a sex offender depending on the state you live in.

In some cases, an offense may be classified as a felony even if you didn’t intend to commit a crime. In the United States, you can be criminally charged if you act recklessly or negligently in a way that causes harm to someone else. Some states also allow for “strict liability” which means a person may be held legally liable for a crime even if they had no intention of breaking the law.

Can You Go to College With a Felony?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to attend college with a felony on your record. However, each college or university may have different policies and requirements that must be met before an individual with a felony can be admitted.

At many colleges, convicted felons must go through a review process and may even be required to provide additional documentation or complete a probationary period before being admitted. Some colleges may also require individuals with a felony to provide evidence of rehabilitation or good behavior in order to be accepted.

It is important to remember that some schools may be more willing to accept applicants with a felony than others, so it is best to research all potential schools thoroughly before applying. Additionally, it is also important to factor in the type of crime and how long ago it was committed when determining if a school will accept you.

In general, there are a few things that you can do to increase your chances of being accepted into college despite having a felony on your record. For example, submitting letters of recommendation from employers, clergy, teachers, counselors, and other people who can attest to your character and achievements can show that you have worked to better yourself and make up for past mistakes.

Obtaining a high school diploma or GED, and then taking courses at a local community college can also demonstrate to admission officers that you are improving yourself and are capable of succeeding in a college education.

If you are considering attending college with a felony, it is important to ask questions and be aware of the policies of the schools you are considering. Doing your research ahead of time can help you prepare for any potential obstacles, and increase your chances of being accepted into college.

Ways to Reduce the Impact of a Felony before Applying to College

Pursuing a college education when you have a felony on your record can be intimidating. While it is important to be honest about your past and any criminal convictions, there are also steps that you can take to reduce the impact of a felony on your college application.

Seek an Expungement

In some states, it is possible to have your criminal record expunged. This process removes the felony from your criminal record so that it won’t appear as part of a background check. However, it is important to note that not all felonies can be expunged, so it is important to consult with an attorney who is familiar with your state’s laws.

Focus on Volunteer Work

Whether or not your felony is expunged, it is still important to demonstrate to potential colleges the positive qualities that you possess. One way to do this is by participating in volunteer work related to your area of study. Not only will volunteering help you to gain experience in your chosen field, but it can also show that you are dedicated to making a difference in your community.

Engage in Self-Improvement Activities

Making an effort to pursue self-improvement activities can also show potential colleges that you are working hard to be a better person than you were when you committed the felony. Examples of self-improvement activities include taking classes, joining clubs, and participating in certificate programs that are relevant to your professional goals. All of these activities will demonstrate to potential colleges that you are committed to becoming a better person and that you are taking advantage of the opportunities available to you.

Get Positive Recommendations

Finally, it is important to get positive recommendations from people who can speak positively about your character. If you can secure letters of recommendation from teachers, mentors, employers, or other individuals that can attest to your character, these can help to demonstrate to potential colleges that you are prepared to succeed academically.

By taking the time to focus on self-improvement, volunteer work, and obtaining positive letters of recommendation, you can reduce the impact of a felony on your college application. It is important to be honest about any criminal convictions that you may have, but by making an effort to demonstrate your commitment to personal growth and success, you can show potential colleges that you are serious about your education.

Financing Your Education After Being Convicted of a Felony

If you’ve been convicted of a felony, then it can be difficult to finance your college education. Depending on your circumstances, there are some options available that can help you pay for college.

Federal Student Aid

Individuals with past criminal convictions may still be eligible for federal student aid in the form of grants, loans and work-study programs. The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and you will learn if you qualify based on your answers. In addition to answering questions about your educational background and work experience, you will also be asked about any past criminal convictions. Depending on the nature of the crime, you may be ineligible for federal aid or be required to undergo additional screening.


When looking for scholarships, focus on organizations and foundations that understand the challenge that individuals with criminal records face. There are many private foundations and charities that provide scholarship assistance to those who have been convicted of a felony and are trying to further their education. Local churches and organizations may also provide assistance. Do your research and look up online guides to finding scholarships for people with past felonies.

Private Loans

If you have a good credit score, you may be able to apply for private loans. Private student loans are available from banks, credit unions and other lenders. In general, private loans tend to have higher interest rates but can be a viable option for financing college. However, keep in mind that some lenders consider criminal history when evaluating applications, so make sure to do your research and read the fine print.

Employer Tuition Assistance

If you are currently employed, you may be eligible for employer tuition assistance. Many employers offer tuition reimbursement programs for employees who want to pursue higher education. Depending on your company’s policies, you may be able to get some financial assistance even if you have a felony on your record.

Financing your education can be challenging after being convicted of a felony, but it’s not impossible. There are resources and organizations out there that can help, so don’t give up hope. With some effort and research, you may be able to find the financial assistance you need to pursue your college education.

Resources Available for Individuals With a Felony Record

Everyone deserves a second chance, and if you have a felony record, there are many resources available to help you on your journey. These resources can help you seek financial aid, legal assistance, and job or education opportunities.

Financial Aid Resources

There are a number of organizations that provide financial assistance for individuals with a felony record. Many states offer grants and scholarships specifically designed to help individuals with a felony record pursue higher education. Additionally, some independent foundations and organizations grant scholarships to individuals who have been affected by the criminal justice system.

Legal Assistance

Organizations such as the Innocence Project and the National Reentry Resource Center provide pro bono legal services for individuals with a felony record. In addition, many state bar associations offer free legal services or referrals to attorneys who will work pro bono.

Job Opportunities

There are a number of organizations dedicated to helping individuals with a felony record find employment. A few of these organizations include the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, Hope For Prisoners, and InnerCity Struggle, among many others. These programs provide job coaching and mentoring services, as well as access to resources such as job search websites, vocational training, and job fairs.

Education Opportunities

Many colleges and universities have special admissions processes for individuals with a felony record. These admissions processes are in place to increase access for students who otherwise may not have the opportunity to attend college.

Additionally, some educational institutions will provide additional support, such as mentoring and tutoring, for students who have been affected by the criminal justice system.

These are just a few of the resources available to individuals with a felony record. No matter what your situation is, there are resources out there that can help you pursue a better life.

Factors That Help or Hurt an Applicant With a Felony

If you have been convicted with a felony and are considering college, there are some factors that could either help or hurt your chances. Depending on the type of felony, its severity, and any potential mitigating circumstances, some colleges may accept you while others may not.

It is important to remember that each school is different, and the criteria they use to judge an applicant’s eligibility vary. Some schools may have a “blanket ban” on accepting felony convictions while others may consider both the felony and the individual circumstances.

There are a few factors that can help your application when you have a felony record. If any of these apply to you, it is important to communicate them effectively with the college you are applying to:

  • Your conviction was several years ago and you have since exhibited good behavior
  • The felony does not relate to college-level academic performance
  • You are enrolled in a program such as rehabilitation or counseling to improve yourself
  • You have completed any court ordered penalties associated with your crime

On the other hand, there are some factors that may hurt your chances of getting accepted into college if you have a felony:

  • Your conviction was recent and there has not been enough time to demonstrate good behavior
  • Your felony is related to college-level academic performance (such as cheating or plagiarism)
  • You have not completed any court ordered penalties associated with your crime
  • You have a pattern of criminal behavior

Ultimately, each college sets their own criteria for evaluating applicants with felonies. It is important to research each college you are applying to and understand clearly how they view felonies. If you need more help, be sure to use the resources available to help you make an informed decision.

How Different Colleges View Applicants With a Felony Record

It can be difficult and intimidating to apply to college when you have a felony on your record. When considering whether or not to accept you, colleges may take into account the severity of the offense, when it occurred and whether or not you’ve taken steps to rehabilitate yourself.

Most colleges are willing to look beyond an applicant’s record and give them a chance if they show that they’re committed to making positive changes in their life.

However, some colleges may be less forgiving depending on the type of the crime and when it was committed. It’s important to note that the admissions process is different for every college, so you should research the school you’re applying to and see what their policy is with regards to applicants with felonies. For example, universities typically ask applicants to disclose any convictions and may choose to reject applications or put applicants in a special category.

On the other hand, community colleges may be more understanding and may be more willing to overlook your conviction if you’re able to prove that you have taken steps to change your life.

Community colleges may also offer programs for previously convicted individuals to help them with the transition to higher education.

It’s important to be honest about your conviction when applying to college and to understand if there are any additional requirements for admitting you. But don’t let your conviction stop you from pursuing your college education, as many schools are willing to be understanding and will look at the bigger picture.

Pros and Cons of Disclosing a Felony to Potential Colleges

When considering going to college with a felony on your record, one of the toughest decisions is whether or not to disclose it to potential colleges. Before you make a decision, it’s important to understand both the pros and cons of disclosing a felony record.

Pros of Disclosing Your Felony:

  • It can be seen as an act of integrity if you are transparent about your past.
  • It may lead to leniency from the admissions office.
  • The admissions office may be able to provide guidance and support.
  • Your experience can help serve as a learning opportunity for other students.

Cons of Disclosing Your Felony:

  • You could be rejected for admission.
  • You could face discrimination from faculty and other students.
  • It could be used as grounds for revoking your admission if it was approved.

It’s important to remember that every situation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to deciding whether or not to disclose a felony. You should consider the pros and cons carefully before you make your decision. It’s also a good idea to seek the advice of a lawyer or other legal professional to ensure that you’re making the right decision for your particular situation.


Going to college with a felony is possible but it can be challenging. Every situation will be unique and the type of offense and length of time since it occurred will play an important role in the outcome. Doing your research, learning about laws and regulations, and understanding what colleges do and do not look for when reviewing applications are all key to having an easier time when applying to college with a felony.

It’s important to remember that you are not defined by your mistakes, and that those who have faced challenges and demonstrated resilience should be celebrated. Taking the opportunity to pursue a college education after a felony has been convicted is an admirable act, and if you are facing this situation, there are many resources available to help you along your way.

By taking the time to understand your rights and seek out the many resources available, you can reduce the impact of a felony before submitting your college application and increase your chances of being accepted. The journey to college acceptance may not be easy, but with the proper guidance and resources, it is definitely achievable.


Navigating the college application process with a felony record can be overwhelming and confusing. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand the process.

  • Do I need to disclose my felony? Whether or not you need to disclose your felony depends on the school you are applying to. Some schools require full disclosure, while others do not.
  • What are my chances of being accepted? Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict the chances of admission. Each school will consider each felony on a case-by-case basis.
  • Are there any alternatives to college? Yes, there are several options for individuals with a felony conviction, including trade and technical schools, online learning, apprenticeships, and professional certifications.
  • Can I get financial aid if I have a felony? Yes, it is possible to get financial aid with a felony, although the amount may be limited.
  • What other resources are available? There are a variety of resources available for individuals with a felony record. These include employment programs, counseling services, and other legal services.


If you have been convicted of a felony and are looking to attend college, resources are available to help you. Researching the options before making your decision can make the process smoother and more successful. There are several organizations that provide assistance for individuals with a felony record.

  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): The NAACP provides legal assistance for individuals with criminal records as well as support for education and job training programs.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): The ACLU is a non-profit that defends the rights of all people and helps those with criminal records. The ACLU also has a Criminal Justice Resource Center with helpful information and referrals.
  • ReentryNET: The ReentryNET network works to provide assistance and resources to individuals going through the reentry process. The site includes contact information for legal services, housing resources, and educational opportunities.

These organizations and others can provide essential support and guidance to those looking to attend college with a felony record. It’s important to be aware of the options available, so you know what support you may be eligible for and how to access it.