ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled Saved to Favorites.
Articles / Applying to College / College Essay About Misdemeanor Charge?
Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Nov. 5, 2009

College Essay About Misdemeanor Charge?

Question: I'm a good student, active in many extracurriculars, and have maintained a 3.9. However, this past summer I made a poor decision and was charged with a misdemeanor. The consequences of my actions however, changed my entire outlook on life. I was wondering if it would be a good or bad idea to write my essay about this experience?

If you're comfortable telling me what your "poor decision" was, I can better advise you. Also, since it was in the summer, can I assume that this didn't affect your school record ... no disciplinary action at school, suspension, etc.?


Sometimes these "true confessions" essays can be worthwhile, but in other cases they can be what my 12-year-old son calls "TMI" ... i.e., "Too Much Information." While, for most colleges, you will have to reveal your misdeed anyway (more on that in a minute), the typical high school misdemeanor (e.g., sharing a beer beneath the baseball bleachers or even a joint in the local park) is rarely application essay fodder. Even if you learned some important lessons about honesty or peer pressure or trust, this will probably not be what you want as the "centerfold" of your application. There are surely other strengths, talents, interests, etc. of yours that should take a more starring role. But, again, it's hard for me to say for sure without knowing the details. (And, of course, if you're a terrific writer, you can write about pretty much anything.)

The Common Application (and many others ... though not all) will ask you, "Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime?" So you do have to respond honestly, and--whenever the answer is "YES"-- it's important to include a statement that explains what you did and what you learned from this experience. In such cases, if you succumbed to peer pressure, it's fine to say so, but be sure that you also assume responsibility for your own actions and not foist all of the blame onto others.

But, by conveying this information in a supplementary letter or essay and by writing your primary college essay about something else, you will send a message to colleges that proclaims, "Yes, I did screw up, but this doesn't define who I am. There are other aspects of my life that are far more important."

After all, college applications give you very little space to reveal the real you, and you may want to use your required essay to show what is truly special--and wonderful--about you and to let your lapse in judgment take a back seat, even if you feel that you matured or changed because of it.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

More on Applying to College

Can I Reapply After Early Decision or Early Action Rejection?

Can I Reapply After Early Decision or Early Action Rejection?

Question: If I apply to a college through Early Decision or Early Action, but I am not accepted, can I apply again through Regula…

Can an Early Decision Candidate Apply Elsewhere Via Early Action?

Can an Early Decision Candidate Apply Elsewhere Via Early Action?

Question:

I am applying Early Decision to Rice. Can I apply Early Action to other colleges?

From the Dean:

College admission regulat…

Do Colleges Know If You've Applied Early Elsewhere?

Do Colleges Know If You've Applied Early Elsewhere?

Question:

Do all the other schools know what your early decision/early action school was? Does this play a role in whether to admi…

Switch to Early Decision After Applying?

Switch to Early Decision After Applying?

Question:

My son wasn't positive about applying early decision prior to the November 1 deadline, but has become more committe…

Early Decision or Early Action? How Do We Choose?

Early Decision or Early Action? How Do We Choose?

Question: My daughter has a well balanced list of 10 colleges. How do we decide if she applies Early Action or Early Decision? I …

A-Z College Forums

Browse the College Forums
C1E9D4E7-C4C9-4B28-8946-8F441A6D62B3

Find Your Best Fit

Find your best fit college and track your favorite colleges.