September 2008 Newsletter
The Common Application, used by 346 colleges and universities across the country, has recently added two questions regarding discipline. Although these questions first appeared on the 2007-2008 application, students and parents are becoming increasingly more aware of it and it has been the cause of some legitimate concern.
The following are the questions:
1. “Have you ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at an educational institution you have attended from the 9th grade forward (or the international equivalent), whether related to academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct, that resulted in your probation, suspension, removal, dismissal, or expulsion from the institution?”
2. “Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime?”
If the student has any doubts about how to respond to question #1, he or she needs to know that the guidance / college counselor when completing the Secondary School Report (SSR) is asked to respond to similar questions.
If, on the other hand, a student can answer “yes” to question #2, the family may want to consult with an attorney.
The following is how the questions appear on the SSR:
1. “Has the applicant ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at your school from 9th grade (or the international equivalent) forward, whether related to academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct, that resulted in the applicant’s probation, suspension, removal, dismissal, or expulsion from your institution?”
2. “ To your knowledge, has the applicant ever been convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime?”
“If you answered yes to either or both questions, please attach a separate sheet of paper or use your written recommendation to give the approximate date of each incident and explain the circumstances.”
For students who must answer “yes” to the first discipline question, it may be somewhat reassuring to know that most admissions counselors believe that a one-time indiscretion in which the student has shown remorse and has learned from the transgression is not necessarily going to jeopardize that student’s chances of admission.
That is why it is in the student’s best interest to write a letter that explains the nature of the incident, the disciplinary action that was taken, and what was learned from the experience. It is most important that in this letter the student admits the error, and has accepted whatever punishment the school has imposed.
While a disciplinary blemish on an applicant’s record is always significant, obviously some offenses are more serious than others. The act of a student who has been caught drinking at a school function is not going to be considered as egregious as the act of a student who has cheated on an exam or has brought a weapon to school. For the most part, an incident of academic dishonesty or an incident of violence would be much more scrupulously examined before a favorable admissions decision would be rendered.
Admissions counselors are aware that we all make errors in judgment. Upon reading a student’s letter, an admissions counselor will more likely accept an applicant who has demonstrated how he or she has learned from the mistake, than to accept an applicant who is argumentative and has not taken responsibility for the transgression.