Can a Substance Abuse Charge Prevent You From a College Education?
Penalties for a substance abuse related crime varies from one place to the next, but there will generally be some form of penalty issued for the crime. Someone who has been charged with a drug possession charge may face jail time, a fine, probation, community service or a combination of penalties. The effects of a substance abuse related crime can linger for several years, making it difficult to get a college degree and/or find a job after college. It is important to keep in mind that if you want to pursue a college degree, you cannot let your past haunt you. Even with a substance abuse charge, there are special circumstances that may require extra steps, but you may qualify for financial aid, can attend college and can pursue a career afterwards.
Depending on which colleges you apply to, a drug charge may affect your chance of admission. The majority of college applications ask whether or not you have been convicted of a crime, what the charge was and you will have the opportunity to explain your situation. It is important to not make excuses for your actions, be honest in your answers and take responsibility for your past actions. Colleges vary on their “rules” regarding the number of misdemeanor charges, for example one college may accept you with two misdemeanor drug charges, while another college may look at your situation as a problem instead of a lapse in good judgment. If you have good test scores and a good GPA, apply to several colleges and you are bound to be accepted to at least one.
Going to college is expensive, so you will need to complete the application for Federal Student Aid, which is by colleges to determine your eligibility for financial aid. Question number 23 on the FAFSA form is about your history of substance abuse convictions. It is very important that you answer this question carefully, but answering yes or leaving the question blank, does not mean you will never be eligible for financial aid. The eligibility for financial aid will depend on if you were receiving financial aid at the time of your conviction or whether this is your first time applying as well as your first and only conviction. In most situations, one drug offense several years prior to applying will not disqualify you for financial aid.
- Federal Financial Aid and the HEA amendment have put ineligibility periods in place for students who want federal financial aid. The amendment states that a first offense, drug possession conviction carries one year of ineligibility for financial aid.
- The second offense makes you ineligible for two years
- Third offense may permanently disqualify you for financial aid
- If you were receiving financial aid at the time of your conviction, successfully completing a qualified rehabilitation program and passing a minimum of two random drug tests, you may be eligible to reapply
Finding a Job
If you are looking for employment, either with or without a college degree, most employers require their potential employees to note and describe any criminal charges they may have. You will also be asked if the charge was a misdemeanor or a felony. Many employers prefer to hire employees that do not have a criminal record, so a substance abuse charge can make it more difficult to find employment. Depending on the type of job you are applying for, such as something in the medical field or education, you may not be allowed to work, if the charges are pending, but if it has been several years, you complete drug testing and can show you are no longer involved with drugs, it is possible to find work in these fields as long as you pass the licensing exam that is required.
If you were a juvenile when convicted of the drug charges, in most situations, your case has been sealed and is no longer valid. If you were an adult when the conviction occurred and it has been several years, you should make an appointment to speak with an attorney about getting your case expunged, which means if approved the case is closed and the information is not accessible.
Rene Williams is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to the DegreeJungle.com. She is also a believer in the fact that everyone deserves a chance to experience college and encourages you to follow your goals and check out the information provided by DegreeJungle about the best online colleges.