As a college student, you have likely made a few mistakes as you navigate independence and adulthood. Some of these are harmless and can lead to good stories and learning opportunities. Yet, others can come with serious consequences, including criminal charges. If you’re facing these, you may worry about whether they will impact your academic standing. While they may, you must understand how you can protect your educational opportunities.

The impact of criminal charges

The academic penalties you could face for your criminal charges will depend on the offense in question, as well as whether your charges lead to conviction. If they do, this could hurt your ability to receive financial aid. For instance, you could become ineligible for federal student aid if you receive a conviction on drug charges. If you receive a conviction for a sexual offense, you will become ineligible for Federal Pell Grants. And if your charges lead to incarceration, you will no longer qualify for most types of aid if you attend a state institution.

Your school’s disciplinary policies could also lead to further penalties. Some institutions give students ample opportunity for redemption. Yet, most take criminal charges seriously. The consequences you may receive, regardless of conviction, could include:

  • Loss of scholarship money
  • Loss of eligibility to participate on school sports teams
  • Loss of campus housing privileges
  • Community service
  • Academic probation
  • Suspension or expulsion

Ways you can protect yourself

If your charges led to incarceration – no matter how brief – you could regain your eligibility for federal student aid once you serve your sentence. So long as you were not convicted of a drug or sexual offense, you can reapply for aid before your release. If you received a conviction for drug charges, you can regain eligibility for student aid by participating in a rehabilitation program and passing two drug tests, given at random.

Furthermore, your school will likely hold a disciplinary hearing to determine the penalties for your criminal charges. Before you attend it, you will want to consult an attorney. They may be prohibited from speaking during your hearing, but their presence could help protect you. And they can offer you guidance and advice for making your case beforehand.