Whoa, this is a big deal. Starting in the 2019-20 cycle, the Common App will no longer be asking applicants about criminal history, although individual colleges will still be able to ask the question in their Common App supplements. It will be interesting to see which colleges continue to ask the question. (NYU, for example, asks a much narrower question about criminal history than the Common App does.)
In the meantime, we have advice on how to tackle criminal disclosures in our Inline tool.
The Common App disclosure question reads as follows (it's almost at the very end of the Common App Writing section, under the "Disciplinary History" tab):
Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? Note that you are not required to answer "yes" to this question, or provide an explanation, if the criminal adjudication or conviction has been expunged, sealed, annulled, pardoned, destroyed, erased, impounded, or otherwise required by law or ordered by a court to be kept confidential.
That language can cause confusion for people who have been in deferred adjudication and probation programs, which is not uncommon with juvenile run-ins with the law. It also assumes college applicants understand the difference between a citation and a misdemeanor. (In some jurisdictions, a traffic ticket is a misdemeanor; in others, it's a citation.) The question assumes one knows the ins and outs of criminal law in specific jurisdictions. File this under Exhibit J for "We expect a lot of knowledge from young people."
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Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.