Smart Q & A: Do I have to report suspensions on college applications?

Ask Smart College Visit

QUESTION:

I have some suspensions from high school on my record. Do I have to report suspensions on college applications?

ANSWER:

College policies can vary on all admissions issues, so the only way to know for certain would be to call each admissions office and ask. However, you can expect the standard answer to be something like:

“Students should be completely honest in their application materials and disclose any suspensions or other disciplinary actions as indicated/requested on the admission application. All students will receive fair review and consideration in the admissions process.”

That was the long answer. The short answer is an emphatic “Yes.”

Applicants should take great care in completely explaining any noted infractions — honestly and taking full responsibility. (Qualified responses like the following are NOT a good idea… “I got in trouble but the teacher is so mean to everybody,” or “The principal hates me,” or similar deflection of responsibility. Qualified answers are not impressive to admissions reviewers.)

Why report suspensions on college applications?

The most basic reason is because they ask. Most applications have a space requiring that applicants disclose any suspensions or disciplinary actions. Many will include signing of an honor pledge as part of the submission.

Even without the pledge, colleges are expecting that the application for admission is being submitted truthfully and in good faith — without any omission of important required information. You are signing your name, in other words, giving your word that the information submitted is complete, true, and correct.

While suspensions could be considered grounds for denial, in general, admissions officers are well aware that high school students — typically teens or young adults — can make mistakes. They tend to look favorably on students who have learned from their mistakes and become better for the experience. A pattern of several suspensions, however, could be cause for concern about ability and willingness to follow rules.

Important to note: Students who fail to disclose suspensions or other disciplinary actions will almost certainly be denied admission (or have the offer of admission rescinded, if one has already been made) if the suspension comes to the admissions office’s attention later. This would be denial on the basis of dishonesty on the application, which is a very big deal. Honesty during the application process is a must.

Colleges are under a great deal of scrutiny these days to screen applicants — as much as they possibly can — for the safety of all staff and students. Any omission or other questionable (or seemingly duplicitous) activities will be viewed negatively.

The best course of action is to take the opportunity to disclose on the application anything that might be cause concern later. This way you will be able to address anything that might cause raised eyebrows proactively. You will have a chance to tell them what happened in your own words — and completely explain the circumstances and what you have learned.

In conclusion, there’s really no way to know with absolute certainty how suspensions will affect admission at any college, but honesty and full disclosure are required and expected.

Author: Amy Widner

Amy is Vice President, Operations at Smart College Visit. She found her 20+ years of experience in corporate and higher education communication to be almost adequate preparation for her recent experience navigating the college search and admissions process with her oldest child. She finds joy in helping ease the process for all.

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