You want to apply to business school, but you have a misdemeanor (or worse) on your permanent adult legal record. Can you still expect to be considered at a top business school? A criminal record certainly does count as a strike against you, but that’s not to say that the problem is insurmountable.
There are a few things you should consider when evaluating whether to apply.
First, how severe is your crime? When were you convicted?
Let’s face it—shoplifting on a dare back in the day is not nearly as damaging as, say, fraud within the last 3 years. Similarly, disorderly conduct is a lot easier to overlook than assault or battery. A lesser crime will be forgiven sooner than a more severe one. Furthermore, a crime committed five or more years ago will leave less of an impact than one committed last week.
Should you address your criminal record or not?
Regardless of the what, the when, the where, and the how severe, you should absolutely address whatever it is that’s contained in your criminal record. Similar to the elephant in the room, it’s just better to get the issue out in the open, rather than pretend that it’s not there when everyone knows that it is and is waiting for you to fess up.
How should I present this sensitive material?
Present your past indiscretions forthrightly and succinctly, take responsibility, express regret, discuss what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown, and then move on. Use a matter of fact tone; do not wax on apologetically or defensively. What’s done is done, and in the past. While embarrassment and shame may be appropriate, the place to air those is in confession, not your b-school application.
Where should you address these issues?
If your application includes a question on weaknesses or personal flaws, you may be able to include past indiscretions there. If, however, there is no such question, or if it doesn’t seem appropriate to include it there, then an optional essay would be the next best spot.
Are there any crimes that would completely disqualify me from getting into b-school?
You’d have a pretty tough argument to make if you were applying to b-school with a rape or murder on your record. Finance-related crimes (tax evasion, money laundering, etc.) may also be tough to overlook, considering the fact that b-school graduates are expected to be trusted in finance-related fields.
Finally, if your “application blemish” includes academic discipline, like cheating, you also run the risk of being rejected based solely on that indiscretion.
Every situation is different, which means that each application strategy needs to be specifically tailored to each applicant. Speak with one of Accepted.com’s seasoned admissions consultants about what you can do to overcome your application blemishes.
Related Accepted.com Resources:
- Navigating the MBA Maze, a free email course.
- Recipe for Disaster: Application Mistakes You Want to Avoid, a free article.
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