Wake Forest University

Juvenile Records and Admissions

Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

Juvenile Records and Admissions

College admissions officers rely upon the information told to them about a student to make suitable admissions decisions on behalf of the university. While there’s virtually no way to share every piece of information that a college may wish to consider about an applicant, shouldn’t colleges be made aware of matters that involve even the slightest misstep of the law? Most colleges do, in fact, ask questions of their applicants pertaining to ‘criminal convictions;’ however, in some states, such wording would not encompass violations that occurred when the applicant was a juvenile (or under the age of 16).

So, what to make of this?

This month, a Pennsylvania court of appeals ruled that Temple University (and other institutions) should have been made aware of a student the school accepted (and who ultimately enrolled there) who had been previously found responsible for disseminating child pornography (the case has since gone to another appeal). The juvenile court that originally heard the case ruled that Temple be notified, though this never occurred after the court stayed its ruling (on objection from the defendant). The defendant’s high school had no obligation to notify the colleges to which he applied because he had not violated any school rules. Perhaps worse – he had committed, what would have otherwise been classified a crime, if not for his age.

Finding the middle ground between allowing troubled youths to move beyond their transgressions and keeping college campuses safe is a tall task. High schools do not have standardized policies for notifying college admissions officers of violations of any sort, which therefore has a disparate impact on some students. Likewise, state courts still struggle to determine where the line should be drawn. Always a hot topic, it will require that high schools, the courts, and colleges all work together to create a system that is in the best interest for all parties involved.

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