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How to Get Into Grad School With a DUI

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So, you’ve gotten a DUI conviction or two in the past and you want to move forward in your life. Sounds easy right? The truth is that a DUI/ DWI conviction will actually make your life a lot harder, not only in the academic world, but in the real world as well. Now that you have this conviction on your record, here is how to live with it.

I am writing this post because I have recently undergone this process of trying to apply to graduate school and couldn’t find anything online about this subject. I am now going to share my experiences with you in hope that it will make some sort of difference in your life.

One of the hardest things to admit is now with your DUI conviction that you are now second place for everything. You have to admit to yourself that it will cause problems in your life, and you just have to keep on moving forward in order to get anywhere. By allowing yourself to prepare for denial, you will be more optimistic in the end when you are denied.

When filling out graduate applications make sure you fill them out honestly. Remember that old rule about honesty being the best policy. Well, it most definitely applies here. You might look online and find that you should add an addendum. An addendum is an attachment that explains your situation, but my question to you is-- why add this when you haven’t even got your foot in the door yet? This will ultimately set you up for failure, because this takes time and effort, and you’re going to need the time.

On most applications you will see the question asked “Have you ever been convicted of a crime other than a major traffic accident?” Your answer should reflect the truth. So it should go something like this. “Yes, I have been convicted of a misdemeanor DUI, but have completed all court-mandated requirements and have given back to my community.” This is the truth right?

The next step is that you will most likely be receiving a letter from the Dean of Students from the university in which you are applying. This letter will state that the school needs more documentation regarding your conviction. This is where the addendum comes in. The school will want police records, records showing progress, and a personal statement. In your personal statement you should be sincere, because after all you are sorry for your actions and you just want to move forward with your life. Word of advice- keep your personal statement professional, alright? You don’t really want to go into details of how you shot eight rounds of Vegas bombs with some pretty girl at the bar.

The university will then have a committee meeting that ultimately decides your fate on whether or not this will be a problem with your application. The committee is going to decide whether or not you are a danger to the university and to other students. If you have shown that you have made a change in your life, and regret your actions this shouldn’t be a problem.

Since you have all this going on with you application, apply early. Most committees only meet once a monthly. Applying early will give the university time to make the decision and grant you admission before the deadline.

Another factor I have found out on whether you can be admitted, is that DUI’s can have certain influences on different majors. If you are going to in nursing or social work, a DUI can influence licensure. If you can’t be licensed in your chosen field in the end, you probably won’t make it past the first round. The best thing to do regarding this situation is to find out more information by talking to a graduate counselor at your undergraduate school, not your perspective school. That way no information is disclosed to your future school regarding the event. You don’t want to disclose more information than necessary.

I have included below a few books that can help you in process because they helped me. Don’t give up! I know it’s tough, but you really can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Update Below

Update Oct 2019: I haven’t updated this in a while, but I wanted to let you know that it is absolutely possible to get a job with a DUI and have a great career. Since I wrote this article, I have earned my Master of Operations Management and worked with a Fortune 350 company for several years.

Everything I said above still remains true, but some things I have learned:

  • Prep work was the best thing I've ever done. I started with a plan to get into the school I wanted and I ensured that I was flexible enough to accept the worst. My plan included getting all of my documentation together, studying for the exam, career planning, and more. Write it down and check to see if it comes true.
  • It is best to start with a plan and realize that it will all go to hell, but keep updating it and accept the diversions. Sometimes life will lead you on an incredible path if you're ready for it.
  • An online program can be a great option as since you are not going to be on campus they may waive some of the background check stuff. This may or may not be true. I went through an online program and yes they did all the checks above.
  • Get your Masters for you. Don't do it for your parents, your friends, or your great uncle who never went to school. Do it for yourself and make sure what you are doing is something that you will LOVE. Don't chase money because you will be unhappy in the end.

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Check out my other to get a job with a DUI


Naomi on July 23, 2020:

Thank you for writing and sharing this article! I was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI just over a year ago in the state of Arizona and it has been really difficult to find any helpful information like this out there. It gives me some hope that with hard work and determination I may still be able to achieve my goals/dreams.

Harry on February 05, 2018:

Interesting article. I applied to grad school and was challenged that I provided false statement as I did not recall the charge that was near 20 years prior when filling out the application. I had to supply all documentation that I did plea down to lessor charge, but the arrest was still dui. The issue was I did not have anything to prove I was correct as it was before internet and tech allowed saving data images. So I struggled to get admissions to see that it was honest mistake to not mention and show I didn't have paperwork on. Irony is this is what they would hinge taking my money on??? Grad school is only for point of saying you did grad school and moving up in public sector. Consider who is evaluating your past behavior.

matty on August 20, 2015:

thank you for this. i was convicted of a DWI (in california) in 2013, and im on my last year of my informal probation. it was way stupid and not like me. anyway, i finally finished my undergrad degree this past May... in Child development. word of advice: any work/schooling in childcare will be a rough route. extremely. my question is that if/when i expunge my record, how much of a difference will it be in applying for grad school (obviously, dependent on the major)?

Nadine on April 27, 2015:

Thank you

santi on March 15, 2014:

Very helpful. Just got my Bachelor's in Applied Tech. And am contemplating getting my Masters in Health Admin. Thanks for the heads up.

Deborah on March 14, 2014:

That is truly heloful... It is OK to be honest!

Anonymous on January 14, 2014:

Thank you for this!

Steph on May 11, 2013:

Thank you so much for this article! Very helpful.

shelli on April 20, 2013:

This was a great post. I am still pre-conviction but I'm preparing for whatever might come my way. The worst part is if I am convicted I don't know if I can ever become a registered dietitian. The internship requires a national background check before placement. Regardless of the outcome of my case I am still going to apply for my masters in Nutrition without the RD. Thanks for writing about this daunting process.

joshbui (author) from Dothan, Alabama on April 06, 2013:

I had received my DUI in the state of Alabama. I did get into grad school, and yes it did affect my admission. In order to obtain admission and complete my application, I had to submit an addendum about my DUI to the Dean of Students. Basically, they just want to make sure that you have changed your ways and ensure that you will not be a danger to other students. Best of luck in your adventures.

Ashley on November 24, 2012:

Thank you very much for this post. This def gave me a little more hope since I recently got a DUI and am waiting for the results of my criminal trial.

I do have two questions for you:

1. What state did you get your DUI in?

2. Did you get into grad school and how did that affect your admission?

thank you again for the post!

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