A felony charge can significantly affect you and your family’s lives. Even as a former felon, your charge could have unexpected consequences in the future of your education.

Your criminal history does not have to decide your future. It is possible to improve your life after a felony charge through an education program such as a college education or career training. However, these programs are highly competitive, and you may worry about your felony charge affecting your chances to get in.

Be honest

It is better to be honest about your past in your application than to try to hide it. Schools will probably not throw out your application just because of a charge.

Some felonies, especially those involving violence, will be scrutinized closely, but being honest gives you an opportunity to explain what you have learned and how you have grown since your conviction. Some schools or career programs perform background checks, so hiding your past may work against you.


If you are looking for a traditional college experience, a criminal history may complicate things, such as:

  • Dorm living: you may not be eligible to live on campus if you have a criminal record
  • Financial aid: You cannot achieve reinstatement of financial aid until after finishing your probation
  • Scholarships: financial aid is very difficult to get if you are currently incarcerated but not if you are a former felon. You may be able to obtain financing in the form of:
    • Pell Grant
    • Employment and Training administration grant
    • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
    • Federal Work Study programs at individual schools
    • Charles W Colson Scholarship

Additional Tips

Depending on your conviction, not all paths will be open to you. Government agencies, schools, child care centers, certain medical occupations, security guard positions, and alcohol-related fields may not accept your application. However, you can still find an education and a career right for you by following these tips:

  1. Take advantage of any free counseling or therapies required/recommended by college administrators to help you stay on track
  2. Join clubs or activities that help build the skills you want for your future life. Avoid people and places that might tempt you back into your former life
  3. Follow all instructions from your parole or probation officer

It’s not easy, but a fresh start is possible after a felony conviction.