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Admissions When do schools perform criminal background check?

  1. Dec 1, 2015 #1
    Hi everyone. Does anyone know at what part of the admissions process that colleges perform the criminal background check? I am currently applying for Ph.D. programs in Physics, and unfortunately I have a summary offense for underage drinking from 5 years ago. Fortunately, this can be expunged after 5 years, but the expungement process takes 4-8 months (i.e. my record won't be clear until as late as early August 2016). I am wondering if I can get away with answering "No" on the application when asked if I have any prior (non-expunged) convictions on my record and hope that my record will have been cleared by the time any school does a background screening. If the background check is performed only after the student accepts, which I suspect it is, then I should be in the clear. However, I don't want to answer "No", and get caught in a lie. Any insight is much appreciated, but please spare me the lessons in ethics. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2015 #2
    Do not do this. If you are caught in a lie, I'm willing to bet the offer would be rescinded.
  4. Dec 1, 2015 #3
    I'm aware of that, axmls. You didn't answer my question.
  5. Dec 1, 2015 #4
    You asked if you could get away with purposely lying on an application. I just happen to be the first to comment, but I doubt anyone here would 1. know how your choice schools manage their background checks, and especially 2. think this is at all a good idea. Too much risk, and an underage drinking charge from a few years ago would likely have almost no effect on your application in the first place.
    If you're so concerned about it, apply to programs that accept spring admits and just wait until your record is expunged, or just tell the truth on your application if it comes up.
  6. Dec 1, 2015 #5
    No, I never did ask that, axmls. My question was about when schools generally perform their background checks. The rest was simply background information (where I did acknowledge the risk). I don't think that this is esoteric knowledge, and I was not seeking an exact date. My guess is that schools perform the background check only after a student has accepted an offer, and that this practice would be fairly uniform across programs. My hope was that someone who has been through this process as an applicant, or even as an admissions officer, would have useful knowledge, and could confirm and/or elaborate on this point.
  7. Dec 1, 2015 #6
    It is what you asked, though. The entire premise of the question of "when do they do the background checks?" is based on whether or not you'd get caught lying on the application. If your application asks if you have any convictions, it means when you applied, not at the time you'll be attending the school. Again, you would save yourself a lot of trouble by just telling the truth.
  8. Dec 1, 2015 #7
    You seem to be confused about what constitutes a question. That statement you quoted was a musing I had that motivated the question, not an invitation for you to "wonder" as well. The crux of my question was to assess the chance of getting caught supplying misinformation on my application, not the penalties for being caught, which you seem to be fixated on.
  9. Dec 2, 2015 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    While axmls' answer wasn't what you wanted, it is the best answer to your query. Don't worry about whether schools do background checks or not, answer truthfully.

    Thread closed.
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