There are thousands of graduate school programs across the United States and almost as many hurdles to jump to gain admission to the best of them. Unfortunately a stellar academic record can easily be overshadowed by one careless experience such as a conviction for driving under the influence, or DUI. The result–a blemish on an otherwise spotless record—and the possibility of receiving a terse letter of rejection from that graduate school.
Every year nearly half a million people enroll in graduate schools across the country. Health sciences, engineering, and social and behavioral sciences are among the most popular areas of study. For some enrollees, graduate school is the necessary stepping stone to a brighter career. In the field of social services, for example, a master’s degree is a minimum requirement for employment.
Although graduate school enrollment has dropped recently, the main reason for this decrease is attributed to high tuition fees and increased difficulties in securing financial aid. In the main, though, a graduate degree is still regarded as a sound investment of time and money. It can lead to quicker career advancement and increased earning power. The rate of unemployment among people with graduate degrees is lower than among those without these credentials; and their incomes are higher as well—the difference a master’s degree can make is as much as $12,000 annually.
Apart from professional and monetary considerations, a graduate degree carries with it a certain prestige among one’s peers. It is possible, through rigorous research and the writing of a dissertation, to gain the recognition of one’s peers, and international notoriety within the field, as well as procurement of a tenured professorship at a respected university.
A DUI conviction can be a serious obstacle to admission into programs in specific fields. A criminal history is established at the time of conviction, and the arrest record can still be available to the public if not expunged. In general, a single conviction will not impact admission in a non-affected discipline, if the punishment is completed and no probationary conditions remain. If the school accesses the information without the student’s disclosure, this will almost certainly reflect poorly upon the student’s character. Honesty may be painful, but full disclosure is prudent to mitigate the fallout in the long run.
The medical and legal fields are the most likely to refuse admission to an applicant who has been convicted of driving under the influence. Both professions require licensing by the state of practice and a criminal history is a problem in both professions. Immediate expungement after the conviction may be a possibility, if there are no subsequent offenses and all penalties have been satisfied. There are specific rules to qualify for legal sealing of the record and the process always takes an experienced attorney to accomplish. The legal team at an local firm, for a Pennsylvania charge for instance, can provide that kind of service.
A DUI conviction may make it equally difficult to land that dream job. When the requirements for a position include a clean driving record, a DUI can be a deal-breaker. Misdemeanor convictions may be acceptable for some employers, but multiple offenses can also result in felony charges. Some initial DUI convictions are filed as aggravated circumstances if they involve auto accidents and cause serious bodily harm, so the particulars of the case can make a difference. Companies are often assessed by the number of workers they employ who have criminal histories. Expunging a case after adjudication is always worth the investment because it wipes the record clean and it’s as though the incident never happened.
A DUI can inflict additional financial pain when it is time to renew an automobile insurance policy. Insurance companies maintain access to all driving record databases and know immediately how the conviction will impact premium rates. In some cases the convicted driver’s insurance policy is cancelled. All states have made prosecuting intoxicated drivers a top priority and comprehensive punishments are now almost universally enforced. It is always important to follow any treatment programs ordered by the court and use that completion record as a character reference anytime the conviction becomes an issue. Demonstrating rehabilitation can be a long process and subsequent convictions may be difficult to explain.