Misdemeanors and medical school: can you still be accepted?

October 23, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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All set for observation in the operating room! Everyone makes mistakes, but what happens if your mistake led to a criminal conviction? Does it mean you can forget about becoming a doctor? Not necessarily.

Getting into medical school is tough. Add in a misdemeanor on your record, and it can hurt your chances even further. But depending on the circumstances, attending medical school may still be a possibility.



What is a misdemeanor? 

There are different classifications of crimes in the United States including infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Infractions are also considered violations and are not punishable with jail time. An example of an infraction is a speeding ticket. Medical school admissions committees do not usually care about infractions.

On the opposite end of the criminal classification system is a felony. Felonies are serious crimes, which if convicted, often mean jail. Felonies often involve harm to another person, such as assault, but robbery and fraud may also be charged as felonies. Although there may be exceptions, it will usually be difficult to get into medical school with a felony conviction. 

Misdemeanors are another classification of crimes in the United States. They may be punished with a fine, probation or jail time. Examples of misdemeanors are trespassing and public intoxication. In it important to understand that states vary in what they classify as a misdemeanor.


Is medical school still a possibility?

If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor, you still may be able to get accepted into med school. The nature of the offense is a big factor in whether medical schools will still consider your application. Crimes, which involve dishonesty or harm to another person may be worse than other types of convictions. For example, if you were arrested for public intoxication, your chances may be better than if you were convicted of fraud.

Medical schools want to be sure you are fit to practice as a physician. In addition, med schools also need to consider whether you will be able to get a state license to practice medicine after graduating.  

In addition to the nature of the offense, the length of time that has passed since the event also plays a role in an acceptance. The more time which has elapsed since the conviction, the better off you are.

It also matters if it was an isolated event or shows a pattern of behavior. For instance, if you were arrested for a bar fight once in freshman year, that may weight differently to being arrested several times for fighting.


Tips to overcome a misdemeanor

If you do have a misdemeanor on your record, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of still getting accepted to medical school.

Disclose everything

 Don’t consider lying on your application. Background checks are done, and admission committees will find out. It is better to be upfront and explain the situation. 


Explain the steps taken since the event

 Explain the steps you took to deal with any problems, which may have led to the misdemeanor. For example, if you went to counseling or rehab, mention it. It is essential to show you dealt with the problem, and you will not repeat the behavior.


Make sure you learned your lesson

 Take responsibility for what you did. Don’t make excuses on your application. Medical school admission panels want to see you learned your lesson, and it was an isolated incident.