SBC Scoop: Handling a criminal record

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Everyone makes mistakes, and growing up can result in many mistakes you regret. If your mistake is still on your permanent record, how do you handle it in your MBA application?

In the first phone call with Jon he raised an issue that had been causing him a tremendous amount of stress. While in college he partied a bit more heavily than he should have, and made the mistake of driving home drunk from a party one night. Jon was stopped by a highway patrol officer and ended up with a DUI citation. Jon’s license was suspended for several months. Clearly Jon was very concerned about how to explain an arrest in his applications.

Jon’s experience was over four years before he applied for an MBA, and he had honestly contemplated how to avoid hurting himself and others with excessive drinking. Overall the experience was honestly a wake up call for him, and led him to moderate his drinking substantially. Jon influenced his friends and fraternity brothers and encouraged his social group to always designate drivers. Since the arrest, Jon had never operated a motor vehicle after drinking.

Upon hearing his story I believed Jon could actually make his error in judgment an asset to his application. In telling his story during our first consultation I could tell that Jon had genuinely learned quite a bit from the experience. Many MBA programs ask you to explain a mistake you have made, or discuss a challenge you overcame. The most interesting candidates have faced difficulty and learned from it, preferably changing their behavior for the better. Jon’s story was a solid example of this.

On a practical level we advised that Jon be completely honest about his DUI and explain what happened and what he learned in his optional essays for all schools. For a school that asked about a mistake Jon was able to use this experience as an example.

Those of you who have a similar issue in your past will be glad to know that Jon gained admission to USC and Duke.

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