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Do College Admissions Officers Know You Got Detention?

If you’ve gotten in trouble at school, then your teachers or guidance counselors might have said that your behavior is going on to your permanent record. But what is a permanent record, and will this have a greater long-term impact on your future?


While we may not like to admit that we’ve gotten a detention, most students have experienced some sort of minor disciplinary action in high school. For the most part, detention is a punishment for students who commit minor problems, and school reserve more serious punishments for more serious infractions.


A detention is a form of punishment where the student is required to stay in an “undesirable” location outside of their normal classroom hours. While most detentions occurs after school, some occur during the lunch period. Some schools require that students complete schoolwork while they are in detention, while others don’t care what you do other than you are silent and stay in place.


Detention is supposed to be boring, so that it’ll deter you from committing the same behavior that caused you to get it. Any behavior that a school administrator deems non-conducive to learning could warrant a detention. Some typical ones are being tardy to school or late to your classes, talking too much with classmates or using expletive language, or not adhering to a dress code.


As for the “permanent record,” most school systems have some form of student record that they use to monitor students’ academic performance, behavior, and attendance. Some school systems track detentions on this robust school record, while others only focus on more severe disciplinary actions like suspensions or expulsions. This record is shared whenever you switch to a different school, or even move to another city or state.


Will Colleges Know About Your Detentions?


Even though there is such a thing as a record that includes your disciplinary history, most colleges don’t ask for this record. Instead, colleges ask for your transcript, which includes information about your academic performance such as grades, GPA, class rank, and sometimes even test scores.


That said, colleges might request disciplinary history through other means. For example, they might explicitly ask questions such as whether you’ve had a serious offense in the past, especially criminal ones. Many colleges also request an evaluation from your guidance counselor, who might be asked to include an overview of your disciplinary history if applicable.


If a college has a serious concern about your behavior, then they may request further information from you or your school before they are ready to make an admissions decision.


However, given that detentions are typically awarded for minor offenses, most colleges aren’t too concerned with them. They tend to have thousands of applications to sort through, and they have enough information from your transcript, essay, and letters of recommendation to get a sense of who you are. While you shouldn’t see this as a reason to let yourself get as many detentions as possible, it won’t really hurt your chances of getting into college.


What About Plagiarism?


Most colleges take plagiarism very seriously, and they may ask if you have ever been disciplined for committing plagiarism or cheating. After all, colleges are academic institutions first and foremost, and they want to admit students who maintain academic integrity and put their best effort into their work.


If you have cheated or plagiarised, you might still be able to get into college, provided that you give a sincere explanation of how you have learned from this mistake. Colleges want to make sure that you won’t do this while you’re in college, as cheating and plagiarism can be grounds for expulsion from college.


What About Suspensions?


Suspensions, whether on-campus or “in-school” or more traditional out-of-school suspensions, are also listed on your disciplinary record. These tend to be for more serious issues, such as instances where a detention did not correct a pattern of poor behavior, or even single instances of major offenses. Because they are more severe, colleges consider them more seriously than detention.


As with plagiarism and cheating, it’s important to know that while a college may not reject you on the grounds of your past behavior, it can give them pause when considering to admit you. You’ll want to show how you’ve grown since the instance where you were disciplined. We have some ideas below to get you started.

How to Explain Disciplinary History on College Applications


First, it’s important that you give yourself time to fully process the disciplinary action you received. If you are a senior and you got a suspension your freshman year of high school, you may have had enough time to see how you behaved immaturely and write an explanation that shows how you’ve changed.


Sometimes, if the discipline was more recent, you might be angry or feel that you received an unjust punishment. If you truly think a punishment was unjust, you may want to look into your school district’s appeals process to have your behavioral record amended in accordance with what you think is fair. School administrators make mistakes and occasionally punish students more harshly because of their own emotional state, so this can be a solution for you.


However, there’s no guarantee that your behavioral record will change, so if you find that you are fired up every time you think of the time you were punished, then this is a great opportunity to get help from a trusted adult. You may just need to vent your feelings, or you may need guidance to understand why your behavior was unacceptable and how you can learn from this experience.


Once you have resolved the experience for yourself, you’ll be able to write an honest and sincere explanation to admissions officers about why you were punished and what you have learned from this experience. The more severe your offense was, the more work you’ll need to do to show that you have changed significantly and will be a positive influence on campus. This could include getting counseling, participating in school activities, and no further behavioral infractions.


Because disciplinary problems are specific to each student, we can’t possibly cover every scenario on an application. Just know that you should strive to be honest on your applications and provide the information that colleges ask for without trying to “hide” anything. Colleges don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to develop a mature attitude and demonstrate integrity.


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For more information about college applications, check out these posts below:


What is Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions?

Universal College App Vs. Common App: Which to Use?

What Are the Differences Between Early Action and Early Decision?

Short Bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.