Preparing for College

Will Criminal Record Keep Prospective Student Out of Massage Therapy Program?

Question: I am interested in going to college to study massage therapy. I have met all the requirements, but they have to run a background check. I have been convicted of 7 misdemeanors: 4th degree theft, 4th degree trespassing, 4th degree disorderly conduct, 4th degree reckless driving with no insurance, 4th degree menacing, 4th degree internet harassment, and 3rd degree terrorist threatening. Will this keep me from getting in? I searched online and couldn't find much, but the college's brochure said you can't get in if you have been arrested or convicted of sex related charges. I don't have that those but I really need to know about my others. Thanks.

"The Dean" can't say for sure how your record will affect your admission at your target college. If the admission officials are concerned ONLY about sexually-based offenses, then it sounds like you're okay. But your overall record has so many "blemishes" that it could be a huge flag at decision time.

So here's what I suggest: If you feel that you can explain your past behavior and, above all, why you are ready to turn over a new leaf, you should send a supplementary letter to do so. For example, if your arrests came during a time that you were abusing drugs or alcohol but now you're sober, then you should say so. (Be as specific as possible. Include how long you've been sober and perhaps also include the type of therapy or support that you're getting to remain so.) If you were in a bad relationship that led to criminal behavior but you've ended that relationship, then you should explain this as well. Again, if possible, your letter should provide specific "evidence" of your new path. You should also provide recommendations that attest that you are ready to make this change. Letters from teachers, members of the clergy, social workers, psychologists, doctors, and even parole officers can have an impact on your admissions outcome.

Moreover, the amount of time between your last offense and your application might be significant. If any arrest took place within the past year, this could work against you a lot more than if there have been several years since your most recent arrest.

Note also that some states require a clean criminal record for all Licensed Massage Therapists. So this is something you should look into before spending money on your education. If your state requires this, then you may want to consider another career ... or a different state. I fear that, if you were to earn a massage degree and then find that you're unable to obtain a license, you'd end up falling prey to working in illegitimate "massage parlors" which might only mean more arrests.

I do hope that this helps and that you are able to reach your goals.

(posted 12/21/2011)