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The double danger of drug charges for college students

College is a time of experimentation, personal growth and exploration. The students who start college with one major often discover their passion elsewhere and change their educational pursuits accordingly. It's also a time when young adults try to establish an identity away from home, separate from their family and lifelong social networks.

For most students, that experimentation may produce nothing more than a little heartache or a bad hangover. Unfortunately, in some cases, collegiate adventures can have lifelong consequences once law enforcement gets involved. While any criminal charges can be particularly dire for those currently enrolled in college, drug offenses may be the riskiest kind of crime for students.

Whether you are enrolled in college and facing drug charges or you worry about charges your child may face, understanding the risks specific to drug offenses for college students is of the utmost importance.

A student may face academic consequences as well as criminal ones

Colleges and universities typically expect upright and legal behavior from their students. Student codes may outline expectations, which typically include avoiding criminal charges during one's education. A drug conviction, even for a minor possession offense, could violate the code of conduct for students in general, which could mean that you face administrative consequences up to expulsion from school.

The risk of a review by your school should always be a consideration before you enter a guilty plea to avoid court. While a plea may speed up the process and help someone avoid missing class, it could also lead to the end of their college enrollment.

Convictions can impact your private and school-based financial aid

Many people who attend college do so with some sort of financial aid from the school. Most scholarship programs have specific requirements and restrictions that recipients must abide by. These typically include a restriction on any kind of criminal conviction or activity.

Many times, if the school itself gives out the scholarship, a condition of the scholarship or financial aid may be mandatory participation in the school's Honor Society. A criminal conviction could mean the loss of membership and thus, losing your eligibility for the scholarship.

You can permanently lose out on all federal student aid

As if the risk to private scholarships and school admission weren't enough, those with a drug offense on their record will also find that they have lost all eligibility for federal student aid. Any drug conviction, even the simple possession of a small amount of marijuana, will likely mean that a student can no longer receive federal student aid.

The FAFSA specifically inquires about criminal convictions and drug offenses, with drug offenses resulting in a loss of eligibility for scholarships, grants, and even work-study programs and subsidized loans. Fighting a pending criminal charge may be the only way to protect your future or the future of your young adult child after an arrest for a drug offense at college.

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