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What a difference 5 years makes – applying to university with a criminal record

Megan was extremely disappointed when her university application for a nursing degree was refused on the basis of her criminal record. However, after taking time out to re-evaluate her career and her conviction, Megan applied again and was offered places at 3 different universities.


Nursing had always been my ultimate goal in life and I was very close to this dream becoming a reality when what I’m about to explain happened and all of that hard work and commitment had pretty much destroyed this dream.

I was involved in an incident which resulted in a conviction for two counts of common assault. I was two exams away from finishing my access to nursing course at college and had already applied to university to study adult nursing. I was advised from all 5 universities to which I’d applied that as I hadn’t yet been convicted (the court case was still pending at this time) that I was to attend the interviews as normal, and to advise the university when there was an outcome. As soon as I was aware of the outcome I informed the university and was told to attend a CRB Panel Meeting for a decision to be made as to whether I would be accepted onto a nursing course.

After the CRB Panel Meeting it was decided that I could not progress onto a nursing course at that time and was advised to reapply again in the future. At this point, quite frankly, I had lost all hope. Even though it had only been 9 months since the incident, it had only been five months since the date of my conviction, so it was very ‘new’ and not much time had passed from the incident itself.

I took some time out to decide my next steps as nursing was all I’d wished to do career wise. I saved up as much money as I could and went travelling for a while. Upon my return, I knew that my passion and goal to become a registered nurse was still very much alive, so I made a list of things to which I hoped would help my application to university next time around. I involved myself in various voluntary roles such as working in charity shops, volunteering with animals etc. I was then fortunate enough to start a voluntary post at a hospice, where I gained fantastic experience and made some lifelong friends along the way.

A short while later, I decided it was time to reapply to study nursing again; it had now been 5 years since my conviction. I applied through UCAS and of course the UCAS application form asked (* see editorial note below) if you have any spent or unspent convictions. At this stage, all that was required was a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question.

I was invited to interviews at 3 out of 5 university’s that I’d applied to and after attending CRB Panel Meetings I was offered places at all 3 universities. I chose the one I wanted to study at and very happily accepted the offer. I have now just come to the end of Year 1 of training and have had the best year of my life so far!

It was difficult at the time of the incident to accept what was happening and it was easier to blame everyone and everything but myself. It was just over a year since the date of my conviction when I realised I had to take responsibility for my actions and although I did not choose to be in that situation to begin with, I still had a choice – I should have thought more rationally and chosen differently.

Although I sincerely regret my choice of actions and how it had impacted every part of my life, it made me realise just how much becoming a nurse meant to me personally. I knew that the best shot of this happening was to stay focused and reflect and learn from everything that had happened.

Always keeping the end goal (becoming a qualified nurse) at the front of my mind, helped me get myself there, taking little steps at a time. It made me realise that it was a mistake that I made and something that happened in my past, but it didn’t define who I was as a person now.

My passion for nursing has never once faded and truly I cannot wait until I reach my goal of becoming a VERY happy qualified nurse.

By Megan (name changed to protect identity)


Comment from Unlock

We’re delighted to hear that following her second application to study nursing at university, Megan secured offers from 3 universities. As 5 years had passed since her conviction and Megan was able to demonstrate that she’d been in no further trouble, all 3 universities would have had more confidence that she posed little risk to the university and its students/staff. However, as Megan herself states, by the time she’d made her second application she’d taken responsibility for her convictions which could have made a difference to how the universities saw her.

* Editorial note – Since 2018, UCAS no longer ask a general question about unspent convictions, but for courses like nursing there is still a question about criminal records.

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