Mar 6, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

As high schoolers across the country prepare for school walkouts over gun violence, many students with college aspirations are wondering: Will participating in the protests harm their college admissions prospects? Here’s a closer look at the issue.

Where High Schools Stand

With planning underway for national school walkouts on March 14 and April 20, many high schools are cautioning students about disciplinary actions for those involved. One Texas school district superintendent said in a statement as reported by BuzzFeed, “Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it is positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is 1, 50, or 500 students involved. All will be suspended for three days and parent notes will not alleviate the discipline.”

But What About Colleges?

While many high schools are encouraging students to stay put, a significant number of colleges have proactically offered amnesty from disciplinary action to participating students.

But this measure isn’t just about doing the right thing by supporting students’ First Amendment Rights, say experts; it also serves universities looking to attract the best and brightest. College admissions consulting firm Top Tier Admissions founder Mimi Doe told MarketWatch, “It’s a signal from the campus that they want to be considered tolerant and progressive and open to students who are going to challenge authority.”

Do Your Due Diligence

Still, depending on the school, there remains a chance that walking out will have consequences. For starters, peaceful, legal participation is a must. If you are involved in violent or illegal actions while protesting, colleges are much less likely to be forgiving.

And then there’s the fact that the Common Application specifically asks, “Have you ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at any educational institution you have attended from the 9th grade (or the international equivalent) forward, whether related to academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct, that resulted in a disciplinary action? These actions could include, but are not limited to: probation, suspension, removal, dismissal, or expulsion from the institution.” 

The takeaway? While some schools have explicitly offered assurance to protesting students, others may not be as generous. To that end, the National Association for College Admission Counseling has compiled a list of how member colleges and universities factor disciplinary actions related to activism into their admission process. Checking out this list can help you know where you stand before deciding to join a walkout.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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