We all make mistakes. Sometimes, that mistake rises to a different level, and law enforcement gets involved.

So, if you’re a high school student in Southern California aspiring to apply to medical school and become a doctor, will an arrest hinder your chances of achieving that goal?

The Association of American Medical Colleges has advised all medical schools in the United States to require, and review, a national background check for its applicants after conditionally accepting students. The reason for the recommendation: to help assure the safety of patients they work with and to be sure applicants later will be able to get a medical license.

How does it work?

Prospective medical students hire a company that offers background checks, and a variety of areas are reviewed:

  • Your Social Security number is looked at to verify names, aliases and addresses via a credit check.
  • Criminal records from your county, as well as from state courthouses, are acquired to look for any record of felonies or misdemeanors. Federal records also are reviewed through the federal court system, and a national criminal database search is done.
  • A national database search also is performed to look for sex offender data from throughout the country.
  • A review of military records to determine if you have been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces.
  • International criminal records also are searched, if applicable to you.

Once your medical check is done, you have a 10-day period to review it, and it will be sent on the medical schools where you’ve been accepted. A school also might require a supplementary background check, and schools also will vary on what they will want to view.

A youthful indiscretion doesn’t have to derail your dreams of attending med school, but it is something you must address. An attorney experienced in criminal law, including work with juvenile offenders, should be consulted if you run into trouble.