A charity for ex-offenders is calling on colleges to overhaul their policies on criminal record checks because students are being barred from courses for minor misdemeanours.
Staff at Nacro, which works with former offenders and those at risk of offending, said that students with police reprimands who had never been convicted risked having their career plans dashed because colleges would not accept them on to courses.
But it said some colleges were already rethinking their policies. Shrewsbury College initially told 17-year-old Martha Draycott that she would not be able to continue her health and social care course because a CRB check revealed a reprimand for shoplifting at the age of 13 and a police warning following a disagreement at a youth club the following year.
Ms Draycott said: "I had chosen paediatric nursing as I would love to work with children, as I feel I am a very caring person and could offer a great deal to this profession.
"When I was told I couldn't continue the course I was so upset. I went home and told my mum. I had not even been convicted of an offence - it was only a warning."
But after working with Nacro to reduce the concerns over her record, the college decided she could continue. Others, such as Olivia Mason, who was prevented from continuing her health studies course at Kidderminster College after a shoplifting reprimand appeared on a CRB check, were not so lucky.
As justice secretary Ken Clarke launched a review of rehabilitating offenders, including the reporting of minor convictions in CRB disclosures, Nacro called for teenagers to have a "clean slate" at 18.
Tim Linehan, who managers the charity's Change the Record campaign, said: "We are concerned that a number of students have contacted us about CRB checks in recent years and they are worried that having a record will prevent them getting a place on the course of their choice. Very often these are minor offences which should not prevent a young person following their career."
Colleges say that not having a completely clean CRB check could prevent students taking part in necessary work placements in fields such as healthcare.
But Nacro said that a criminal record did not automatically bar people from registering with bodies such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council or the General Social Care Council and more discretion should be applied.