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Important Question involving illness and college apps

aflyingwishaflyingwish Registered User Posts: 17 New Member
edited March 2008 in College Admissions
So, I've sort of been asking around, but I thought I would get some opinions here because you all seem so college-savy.
Since my freshman year (I am now a Junior), I have had this on-going problem where I randomly pass out. Starting about my freshman year, I just started losing consciousness randomly, and it started getting so bad as to be 3-4 times a day, 3-4 times a week. Obviously, my life from freshman to the end of sophomore year was mostly filled with making up work (my very small private school would freak out every time this happened, and they would send me home) and doctors visits. During second semester sophomore year, I missed 3 months in every subject, and I was forced to be in a wheelchair. After a month of static fainting Junior year, I switched schools, was finally diagnosed (after extensive testing, including the implanting of a heart monitor), and I've finally started to get better. Due to allllll of this, my extra curriculars are not as stellar as I've wanted them to be (it's extraordinarily hard to stay commited to an activity when you tend to drop to the floor every hour or so), and I'm wondering if this would seem a plausible...excuse, for lack of a better word, as to why my extra curriculars are not that great. What do you guys think? Any advice as to how to improve them now, second semester junior year?
Thanks in advance!!!!
Post edited by aflyingwish on

Replies to: Important Question involving illness and college apps

  • eskimo208eskimo208 Registered User Posts: 235 Junior Member
    I think that it is a perfectly plausible excuse. Some will of course raise the question.. how will you do well in college with this sickness etc etc. However, if you seem to be getting better and you have always had this urge to be involved with more things but just.. cant, because of the illness, I think that would make a great topic for an essay. It would show compassion.
  • ducktapeducktape Registered User Posts: 1,000 Senior Member
    (it's extraordinarily hard to stay commited to an activity when you tend to drop to the floor every hour or so)

    Simply based on that, it seems like you have a good sense of humor regarding the situation. What could be cool is to include an additional essay, not necessarily listing excuses for why you didn't have more extracurriculars, but explaining your illness (some witty line like the one above) and talking about the things you really want to do at X college now that you're getting better and can take life by the horns (to use a really bad cliche). It'd almost be a "Why X College" essay without being prompted to write one.

    I wouldn't worry about it. Charm them in the essays and you'll be all right.
  • tenisghstenisghs Registered User Posts: 3,955 Senior Member
    @ aflyingwish

    Have you been officially diagnosed with a disorder? If yes, I will definitely include this under the extenuating circumstances section in your application. Colleges and universities need to know this.
  • TwirlonwaterTwirlonwater Registered User Posts: 200 Junior Member
    I was actually going to ask relatively the same question. I too have a diagnosed medical condition. I have been seeing a certain specialist for 1 yrs and its better. I missed 60 days sophomore year, and it is better this year. But, I still miss many days due to hospilizations and pain. I was wondering how to mention this to colleges, etc. without making it seem as though I am just giving excuses and whatnot.
  • aflyingwishaflyingwish Registered User Posts: 17 New Member
    Yes, I have a documented disorder/ about 50 doctors willing to attest to this fact. Does it make sense to have a doctor send in a letter of explanation/good hopes for the future?

    To twirlonwater: Congratulations to us on our missing so much school and it being better this year! (I still miss for some medical reasons, too)
  • uncwife&momuncwife&mom Registered User Posts: 37 Junior Member
    My d is now college freshman, but missed close to 100 days of high school due to medical problem. During her soph. year her doctor even suggested that she give up most ECs. Amazing she still managed to be #1 in grad. class. For college apps. her teacher recs. mentioned what a dedicated student she was and that she never complained or asked for special consideration; she wrote about living w/illness and diagnosis in an essay, and we also had doctor write a ltr explaining medical issue. I too wrote a short note attached to the doc's.note. (doctors sometimes can be too brief)
    D recieved admissions offers+ from all colleges she applied to, and recieved top scholarship and honors program from u. she's now attending. Some may say we did overkill. We felt that we were just giving the universities info. from all different perspectives, and I think it worked, she was very successful! The college enviroment has done wonders for her, she's had very few problems this year.
    Best Wishes
  • gouchicagogouchicago Registered User Posts: 472 Member
    Too much fluff has been passed around concerning students who are "disadvantaged", in their health or in their economic stability. But when you come to think of it, average students with handicaps begin to think that they can get into a good school by using their illness as a "hook". OP, I know that you have some disorder which renders you unfit for participating in many ECs, but frankly, colleges are interested in you only if you've risen from it and accomplished feats that "normal" high schoolers have.

    It may seem rude, but thats how it is. They don't want people who give in to their miseries. They want people who have defeated their circumstances and walked ahead.
  • franglishfranglish Registered User Posts: 2,308 Senior Member
    How cruel! You have to include explanations. Colleges are looking at applications from CHILDREN (Oh, OK, young adults), and they know how hard this all is under NORMAL circumstances. For a child to work so hard to accomplish so much with a debilitating disorder, they will definitely take that into account. However, I agree with folks above who say to fully explain the disorder with doctor notes, etc., to explain it in an essay (humorously-- great suggestion!), and perhaps most of all, as was said above, be certain to make the college aware that you will be able to function "normally" once you are at school. There are relatively few adults in colleges to watch out for you-- relative to home, that is.
  • gouchicagogouchicago Registered User Posts: 472 Member
    ^ Agreed. But a kid with a 3 GPA and a hundred disorders can't get into say, an Ivy.

    Why?

    Simply because a disorder doesn't quantitatively give you a glimpse of the student's performance under normal circumstances.
  • franglishfranglish Registered User Posts: 2,308 Senior Member
    OP says nothing about Ivy League schools.
  • gouchicagogouchicago Registered User Posts: 472 Member
    ^ Just an advice.
  • gouchicagogouchicago Registered User Posts: 472 Member
    How cruel! You have to include explanations. Colleges are looking at applications from CHILDREN (Oh, OK, young adults), and they know how hard this all is under NORMAL circumstances. For a child to work so hard to accomplish so much with a debilitating disorder, they will definitely take that into account. However, I agree with folks above who say to fully explain the disorder with doctor notes, etc., to explain it in an essay (humorously-- great suggestion!), and perhaps most of all, as was said above, be certain to make the college aware that you will be able to function "normally" once you are at school. There are relatively few adults in colleges to watch out for you-- relative to home, that is.

    Very true. But I don't see that happening at a Top 15 school. I've heard of two kids who made it to Ivys with family/health problems, but mind you, they clearly demonstrated that they overcame those problems.
  • uncwife&momuncwife&mom Registered User Posts: 37 Junior Member
    Absolutely, you must be able to show that you can and did perform at the level of other students that the university admits. you must have the overall grades,(I had heard of kids who were able to explain a short term dip in grades) SAT tests, AP tests etc. but in these very competitive times it's the EC's that make you or break you in the Ivy's and/or top tier. I've talked with admissions people at several different highly competitive universities. They have tough decisions to make but they do try to see who the applicant is beyond the grades/test scores. In my d's case she was a strong app. because of her class rank, grades, test scores, AP's. However, someone looking at her app. who had no explanation of the many absences and somewhat limited, & basically no EC's one year, might think she was just a really smart kid, who was able to "blow off" high school but still excel. (that might just be the kind of smart kid they could do without,& definitely wouldn't be worthy of scholarship) By including documention, ltrs of explanation, etc. the universities were able to see the real her: A smart kid who dealt with a lot of pain, hospital and doctors visits but was so driven, she was unwilling to let that stop her.
    Do the best you can do, but don't feel like that you're "making excuses" because you need to explain your unique circumstances. You are only helping the admissions people get the whole picture of who you are and what you've been through.
    As far as EC's go, try thinking of a project which would help the community that you could design and implement. Think outside the box. There's many things you could do on your on time. (if you can do 100+ hours then go online and get forms to apply for President's Volunteer service award-must submit completed app. in April or October) (you can count your research hours, too) If you need supplies, figure out how to ask for donations from the community. Get outside adult to document your time and work. Have it done by beginning of senior year. One simple example that a friend of D's did: a walking trail for community. got permission in writing from landowner. did fundraiser and got donations for supplies. got advice, education and borrowed tools from area landscapers; worked 8-10 hours on Saturdays, and a few afternoons. Finished in 2 months. got area churches to help with hot dog lunch and party for opening of trail. Also got churches to help w/ continued maintance.
    There are so many things you can do to help, educate, and/or change, etc. Admissions people generally like unique, individual type projects that help others.
    Best Wishes!
  • 2forcollege2forcollege Registered User Posts: 728 Member
    UNCwife&mom's advice is excellent.

    I’ll share that my D also faced a similar situation with serious illness and managing to keep up her grades, etc. in a very competitive high school. As difficult as it was for her, she picked a few EC's that she could handle...mostly during summers or things she could go to when she was feeling well enough. She managed to keep her grades up in everything but math (physically very hard to focus on with her condition). But now that she's a graduating senior (and feeling much better), I'd say she is one who did well, despite facing major adversity. She's even managed to deal with math and has raised her grades back to where they were before.

    For her college applications this year, she did a brief explanation of her illness under special circumstances. For several schools, she felt it was appropriate to bring up how she overcame her situation in the essays when it fit the question. Her principal also wrote a letter of recommendation for her that gave a beautiful description of how she had managed to be an outstanding student despite the challenges she had faced dealing with her illness. Adcoms did not seem to want letters from her doctors, but one did ask her to write them a letter specifically about her illness.

    One thing she did, was to pick schools that she thought would actually read her application and not just sort her out based on numbers. So far, this seems to have worked for her...accepted to 4 excellent schools and only rejected from the state flagship that is more numbers focused. She was deferred from one high reach and has a few more left to hear from RD in April.

    So based on her experiences, I'd advise you to focus on a meaningful EC this summer, start lining up your letters of recommendation, and carefully research which schools you apply to. Another thing that I think helped my D was to take courses during the summer at colleges. As a rising senior, there are summer programs where you are taking regular classes with university students. Showing you can succeed in college courses (not just AP's) can be helpful to your application. I think it’s also a good idea to send in your applications early (end of October at the latest). This will give the adcoms plenty of time to read your application and demonstrate your interest in the school. It’s also really nice to get those early acceptances. It takes the pressure off during an already busy senior year. Good luck!
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Registered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    Yes, it's a plausible excuse.
    Anyway, with the exception of looking for people who are really good at sports, most colleges don't consider ECs for admission. The exceptions are places like HPYS, which have such an overabundance of high stat applicants that those colleges admit students to create a well rounded campus.

    In general, however, if colleges consider ECs, it's in regard to merit aid only.
This discussion has been closed.