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mentioning attempted suicide?

baguett3baguett3 0 replies1 threads New Member
I've been browsing threads for a bit now and there's a lot of negative feedback on mentioning personal mental health issues/deaths in an essay, in the worry that it doesn't sell your abilities as well as a more lighter subject might. However, I was wondering what people think about basing the essay on an attempted suicide from a family member, and how that affected me? I want to talk about how the major I'm interested in helped me as an outlet for getting through it/helping them through it, and how getting through it relates back to my personal values and strengths. I'm just worried that I'll be throwing too much baggage at the admissions officer; the story turns out okay in the end, but it is dramatic and sad and so I'm not sure if the means justify the end in that regard.

Any input is appreciated!
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Replies to: mentioning attempted suicide?

  • MWolfMWolf 1787 replies11 threads Senior Member
    In my opinion, you should avoid the topic. Your essay should be about you, and when writing about traumatic events, most people tend to focus on the event, not on themselves. On the other hand, focusing on yourself when writing about the attempted suicide of another family member runs the risk of coming across as extremely self-absorbed.
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  • itsgettingreal17itsgettingreal17 4090 replies27 threads Senior Member
    Pick another lighter topic.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34763 replies391 threads Senior Member
    This isn't ordinary hs writing, it's for your college app. And not meant to be about your career aspirations, either. Even if you were answering a specific question about why this major, they aren't looking for you to be "basing the essay on an attempted suicide."

    But we have no idea what colleges.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2438 replies47 threads Senior Member
    I agree... pick another topic.

    Aside from taking the focus off you (or appearing self absorbed as noted above), if you had attempted suicide, would you want your friends writing about it in their college essays? Even though colleges don't know the person, writing about someone else's private medical history isn't going to reflect well on you.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8749 replies100 threads Senior Member
    edited November 13
    @baguett3 : Mentioning an attempted suicide of another & how it affected you & your career plans & intended major can be a great topic because it offers insight into who you are & how you became that way.

    Nevertheless, much depends upon how it is written. The greatest topic & theme in the world can harm one's application if done poorly.

    But, in answer to your question, there is nothing inherently wrong in mentioning the effect of another's attempted suicide on you and your insights, values & strengths.
    edited November 13
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6914 replies60 threads Senior Member
    Keep in mind the purpose of the essay: it is to sell you as a potential member of the community. You do that both by the writing (engaging enough that it slows down the AO who is working through a huge pile of apps) and by what it shows about you. As the MIT person put it 'will our school be a wildly better place with you there?'.

    It is really, truly hard to write well and effectively about major traumas in your life- and the closer it is in time, the harder it is. You have 600 words, which is not a lot of room to tell a compelling story, and what tends to happen is that the event takes up too many of the words.

    One way to check for that when writing about a specific piece of personal history (sexual orientation, abuse, mental health issues, death, homelessness, or other trauma) is to switch out the specific fact for a different one (for example, go through your essay and, substitute 'family member suicide' for one of the other examples). If the essay is really about you- how you have processed that into who you are now and where you are going- it should be pretty easy to do. If it upends your whole essay, you know that you are telling too much background and not enough you.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8749 replies100 threads Senior Member
    edited November 13
    OP: I wonder if other posters have read your initial post in this thread. Clearly, your proposed essay is about you & focuses on you.

    Also, I disagree that the primary purpose of an application essay is to sell oneself; the primary purpose of an essay is to allow admissions officers a chance to get to know you better by revealing a side of yourself not evident elsewhere in the application.

    P.S. An attempt to "sell" oneself suggests that the essay writer/applicant attempt to write what they perceive that admissions officers want to read. This is disingenuos & should be avoided.
    edited November 13
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6914 replies60 threads Senior Member
    @Publisher, thanks for that. The OP is showing as a new member, with just this thread, so I wonder if they have 2 user names?

    And I agree that 'selling' in the sense of trying to snow AOs, or making yourself out to be somebody you aren't is a very, very bad idea, should be avoided- and is unlikely to work. I use 'selling' in a marketing or positioning sense- 'here is who I am'.
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 39006 replies2140 threads Super Moderator
    I would say it really depends how you handle it. My daughter wrote her essay about a young family member's suicide, specifically how she helped his sister get through it. The essay really highlighted my daughter's compassion and other strengths. I think it helped her applications. Having said that, it IS tricky, so be very careful and get the opinions of trusted adults.
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  • coolguy40coolguy40 2406 replies3 threads Senior Member
    edited November 13
    I agree with @MaineLonghorn. That's a bit of a sensitive subject that has the potential to backfire if someone perceives it the wrong way. I wouldn't even use the word "mentor" and "suicide" in the same context. Mentoring and counseling for something like suicide is best left to a trained professional.
    edited November 13
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  • happy1happy1 23030 replies2274 threads Senior Member
    A good college essay should: 1) tell admission officers something positive about yourself that can't be found elsewhere on the application and 2) give admissions officers a reason to what to have you on their campus.

    I suggest you write a draft or outline of the essay and see if accomplishes the two goals stated above.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34763 replies391 threads Senior Member
    "Mentioning," sure. One line. Not "basing the essay" on that. They want to see the qualities and traits that make them want you in the class. That's more than a suicide attempt leading you to want x major.

    Remember, this is about college, the four years, integrating into the community they want, the energies. For some colleges, making your emphasis be post grad career ideas is an issue.

    If anyone minds the word sell, think of this as a "self presentation." The essay isn't just some random "more" about "you," it needs to be relevant to a college admit review.

    And "show, not just tell." Not just "I want this career because...." Or, x helped me get through it.

    But we don't know the college targets, how much the essay matters, or if OP's targets are more stats oriented.
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  • c3memedc3memed 24 replies3 threads Junior Member
    super helpful
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  • tchit87tchit87 106 replies19 threads Junior Member
    Like some other posters have said, the essay is mainly about showing one aspect or characteristic about yourself.
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  • jym626jym626 55996 replies2916 threads Senior Member
    You can mention it in passing, but the essay needs to be about you
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