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Should I mention previous mental health issues on college essays?

mariae123mariae123 2 replies1 threads New Member
edited December 1 in College Essays
Hello I’m currently doing college apps and I had previously dealt with maladaptive daydreaming up until sophomore year of high school and this issue greatly influenced me in wanting to become a psychiatrist. I’m applying to many ivy leagues and want to major in biochem with a minor in psychology. Dealing with/ defeating that issue was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and was able to keep a 4.0 gpa through this. Do you think It would be wise to mention this in essays since I’ve defeated it and is a huge factor into the person I am today and what I want to do with my life ( I am hoping to get into Harvard as my main choice)?
edited December 1
23 replies
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Replies to: Should I mention previous mental health issues on college essays?

  • mariae123mariae123 2 replies1 threads New Member
    Alright thank you! I had seen the other posts/ questions but I just created a new one since those were mainly specific to anxiety and depression and didn’t really affect their majors or what they wanted to do . Thank you for responding!
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  • PublisherPublisher 8764 replies101 threads Senior Member
    edited December 1
    In your case, the mental illness issue is relevant to your educational & professional interests so it is fine to discuss it in your applications. Plus, your former illness presented no issues regarding self harm or harm to others.

    Also, it should help distinguish your application from the many thousands of other apps.
    edited December 1
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2448 replies47 threads Senior Member
    Have a guidance counselor mention it in his/her LOR, and leave it out of the essay. You don't know how the reader will react. It doesn't take much to get rejected from tippy top colleges.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8764 replies101 threads Senior Member
    edited December 1
    But you need to distinguish yourself & your application from thousands of others in order to get accepted to an elite school such as an Ivy.

    Do not rely on a counselor to justify your educational & professional interests, or to describe your former illness (medical condition).

    Admissions officers are completely capable of distinguishing between mental illness involving depression & potential harm to self versus a resolved daydreaming issue that has opened up areas of interest to an applicant.

    If you like, although not necessary, refer to it as "a former medical condition" rather than as a "mental illness".

    How you handle this matter will could well have an impact on any admissions' decision. Readers appreciate the ability to deal with difficult issues in a mature, thoughtful & productive fashion. This is who you are and why you have become this person.

    P.S. I suspect that some may have an knee-jerk reaction to the term "mental illness". Such a reaction is unwarranted in your case.
    edited December 1
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34779 replies392 threads Senior Member
    This is not the way to "distinguish" yourself. That should come from your efforts around you, your impact and achievements. And more.

    It's not that it's a common topic.Nor about their worries about self harm. It's whether you present a picture of your match, in all ways they look for. Whether a kid even seems to get what that is.

    OP said nothing about the rest of his/her record. It does beg the question whether she knows what does matter. If this is just personal drive, for personal reasons, if she hasn't extended herself, it won't help.

    And "selling" your interest in a tippy top based on post college career goals is risky. They want to want you for your 4 years, see the obvious contributions you'll make while there, part of the community.

    The essay is not where you explain career goals.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9487 replies507 threads Senior Member
    I disagree @Publisher . Sure, OP could mention daydreaming perhaps as part of a wider topic, but to write about it as she is planning to, IMO, raises a red flag for no good reason. I do actually think day dreaming could be a really interesting topic, but not the approach she suggests.

    It isn’t likely that a Harvard AO, reading thousands of apps, is going to take the time to look up this person’s disorder. And like it or not, fair or not, it was a mental health issue and mental health issues can crop up again. Transitioning into college, especially a college like Harvard, is a very challenging time. They know this.

    If the essay is written as suggested, this poster is going to discuss overcoming a disruptive mental health issue. Does she have nothing more interesting to say about herself, especially given that she is applying to tippy tops? Why give them a reason to say no?

    I don’t think it’s that the OP isn’t writing about self harm. It’s just mental illness in general. There are better topics.

    I agree with posts #6 and #7. Writing about one’s inspiration to pursue medicine can of course be an excellent topic, but it’s hardly original. The essay isn’t for discussing future career plans, though that may come into it.

    That said, there are probably people who write about overcoming mental health issues who do get into top colleges, but I will always suggest to a student that there is some other aspect of their life or personality that would make for a better personal statement. It’s about giving them a reason to say yes, rather than maybe or no.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6918 replies60 threads Senior Member
    Does she have nothing more interesting to say about herself

    To be a likely candidate for the super selectives, the answer should be yes...
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  • PublisherPublisher 8764 replies101 threads Senior Member
    Different opinions are fine.

    OP's post caused me to look up the condition which I found intriguing.

    OP: It really depends upon how you present this condition & its impact on your life & goals in the essay. That is my opinion; clearly, others have different thoughts on this subject.

    As for it being a "frequent topic", I would like to know of some topics which are not frequent. They probably do not exist.

    Regardless, your essay depends upon the execution. Write it & have a non-family member critique your writing.
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  • mariae123mariae123 2 replies1 threads New Member
    I was only wondering if i should mention it because it did influence my major and my hope to become a psychiatrist, and I was going to furthermore elaborate on how I would hope to use my major and education to break mental health stigmas in Arab countries, specifically Lebanon (I immigrated from there in 4th grade) since I noticed that many people close to me who had suffered with anxiety or depression did not seem to deal or even identify their issues and simple had a “just deal with it” approach to their issues instead of looking for help, because of the harsh stigma there.
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  • PublisherPublisher 8764 replies101 threads Senior Member
    I love your topic & your reasons for writing about it. If you complete a draft, I will proofread it & offer a brief critique. Has to be done via PM (private message) so you need to make at least 15 posts on this website before you can PM another member.

    I am an adult poster with a graduate degree & a lot of writing & editing experience.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9487 replies507 threads Senior Member
    edited December 1
    Can you make it about you? This isn’t like a graded school assignment. You want the AO to read it and think “admit” because they can see you at their college.

    It’s a bit like a painting. The picture should be a portrait of you. The frame can be whatever you want, but it should make the picture look great.
    edited December 1
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  • makemesmartmakemesmart 1671 replies14 threads Senior Member
    As you can see from the responses here, mental health issues have huge stigma in the US too, it is everywhere.
    It is unfortunate and I would advise you not to write about it as well. It is one of the “taboo” subjects, difficult to handle the fine line well since you are writing to total strangers who only have about 5-15 minutes of time to “judge” you, to see whether you could be a valuable contributor to a large community.
    Write about your immigrant experience? Congratulations on your achievements and Good luck.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34779 replies392 threads Senior Member
    edited December 1
    It's not about stigma. It's about your college application and what that *needs* to show.

    This isn't about ordinary good writing. It's an application.

    "because it did influence my major and my hope to become a psychiatrist"

    Again, the personal statement essay is not meant to explain this. Maybe some supp asking why this major.
    edited December 1
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  • PublisherPublisher 8764 replies101 threads Senior Member
    edited December 1
    As this thread has progressed, I find two concerns.

    First, your focus on Ivy League schools. You need to find additional colleges & universities with strong programs in your area of interest which are attractive to you for other reasons as well. You could compose the greatest essay the world has ever read and still be rejected by all of the Ivies.

    Second, you want to write about this topic for very solid reasons. Forcing yourself to find another topic may result in a less passionate & less sincere essay.

    Admissions officers are not afraid of applicants who have overcome hardship in their young lives. This is not depression, suicide attempt, or violence. This is an interesting, captivating mental condition which has been successfully overcome. Admissions officers live in the real world and you have successfully dealt with a real world problem that never presented any risk of harm to you or to anyone else.

    Nevertheless, regardless of the topic, your essay must be well written & sincere.
    edited December 1
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34779 replies392 threads Senior Member
    Its not about passion. It needs to be relevant to an admit review.

    "Why I want to be a psychiatrist" is not it. Especially not when they look for kids who see college as more than career prep. Seriously. They're looking for traits they want.

    OP, what have you done in this arena? Vol work, activism, etc? That could show a lot more.

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  • DCCAWAMIIAILDCCAWAMIIAIL 145 replies3 threads Junior Member
    I'm concerned about the "I'm applying to many ivy leagues"... why many??? They are all unique and offer different things - you should spend time figuring out which one or two might be the best fit for you.
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9079 replies337 threads Senior Member
    I was only wondering if i should mention it because it did influence my major and my hope to become a psychiatrist, and I was going to furthermore elaborate on how I would hope to use my major and education to break mental health stigmas

    I don't think applying to an undergrad program with details about how you intend to use a degree from a grad program will help you much. What activities are you involved in now that show your interest and commitment to this field? I think the essays are a place to describe things you're doing that show some of your positive traits, not a place to describe things you think you may want to do 8 or more years from now.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6918 replies60 threads Senior Member
    ^^ yes. So far you have mentioned the past and the far future: what about now and the near future?
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