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How do colleges react to applicants who have great stats but are mentally ill?

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Replies to: How do colleges react to applicants who have great stats but are mentally ill?

  • missypiemissypie Registered User Posts: 18,479 Senior Member
    My son is not mentally ill but has Asperger's Syndrome. We worked hard on the list of schools to find ones where he might succeed. His essay was not about Asperger's Syndrome, but it was referred to in passing. We figured, if they did not want him because of Asperger's, he did not want to go there. The schools on his list were not in the same tier as yours; fit was much more important than prestige.
  • ilikephysicsalotilikephysicsalot Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    ^Where'd he get in? Or do you not know yet?

    My ex-boyfriend had Asperger's Syndrome. I know how tough that can be. hugs to you missypie.
  • MyLBMyLB Registered User Posts: 1,102 Senior Member
    ilpal--thanks so much for the kind words. This is really very new to us--just got the diagnosis last week, and the kid is now off for a two-week vacation. Won't even begin treatment til after that, and will start with weekly therapy appointments. Will only progress to medication if the therapy alone isn't working. It's going to be an interesting journey. I wonder where we'll be this time next year.
  • ADadADad Registered User Posts: 4,921 Senior Member
    I'm skeptical about the "chronic illness" idea.

    Were I the reader, I would think that a specific physical illness likely would have been mentioned, were there one. With no physical illness being mentioned, I would conclude that the "chronic illness" likely is a mental illness.
  • MomPhDMomPhD Registered User Posts: 313 Member
    As you may have gathered, policies and services vary from school to school. I have heard the Swarthmore offers all of its students counseling sessions included in the tuition/fees; that Rice has a helpful, supporting environment, and that Penn also has good services. At the other extreme, there are places (George Washington U comes to mind) where if you disclose depression, you will not be permitted to stay in the dorms--this is how that school avoided liability for the potential actions of a depressed student, in one case that made headlines.

    You might avoid places where the workload is massive and stressful--or look into taking a lighter load to graduate later, if you can afford the extra tuition. Some schools are more flexible. Also research the school's counseling services. Some are less limited than others. You can call anonymously and ask how easy it is to get an appointment and how often you could be seen. Find out the credentials of the counselors. You may find that universities with associated major medical centers have more psychiatric expertise available to students. It is important to be seen regularly by a psychiatrist who is very skilled in antidepressant medication management, as well as to have easy access to counselors who can help you with the many stressors you will encounter in college. If your family is a help, consider the distance.
  • pugmadkatepugmadkate Registered User Posts: 5,888 Senior Member
    Unlike physical health problems, mental health problems are rarely perceived as problems by the mentally ill, which tends to result in profound mental instability before intervention is considered. I think students with a history of mental illness have a responsibility to disclose their illness to school administration, so that the community can watch for indications that a student's mental health requires medical attention..

    This is exactly why I would advise any student to not mention mental illness specifically. The level of fear and ignorance that surround mentall illness is staggering.

    ADad, I'd think they were raised to believe that health is a private matter. In these days of reality tv, it can be difficult to remember back to a time when people were not expected to disclose their health status to total strangers. I don't miss much about the past but I do miss that.
  • hmom5hmom5 - Posts: 10,882 Senior Member
    What are the other schools that might?

    All of them. It's part of an adcom's job to avoid potential problems.

    I agree with those asking if you're sure such high stress environments are a good idea for you. You're clearly extremely bright if you're considering this list, you could do well from anywhere and perhaps have less risk of relapse at a less high pressure school.

    That said, I also agree that I would not hint at depression in any way before being admitted. Then I would fully disclose.
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Registered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    "This is exactly why I would advise any student to not mention mental illness specifically. The level of fear and ignorance that surround mentall illness is staggering. "

    However, mental illness can be fatal to the suffer and to others. In college, students often are isolated and may be around peers who don't know them well and don't realize when a depressed or otherwise ill student is in a medical crises. This can result in suicide or other problems.

    While frequently students with mental health problems post here with questions reflecting their concern about the illness impeding their college acceptances, few students post with the more important question: How can they learn what colleges would best allow them to pursue their academic interests while also having excellent mental health services ?

    People with mental illness are at risk of having relapses during college, which is a time of high stress for most people. Making sure that their college environment would offer them the mental health services and oversight they may need is far more important than getting into the best college that their stats would permit.

    I say this as a person who has suffered from major depression, including in college, and who also knew at least two students who committed suicide when I was in college. In addition, the year after I graduated another student committed suicide by jumping from a room in the 18th floor dorm suite that I had lived in as a senior.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 76,011 Senior Member
    In my opinion, the MOST important thing a student who has issues with mental illness must do...make sure your treatment plan...whatever it is (counseling, meds, etc) can and WILL be continued where you go to college. Don't assume that a change of environment will make your mental health concerns go away. Have a plan for when you go to college. Speak with your current therapist/doctor...whomever. Get recommendations for who to see in your new college town. MAKE SURE it's covered under your family's insurance plan (if you are using your family's insurance plan). Just have a plan.
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Registered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    I agree with thumper1. Consulting with your mental health provider should be a major part of selecting the colleges that you apply to and the college you choose to attend. Skipping this step could be fatal.
  • ADadADad Registered User Posts: 4,921 Senior Member
    pugmadkate, I did not mean to say that one should or must disclose mental illness. I am simply saying that going out of one's way to mention a "chronic illness" could very well amount to disclosing the existence of a mental illness, as well as granting the reader free rein to imagine just what that illness might be.

    ***

    I agree with the posters who argue that finessing the process so as to gain admission to elite, prestigious college X is the wrong, and highly dangerous, approach. Mentally ill students imho are much better served by identifying colleges where the environment, as best one can judge, is clearly suitable for the student's mental health and the support services are excellent. My advice would be to apply to some or all of those colleges and no others.

    My son is a recent graduate of MIT. He had an excellent experience, but I would never allow a mentally ill child of mine to attend that school.
  • mimk6mimk6 Registered User Posts: 4,162 Senior Member
    Unfortunately (and other may disagree but many people in mental health feel this way), many colleges provide erratic health services, especially where mental health is concerned. I know one psychiatrist who says that, during school breaks, she often sees kids who are returning home from school who were not adequately treated by the college health center. If a child of mine had any health issue, I would prefer to see them in a location where they would have access to outside services in the nearby medical community. So I would probably stay away from schools that are in very rural areas where you will have to commute to see a therapist and/or psychiatrist. Some schools in non-urban areas (such as Dartmouth) have a medical school where you can access services, but small LACS that are in rural areas will not have that option.
  • luridlurid Registered User Posts: 43 Junior Member
    There are a lot of misconceptions on this thread. Depression is a blanket medical term for a spectrum of problems. There are cases of depression, and yes, I am speaking from personal experience, that are not onset by stress at school (though it certainly doesn't help) but by other personal problems and the obvious biological factors. To simply state that a mentally ill (which is an even broader term) student can not handle the stress at a school like MIT reflects stunning ignorance to the nature of mental illness, in that it is dynamic.

    It would depress me more to think that I should stunt my academic growth and aspiration simply because somebody told me I couldn't handle it.

    As to the OP's question: do not disclose, the misconceptions about mental illness are not limited to this thread, and some colleges, as noted, openly discriminate. If you feel something needs to be explained in your application, I like the idea of specifying it only as a "chronic illness" and leaving that open to interpretation.
  • blossomblossom Registered User Posts: 9,584 Senior Member
    Lurid, I think there are three things to consider here:

    1- where will the OP's intellectual, social, professional needs be best met
    2- How will the OP's health, and disclsoure of same, impact the admissions process
    3-How to make sure that the OP doesn't unwittingly end up in a place which for whatever reason is a poor choice given the health issues

    I don't think people are being ignorant by pointing out that some colleges, even if they'd be a great choice for meeting criterion number 1, would be a terrible choice given criterion number 3.

    That's just reality. There are colleges where the weekend staffing at the health clinic is an RN who sends broken ankles to the local ER, prescribes bed rest and tylenol to anyone else, and has an extra stash of condoms in a drawer at the reception area. There are schools where you can get a gynecological appointment within 24 hours, but have a 6 week waiting period for a psych consult.

    I don't think this set up is a great choice for a kid with any chronic illness- mental health, infectious disease, cystic fibrosis, MS, etc. Unless your kid is truly experienced at getting him or herself to a hospital when needed, I would not be comfortable as a parent sending my kid to that college.

    Sorry if I am displaying my ignorance... but I know many people with mental illness, many quite brilliant and talented academically and professionally, but I don't know a single one who would have made it through 4 years of a very intense college experience without very mindful monitoring of their symptoms and health.
  • ilikephysicsalotilikephysicsalot Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    There are cases of depression, and yes, I am speaking from personal experience, that are not onset by stress at school (though it certainly doesn't help) but by other personal problems and the obvious biological factors. To simply state that a mentally ill (which is an even broader term) student can not handle the stress at a school like MIT reflects stunning ignorance to the nature of mental illness, in that it is dynamic.

    Yeah, the last time I got depressed it was because my best friend got depressed, I accidentally got him hospitalized, and then his mom banned him from being my friend. Following that I was pretty inconsolable and stopped doing my work or taking care of myself.

    Personally I think if I was well I could do well wherever I went, but if I was sick I wouldn't even be able to handle the work at a local community college. I've audited classes at an elite institution and they were actually quite easy.
    In my opinion, the MOST important thing a student who has issues with mental illness must do...make sure your treatment plan...whatever it is (counseling, meds, etc) can and WILL be continued where you go to college.

    Good idea! I'll make sure I do that.
    I'm skeptical about the "chronic illness" idea.

    What if I referred to it as "immaturity" instead? I am young for my grade level.
    ilpal--thanks so much for the kind words. This is really very new to us--just got the diagnosis last week, and the kid is now off for a two-week vacation. Won't even begin treatment til after that, and will start with weekly therapy appointments. Will only progress to medication if the therapy alone isn't working. It's going to be an interesting journey. I wonder where we'll be this time next year.

    Is he dealing with it alright? I think the first month after getting a diagnosis is the worst - both for the sufferer and his worried relatives. Please try and stay strong.

    (By the way, I very much regret waiting four years to go on medication. Don't hesitate to take it if it's the best thing for your son. The meds are scary...but they're really not dangerous. It's way more dangerous to be depressed. And they're not supposed to kill your personality or make you dumber, at least antidepressants won't. I just went on Abilify three weeks ago and I'm doing really well. You have probably heard all this already but I'm saying it just in case :))
This discussion has been closed.