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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?

  • pugmadkatepugmadkate 5824 replies64 threads 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.
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  • hmom5hmom5 - 10799 replies83 threads 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.
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  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom 24049 replies804 threads 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.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78055 replies3502 threads 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.
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  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom 24049 replies804 threads 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.
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  • ADadADad 3985 replies936 threads 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.
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  • mimk6mimk6 4108 replies54 threads 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.
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  • luridlurid 38 replies5 threads 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.
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  • blossomblossom 10340 replies9 threads 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.
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  • ilikephysicsalotilikephysicsalot 17 replies3 threads 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 :))
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  • luridlurid 38 replies5 threads Junior Member
    to blossom:
    I should be clear, I'm a high school student. I've chosen not to disclose my health history to any colleges; it is, quite frankly, none of their business. I think the issue is balancing the desire to be excused from gaps in your (the OP's) schooling with your desire to not be discriminated against by colleges that will view you as a potential liability for it. When you accept one, you accept the other. However, the "chronic illness" idea seems like a good way to circumvent that.

    My point was not a response to the OP's situation, but the general issue. If the OP wouldn't feel comfortable at the environment in a highly competitive school, that's certainly a valid consideration. I'm not blind enough to miss that there are other factors than academic intensity to weigh when making a decision about college. However, to conclude (as I feel that some have, especially college) that being "mentally ill" makes you unfit for a competitive school is the misconception I was driving at.

    Sorry if I'm flaming. It's an issue that gets under my skin.
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  • pugmadkatepugmadkate 5824 replies64 threads Senior Member
    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...

    I'm thankful that your child is not mentally ill, not only for their sake but because your attitude would most likely be cruelly unfair to that child.

    I've chosen not to disclose my health history to any colleges; it is, quite frankly, none of their business.

    Damn right. It's entirely up to you. I've known people who've handled their mental illness privately through college with off-campus care and support and who did great.

    However, mental illness can be fatal to the suffer and to others....

    Binge drinking and drunk driving are more deadly to self and other but I have yet to see anyone pop into one of the teen threads and lecutre that they must disclose that to a college. In fact, it's just accepted that teens/college students will do it.

    My point is this...people with mental illness span a huge spectrum. No matter where they are on that spectrum, unless they cannot take care of themselves, then deciding what they can and can't do as young adults is not only futile, it's harmful. Part of letting go a child who has mental illness is preparing them to deal with life without you.

    Because it's funny how later in life no one cares that you have mental illness. Nope, they still send your spouse to Iraq and your beloved MIL still gets cancer. At the same time. For example.

    It's so bothersome to me that I even have to say this but people with mental illness are individuals and should be treated as such, not lumped together as a a group of people ready to turn a gun on themselves or others.
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  • lizzardfirelizzardfire 1550 replies27 threads Senior Member
    For a while my dream school was Caltech but I heard they are unfriendly to the mentally ill (apparently they had three suicides this semester).

    I would not say that's a fair assessment. Caltech is actually really good (I think) about caring about the mental health of its students--that being said, it can also be incredibly stressful academically at times just because of the difficulty. It might be reasonable to suggest that Caltech is very stressful, and people that have issues with stress for whatever reason might want to reconsider coming here. I don't think it's reasonable to suggest that we are "unfriendly to the mentally ill"

    As for the three suicides, that's definitely true (although one of them was a grad student, not an undergrad). In my time at Caltech (three years) I have only known of one other suicide though--this three in one semester thing is a very uncommon occurrence for us. I knew both of the two undergrads who killed themselves and I know one of them was actively receiving treatment through the counseling center (and the other one no one saw coming). I certainly don't know anyone either in the student body or in the administration/staff who has treated people with mental illness with anything but the utmost care and concern.

    Also, any top school in math/science/engineering (especially tech schools) is going to be stressful. MIT is certainly no exception to this.
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  • missypiemissypie 17982 replies503 threads Senior Member
    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.

    This is something you should consider once you narrow down your list of schools and/or are making a final decision. The school Son is attending is a charming little town...the town has three medical practices and no psychiatrists. I think one would have to drive a ways to get to a psychiatrist. I know that it is common for people to travel distances to get to a good doctor. But as a student, time may be at a premium and transportation may be an issue.
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  • PeaPea 2378 replies9 threads Senior Member
    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.

    ADad -- neither would I.
    Binge drinking and drunk driving are more deadly to self and other but I have yet to see anyone pop into one of the teen threads and lecutre that they must disclose that to a college. In fact, it's just accepted that teens/college students will do it.

    No, binge drinking and drunk driving are COMPLETELY unacceptable, always. What is accepted is that teens will drink. What is NOT accepted that anyone will binge drink or drive while intoxicated, EVER.

    I don't think anyone on this thread told the original poster that she should not go to MIT. What they did tell her is that given her personal history she should factor in how pressurized and stressful the environment is at MIT into her equation of where he should go to school.

    Many people have suggested that the original poster not disclose her history to the adcom committee because it might cause her to be rejected outright. Rather she should wait until she is admitted and then start working with the school to make sure she has the support she might need. I think this is great advice.
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  • pugmadkatepugmadkate 5824 replies64 threads Senior Member
    I'm done. I find it hugely disappointing that on a college board people would make such sweeping generalizations about students and mental illness.

    People like you often hold back people with mental illness more than the illness itself.
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  • ADadADad 3985 replies936 threads Senior Member
    'm thankful that your child is not mentally ill, not only for their sake but because your attitude would most likely be cruelly unfair to that child.
    People like you often hold back people with mental illness more than the illness itself.

    Actually, I've spent many hundreds if not thousands of hours volunteering quite successfully with mentally ill teenagers and adults.
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  • dbwesdbwes 1561 replies99 threads Senior Member
    Oh boy . . .
    Bottom line here -- for OP and for Lurid --

    Take care of yourself. Don't tell yourself that things will get better on their own (they won't - I was depressed for twenty-odd years telling myself that.) Don't limit your school choices, don't disclose if you don't want to (not sure why you would, frankly, there is a lot of prejudice out there), but don't go if you are feeling sick, fragile, unable to cope. Taking care of the depression comes first. Then everything will work out more easily.

    IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS HARD -- with meds, therapy, exercise, it will get better, as you have started to see. NEVER tell yourself that it's OK to be depressed because you are smart, complicated, under stress, whatever. You can be sad or frustrated but still basically buoyant and hopeful and OK with yourself. There's a DIFFERENCE, and you now know what it is.

    People who have never been depressed have no idea what it feels like.
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  • luridlurid 38 replies5 threads Junior Member
    Adad, I'm glad you've worked with the mentally ill, but your concept of them, and, by extension, their capabilities is frightening narrow. Neither do I believe that you are truly aware of the range of conditions under the heading "mental illness"; would you lump an OCD child and severely depressed one all together, and conclude that they couldn't handle MIT? Having a mental disorder does not necessitate that you can not handle coursework.

    And my larger problem is not with the miconceptions on this thread, but the misconceptions of colleges, which apparently view the mentally ill as a liability whereas I'm sure somebody with a heart condition or some more "physical" ailment wouldn't be discriminated against in the same manner in the college admissions process. I guess every generation needs its lepers? It seems like shameless discrimination to me.
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  • PeaPea 2378 replies9 threads Senior Member
    dbwes -- I completely agree and that was very well said.
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