Did I completely screw up my chances with a trauma essay? :(

im a psychology major, and the reason im a pyschology major 100% stemmed from my experience with mental illness. for the overcoming challenges essay, i wrote about how being in a lot of treatment centers (for suicide, anxiety, depression) my junior year of high school (4 years since then), i realized i wanted to help people like me. i very much wrote about it like it was in the past and not the present. i explained that during treatment i was able to experience various techniques, how it gave me real-world experience in psychology, it built resilience, and sparked my interest in psychology and teaching. i also explicitly explained how it has made me a better student. i didn’t know how else to explain my interest in my major.

someone told me that i shouldn’t have written about this topic because i could be seen as a liability to these schools. i’ve only sent in my uc essays, but now i’m terrified. i have a 4.0 gpa and most/all of my prereqs dont but now i feel like ive definietely screwed everything up. would have a 4.0 gpa make the school think i now have the tools to succeed? what are my options? how badly did i screw up my chances?

Unfortunately, there’s a huge stigma around mental illness, as you obviously know, and the worry about liability, so the common wisdom is to avoid the topic. However, I think coming from a potential transfer student rather than a freshman applicant might make things a little better for you: you can prove your growth, insight, and ability to handle the stresses of college without relapse. So while I would still be super cautious about this topic, I don’t think you’ve completely screwed up your chances. I think it is a bit different coming from a 20-year-old college student with some life experience behind them vs an 18-year-old high school student who doesn’t have the experience of tackling the challenges of college and adulthood with success (and a 4.0 clearly indicates that you’ve been quite successful at college so far).


I don’t know how this will impact your chances at the UC, but if you have more transfer apps to do I would change the essay to not focus on your previous mental health issues. Good luck.


Thank you for responding. It’s all I can do to keep from panicking. :frowning: Do you think the fact that I’m a psychology major would make any of this better since it very clearly ties with an interest in my major. The reason I wanted to include it in the first place was to show that I have real experience/interest in psychology.

I appreciate your honest insight.

Thank you. I won’t be focusing on it in my private school applications, but I’m pretty upset because UCLA and UCSD were my first choices.

I mean, I have no portal into the minds of admissions officers, but I imagine your choice of major can only help in this case. It demonstrates the ability to be introspective and insightful about issues surrounding mental health.

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@bellemoon please don’t panic about this. You are well past your crisis and have done well. I do not believe you have any reason for concern.

I know a student who just got into a writing MA program writing similar content.

I really think you are fine.

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Thank you. I appreciate this so much.

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My dd22 discussed her mental health struggles in her college essay, it was done in a positive way, showing how she over came her challenges and was passionate about Psychology, her intended major. I often wonder if it cost her some acceptances, she did not get into some schools that she was well above the 75% for GPA, that said she did get into some schools that were serious reaches one with an acceptance rate less that 7%. I believe you should be authentic and you will land where you belong. My daughter did not get into her top choices but she is truly happy and thriving where she landed. Good luck to you, I am certain it will all work out.

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Thank you so much. I really appreciate your response, and it’s nice to hear honest feedback. :slight_smile:

May I ask if she applied as a transfer or a high school senior?

I think that what impact this will have on your applications will depend upon details. Generally speaking overcoming a problem in the past is fine, normal, and good. If you still have a problem that will impact your ability to do well in the future that might concern AO’s. From what you said this does not sound like a problem to me.

However, there are two things that I thought were worth mentioning.

I know a professor who tells me that he thinks that the smartest and most capable students that he has ever met all suffered at some point from some mental issues. I suspect he might be exaggerating a bit. However, this does seem to be quite common.

Also, in your copious free time (I am kidding, I know that students are very busy) you might want to read Carl Jung’s biography: “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”. In it one thing that he mentions is that he went into psychology/psychiatry partly to try to understand his own issues. I found this to be a fascinating book back when I read it (which was rather a while ago). Obviously whatever issues he dealt with did not stop him from being exceedingly successful in his life.


She applied out of high school. I feel like as a transfer you have proven you can handle it so I can’t imagine they would hold it against you.

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Are you transferring from a community college? If yes, does your community college have any transfer agreements with 4 yr colleges? For these, I think you’d be in automatically, no matter what your essay said.

If you have any more applications not yet submitted, I encourage you to change your essay and not disclose your own mental health struggles, even though they are from four years ago, a very long time for a late adolescent. As for the ones you’ve already submitted, not worth worrying, since there’s nothing you can do about it at this point.

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I feel like I did bring up some things that they might see as liabilities, but I genuinely feel like I wrote it in a way that made it sound like I’ve come a long way since then. I also know that a lot of top students had issues with mental illness; I only felt the need to mention mine because it’s a big reason why I am a psychology major today.

Thank you for your suggestion! I’ll consider reading it.

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I am transferring from community college! I did complete all the transfer agreements (other than missing 1 lower division course from UCSD, but i’m told i only need 3 and UCSD is lenient on prereqs) but I did not TAG which is also why I’m concerned.

I don’t plan to include my mental health struggles in my future essays, but I have to admit it’s going to be really difficult to explain why I connect with my major so much without it. It doesn’t feel as authentic.

There are hundreds of thousands of therapists/counselors/psychiatrists in the work world who did not have personal interactions in the therapeutic community before becoming Psych majors. Do not make rewriting your essays a bigger deal then it needs to be and do not go into the process assuming your essay won’t be authentic. It WILL be authentic- it will just have a different theme/topic/focus.

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Hi please don’t worry at all. If you were able to convey your message about your inspiration to study psychology and the changes you aspire to make, then don’t be panicked. I am a community college transfer from California. I wrote about my experience with bipolar disorder and how I felt like an outcast to how I was able to use my mental illness to make social media platforms to raise awareness and de-stigmatize. I also wrote another essay about my experience living in the Middle East and losing my grandfather to cancer and how I managed to make the best of my time there and grow into a more studious person. As long as you’re not “venting” or ranting about your problems and rather build upon it then you’ll be fine. I applied last application cycle and I was admitted into UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Irvine, and UCSD ( all the schools I applied to). I also had a 4.0, so don’t listen to the comments saying you’re at a fault, because you’re not and I can say that with experience. You’ll be fine best of luck to u!

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I’d like to disagree here. It doesn’t matter whether they wrote about mental illness or not. It is AUTHENTIC and it is VALID to deal with these problems so what makes it an insufficient writing prompt? Also I was also a community college transfer with a 4.0 and wrote about my bipolar disorder/ depression too and was admitted to UCLA, UC Berkeley, UCSD, and Uc Irvine. Don’t let stereotypes determine your point-of-view. Just because a lot of psychologists haven’t dealt with mental illnesses, doesn’t mean that this person’s experience is invalid. Everyone has a different story. If we all wrote the same thing, then what would set us apart? There no shame in talking about our struggles and I wish society would understand that.

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Personally, I don’t think you need to avoid the subject if it truly is what inspired you to major in psychology. I would have a couple of other people read your essay and critique it to make sure it’s coming across as you intended - from a position of strength and honesty. And, if a college denies you because of your truth, is that really a place you want to attend?