I recovered from an eating disorder as a Sophomore in high school. I have since written and self published a book on amazon for teens struggling with the things I used to, started a mentorship program in my area that matches people recovered from their eating disorders with people beginning recovery, and I’m hoping that (when covid ends) I’ll be able to visit a few schools to share my book and educate them on eating disorders. I’ve read and heard that it’s a bad idea to discuss mental health in common app essays, but I was wondering if this applies to me considering the fact that a lot of the things I have done that could stand out on my app involve my disorder. I don’t HAVE to write about my eating disorders or include my work to help others with them on my application. I have won several writing awards, been published in magazines, and am a staffer of my schools newspaper so I could write these things instead. However, I feel like adding my work with eating disorders would show an important part of me and explain why i took only a few classes my sophomore year. What do you think? Would an essay like this show resilience considering I’ve recovered and now help others or would it make me a liability? Consider that I am applying to very selective, top-tier schools.
Here is a thread on a related topic. I suggest you consider these viewpoints before deciding: Should I write my college essay on OCD? - #8 by Lindagaf
Your accomplishments are noteworthy and it’s great that you’ve created something positive out of something negative. IMO, I don’t think your former disorder needs to be the focus of the essay. It seems you have much more to offer than your former eating disorder.
This is a hard one for me. Generally, I prefer students not to discuss things that could be seen as a negative to “someone” at the college. On the other hand, this is recent and you have accomplished a lot related to your challenge. Sorry for the cop-out answer… I would have to read it.
I think it depends on your angle and the circumstances surrounding it. My d wrote about hers and was accepted almost everywhere she applied (very good schools, majoring in health care). My feeling about essays is to write from your heart. You want to go to a school that values you…all of you. Growth, resilience, and helping others is huge and if it is who you are, then let it shine. Glad to hear you have recovered. Good luck.
First, if this affected your academics or schedule in sophomore year, either the guidance counselor or family/you should include a brief note with the transcript explaining that your class choices, attendance or whatever was affected by a “health problem,” which has since fully resolved.
Second, I often recommend a very brief supplementary essay on an issue like this, if you really want to write about it. If there is a note with the transcript this supplementary essay is not strictly necessary but you could- briefly- write that you have recovered and describe your efforts to help others.
I will caution you, and don’t mean to be negative here but writing the book, presenting to others, and starting a mentorship program this early in your recovery, may not be wise. Your eating disorder is still the center of your life, this way. Maybe give yourself time to recover, and focus on other things, before helping others. None of my business and not what you asked…
You can always list your published book on the application. Then my personal view would be that you could either let the GC note handle this, or write a brief supplementary essay.
I think if you write about how you overcame it, it will be seen positively. My son wrote about living with a chronic medical condition and his acceptances have been amazing so far!
I agree with this totally.
Just to be honest, it may seem inappropriate for a high schooler with no degrees or training, to go to schools to educate other young people. A personal account in a book is a different matter. And overcoming a serious mental health issue so recently, then turning to help others, is tricky. True recovery from an eating disorder takes time.
I appreciate everyone’s honest feedback on this. I’ll think about what you have said and may end up writing a supplemental essay on this topic. I lived abroad my freshman year of high school and have some things I could probably write about that instead of my recovery. The note from the GC is definitely a good idea and I wasn’t sure if that was a common/normal thing to do— thanks!
@compmom, I really appreciate your concern, and I’d like to assure you that the decisions I have made after I recovered have all been discussed with my family and therapist and your worry, though thoughtful, is unnecessary.
The book was a really helpful step in my recovery that allowed me to reflect on and feel proud of my progress and journey. The mentorship program, to be honest, does not require much monitoring from me now that it has been set up-- I mostly let mentors and mentees do their thing. And, regardless, there is a big difference to me between my eating disorder being the center of my life vs me helping others being the center (or at least a big part) of my life (something I’m passionate about and really value).
I mentioned speaking at a school or two because my middle school had a health class that spent much of the year covering diabetes and the importance of avoiding fried and sugary foods. This education program greatly played into my eating disorder, and it’s really important to me that my school also begins educating girls (it was an all-girl school) about how there is such a thing as “too healthy” (fun fact: it is 242 times more likely that a highschooler will develop an eating disorder than diabetes). I want to educate others and, personally, I wish someone who had recovered had spoken at my health class and explained what eating disorders were when I was in middle school. I do not have a degree and have no plans to claim to know everything, but I can speak from experience and spread awareness. I am still in close contact with my middle school health teachers, and I know they would be happy to have me do this.
Thank you again for trying to give me advice and cautioning me to avoid letting my ED take over my life. But none of the things I mentioned cause me any issues, and, if they did, I would stop immediately and talk to my therapist about it. Sorry for the lengthy post, but I wanted to address all your comments.
Please ask them to distinguish between type 1 and 2 diabetes (Autoimmune vs metabolic). Type 1 and celiac patients often develop disordered eating due to focus on eating, and it doesn’t help when people think kids with T1D are to blame by eating sugar.
Absolutely! There is a much higher rate of disordered eating in celiacs and diabetics and SO much misinformation on this. Thank you for the advice.
I’ll PM you because my comments are off topic.
Diabulemia involves omitting insulin to lose weight.
Yes, I’m aware, but it sounds like her “health” teachers weren’t differentiating between types of diabetes.
I agree that it doesn’t need to be the main common app essay. But some schools have other and you could fit it in there. A number of schools request a short essay on what community means to you, for example, and perhaps that would be where it could fit.