Would I get into trouble for referring to self-harm and domestic abuse in my essays?

Hey everyone!

I’m enduring a large dilemma right now as the Stanford REA deadline creeps by. I made a main Common App essay that talks about when my dad abused me by punching and malnourishing me, and I kept getting bullied at my school for my appearance. That led to me attempting suicide in the 8th grade and I landed at the hospital for a couple of days. The thing is that those days at the hospital made me reflect about my self-worth, and I truly gained a more optimistic insight as an individual from that experience. I found a passion for photography and I prospered because of that hobby. I have won many photography competitions, I self-made a photography club at my school, and I founded Project Full-Frame, a non-profit that aims at making inexpensive cameras with large 7" displays, strong viewfinders, and a sports finder all into one out of Raspberry Pi’s to cater to individuals that need the versatility, particularly older people.

The thing I fear about sending this essay is that I could be reported by the admissions team for demonstrating domestic abuse in my essay and self-harm in the form of my suicide attempt. The domestic abuse was about 5 years ago, and my father doesn’t abuse me anymore. That suicide attempt was 4 years ago and I don’t have any thoughts of suicide or self-harm anymore.

I feel like this essay perfectly exemplifies a deep period of adversities, what I learned from it, and how I grew as an individual. I don’t want to get in trouble by sending this essay so I’m wondering if I should send this essay and risk the chance of getting reported or submit an entirely new essay.

Thanks in advance.

Since the point of you essay is the discovery of photography, I’d concentrate on that. Just say you experienced a bad period and discovered photography, why it helped you find joy in life again, etc.

Focus on the positive, not the negative.

I agree with @twoinanddone that you should focus on your photography and Project Full-Frame and not get into the historical issues of abuse and self-harm. It is not really a question of these issues being reported and your getting into trouble, but “overcoming adversity” essays are cliched and will almost certainly not be received positively by the admissions officer reviewing your application. The AO will want to get a sense of who you are now and what you will bring to the school, and what you describe regarding your photography and your initiative in developing the Project has the makings of a great story, a “show me don’t tell me” essay.

I agree with the above posters you could always adapt your essay so that you start by sitting In a hospital bed and then move to talk about the rest of the things you mentioned. They don’t necessarily have to know why you were in hospital.

I agree with the above.

Also, should a person who is a mandated reporter read your essay, they would be required to report your dad to the police. I say that because at some HSs, GCs are mandated reporters, as are some college admissions officers and external admissions application readers.

I agree with the advice given above. The point of the essay is to sell yourself to the college, to demonstrate why you would be a good match there. Your backstory, while poignant, doesn’t further those goals. So keep the parts of the essay that do and take out the parts that don’t.

MODERATOR’S NOTE: @katrokinon I edited your post and removed your name. You shouldn’t share it on the site.

i agree - focus on the positive.

what are your stats and target schools?

Thank you everyone for the insight, I get how those aforementioned parts might not seem to fit the narrative now so I’ll definitely revise my essay.

@MaineLonghorn I’m new here so I didn’t realize I did those things.

@NCalRent I have a 4.82 Weighted GPA, 3.98 Unweighted, Ranked 2/628, 34 ACT Score from my Sophomore year, a predicted 44/45 IB Score, and some other extracurriculars that correlate with Biology alongside an extensive amount of photography. I’m a rising Bioengineering / BME / Biology major, but I also want to minor or double major in Film and Media studies if I go to Stanford, so I’m wondering if I should also mention that or is that something that would be inheritably picked up by the essay.

For the rest of my schools, I’m applying to all Ivies but Dartmouth (Brown’s PLME program too), JHU, UChicago, WashU, UofM, UofW, Maryland - College Park, MIT, CalTech, Duke, Northwestern, UCLA, UCB, UCSD, UCSB, CPSLO, CPP, CSULB, SJSU, Swarthmore, Vanderbilt, and USC.

I’m mainly applying to reaches since my likely schools (I dislike the term safety, the connotation sounds demeaning) SJSU, CPP, CSULB are great schools to fall back onto. Of course I’m hoping for Stanford’s acceptance to complete this process earlier but it’s unlikely of course.

Good for you - you seem to have a pretty good handle on reasonable targets, not to mention reclaiming YOUR life and putting up stats like that…

While i do think the core focus of your ap essays should be positive, delicately reflecting how far you have come might help them get a sense ot who you are.

You have what it takes to succeed what ever path you decide to pursue.

Good luck

I agree with the others that the story should be that your discovery of photography helped you endure an otherwise unhappy home. I would not give any details of your home life. The problem with describing all the abuse you have suffered is that the committee might be concerned that you might not be successful at a top college.

Check this https://insights.collegeconfidential.com/stanford-essays-that-worked
Hope this helps