3 years ago
Admissions Advice

Essay topic: mental health struggles

Is talking about living with anxiety a bad idea? Do colleges not want students who have an illness?

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5 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago[edited]

Many CollegeVine Members ask this question because unfortunately because of COVID-19 and isolation from normal activities, at least 50% of high school students experience some form of mental illness or if they had mental illness prior to COVID-19, the virus symptoms, quarantining and online learning just made these symptoms worse.

So while it's a perfectly reasonable topic to write your essay on, keep in mind that for 20-21 and 21-22 application cycles this is probably the #1 essay topic applicants write about.

Therefore, you have to ask yourself whether or not your 'mental health' essay is going to be better than the other thousands of mental health essays in the piles and piles of essays at each college you apply to. And if the typical applicant applies to 10 schools and uses this topic in their Common App essay, then they are multiplying the number of mental health essays by a factor of 10X.

If you figure that you are applying to a school that has a 20% acceptance rate and the application reader has to sift through and read 40-50 essays per week and by the time they are done with ED they've read 200 essays and by the time they're done with RD about 500 essays, it is MUCH easier for them to remember and advocate for the non-mental health essays because they are unique in themselves. Otherwise, if there are 10 candidates who all are coping with anxiety/mental health and there are only 2 spots, how is someone who is not a mental health professional going to do make an informed decision that this person should get in because they did a really good job managing their anxiety/mental health versus the other 8 applicants.

I had mental health issues before I applied and still struggle with my issues but I felt the best thing about me is not my mental health issues. I might have been sucked down the rabbit hole of COVID-19 but I'm not going to let my mental health be the main thing I write about to share unique things about me to the colleges I'm a applying to. When a global pandemic affects every human being on the planet differently, everyone can say they were affected by COVID, either directly or indirectly. But that doesn't make their perspective of surviving through the global pandemic their best unique quality they can share and write about.

I do not define myself by my mental or physical or emotional health. When I applied to Columbia University, I wrote about myself and advocated for myself. I used my voice to explain who I am and where I'm going and how education is invaluable to me as a young woman.

This is only my take on it. Everyone has a right to decide for themselves what they are going to write about to inspire admissions officers to advocate for them. I didn't know at the time I was writing my essays that 96% of applicants would not get in. I just know that I was going to have a solid shot, I need to write something powerful, impactful, impressive, and memorable. Something that that application reader would remember all the way through "committee" when they voted on me.

Good luck.

3 years ago

There's no right or wrong in the essay topic. Choose any topic that you think will help you standout. If you think this story will help you to standout in the application pool, write it.

Make sure that you write it nicely. Give a deep reflection and let your essay show your improvement as a self. Don't be too focused in the mental illness, instead, make it a storyline to give a bigger picture of yourself.

P.S: How are you today? Are you good? Please always be happy🖤!

3 years ago

First, I'm sorry to hear that you live with anxiety. I struggle from that too and know how hard it can be and how it can affect your every day life.

As someone who is also applying, I believe that as long as you write about it in a personalized way on how YOU specifically live/deal with anxiety, I think it should be just fine!

Colleges shouldn't turn you away because of this illness and if they do, it's probably not the college for you.

Best of luck! I wish you the absolute best in your application process.

Much love,

Vanessa <3

3 years ago

Hi there @lifeisgood,

First of all, I'm sorry to hear that you're worried about colleges turning away your application if you choose to disclose your mental health struggles - and I want to assure you that the short answer is yes, colleges do accept students with illnesses and that you can't be discriminated against because of mental health struggles.

Writing about a struggle in general needs to be done in a certain way - you want admissions officers to empathize with your personal story. As long as you are centering yourself and not your anxiety, you should still be able to craft a compelling narrative - just make sure to focus on specific instances and stories that will really show your character and personal growth. We have a blog post on this topic that you might find helpful when drafting your response: https://blog.collegevine.com/how-to-address-a-mental-health-issue-or-disability-on-your-college-application/

Alternatively, if you want to disclose your mental health struggles but not make it your personal statement, you can always disclose it in the Additional Information section of your application.

Hope this helps!

3 years ago

I would say that you can write about anything as long as you give it your own unique twist. Make it yours! Your essay should not be able to be written quite like anyone else. If you can say that about yours, then it is good! Good luck :)

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