2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Advice on writing my college essay? Is mental health an alright topic?

Hello! I am a rising senior and have starting writing my college essay. I have an idea but I just wanted to make sure that it was doable and not too cliché.

I have OCD and have been diagnosed since I was four years old. As I child, I had compulsions such as washing my hands until they were dry, cracked, and bleeding in order to avoid germs. This led to my diagnosis and furthermore the first of many prescriptions.

The prescriptions and the difficulties I faced as I struggled to find one that worked are the main point of the essay as I discuss how I saw them as magic and never questioned how they worked. When I finally decided to ask a psychiatrist how they worked I was shocked when he said that they didn’t know. He explained that some medication, particularly mental health medication worked but doctors were unsure why. This sparked a desire in me to understand the medications that had been such a big part of my life and find out how they worked. This has led me to want to study medicinal chemistry. This way I could help people in the future to have access to medicine that would work for them and their brain. This way I could prevent them from having to play the same prescription guessing game that I did.

I’m worried mental health is too cliché of a subject or this will read as a sob story. Any advice? Should I write my essay on this topic?

Thank you so much!

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3 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago[edited]

I think it can depend on the admission officers reading your essays because I heard from some admission officers that mental health could be a "red flag." But that is not to discourage you from writing about mental health as it could be a great essay if you can write it well and translate to a great story. The reason why mental health could be seen as a "red flag" is because colleges have a large load of coursework and many students dropout due to inability to handle such classes with stress, mental health, etc...

2 years ago[edited]

It really depends on the mental health problem cause in my personal college essay I wrote about how my mother was deployed for 13 months and it affected my mental health (like depression, anxiety, what not) but I improved my academic profile as a result to make her proud so my "sob story" was positive. I like the concept of this considering you did have a spark and it seems overall positive so I think you should write about it! They eat stuff like this up, why you got into it and stuff similar to that. It would only be a problem for colleges if the work in school messed with your OCD which resulted in poor behaviors since colleges typically have a lot of work but I think you should do it! If you don't wanna go with this you should definitely just alter the view of mental health, but make sure is true to you.

2 years ago

Hi @abbieeidda!

This sounds like a good personal statement idea which also has a nice tie-in with your intended major. That said, writing about mental health in college applications is risky: it might raise doubts (valid or not) about your ability to perform lots of rigorous coursework.

The way to get around this is making sure you have a clear arc in your narrative. Your essay should lay out your difficulties with OCD, but then also show how you've learned to manage it and become a highly effective person. It could then also move on to you deciding to study medicinal chemistry.

This format will help prevent assuage concerns about your ability to succeed with a college-level course load. It will also help you avoid the "sob story" trope by focusing more on your journey with OCD and ensuring you have a more complete narrative.

So, in short, I think it's a good idea. You just need to be careful in how you go about it.

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any questions.

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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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