Should I mention I'm mentally ill on a graduate school statement of intent
November 16, 2009 5:35 AM Subscribe
Should I mention my mental illness on my graduate school statement of intent?
posted by anonymous to Education (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Brief background - I have social anxiety, depression, and Asperger's syndrome and a year ago, I graduated with a B.S. in Economics from a fairly prestigious technical school. I really want to go on to get a Master's in Economics, followed by a PhD.
However, mostly due to depression and anxiety, my grades were not that fantastic, 2.6 or so overall and my grades in some of my econ courses were not that great (for instance, I got a C in my Math Methods of Econ mostly because I had to miss a week of class since I was in the mental ward at a hospital because I was ready to kill myself). I do have support from one professor who I actually talked to when I was in school who would be glad to write letters of recommendation to some schools I'm looking at he thinks are realistic options given my background, not to mention I did pretty alright on the GREs (though only a 670 on the Math and 580 on the writing).
However, it was suggested to me by someone that I mention the fact I have mental illness, especially Asperger's, on my statement of intent, that is my essay on why I want to attend graduate school. I've been told that schools like to let in disabled applicants because it makes their departments look good, and that having Asperger's would be an asset as people would think I'm some kind of genius (to be honest, I really wish I had that super-Aspie power of concentration on academic subjects, as I tend to obsess over the Internet and more useless topics). Likewise, someone else suggested I use it as saying that I've "overcame adversity."
But I'm concerned about the fact that there's a stigma associated with mental illness and that an economics department might be reluctant to accept me into their program because they think I'm sort of skizo who hears voices or has multiple personalities or more or less just flake out. I'll also be honest - I really don't think I've "overcome" my mental illness. I wish I could give an inspiring personal account how I overcame it but it's something I struggle with everyday but if I mention it, it would explain why my grades were less than stellar. I think that they might view the fact I'm mentally ill as more of a liability than an asset to their department.
As a tangential issue, I'd like to have the aforementioned professor look over my statement of intent since I can't think of anyone else to do it, but I'm afraid if I do mention it, he'll find out I'm mentally ill and that would ruin our relationship and he'd stop wanting to help me.
So should I bother mentioning I'm mentally ill in my statement of intent? If so, how should I go about it?
I'm not so much ashamed that I'm mentally ill, only that I don't want to be rejected on the account of the stigma associated with mental illness.
As a final clarifying note, yes, I do realize that graduate school will be harder than my undergraduate program. However, I do want to get a PhD eventually because I love doing research and that's something I'd like to do for the rest of my life because it actually makes me happy.