Should I include a picture of myself on my uni readmission application?
October 1, 2007 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Is it appropriate to include a photograph of yourself in a readmission application after academic exclusion?

I was suspended from university at the end of 2006 for a period of 12 months due to poor attendance. This stemmed from a pretty nasty social anxiety problem - ultimately I became housebound shortly before the first semester was over. My anxiety had been pretty much lifelong, but did not affect my studies or work prior to 2006. I finally decided to speak to a professional after semester one. I was treated successfully over the course of 12 months with a combination of antidepressants and weekly CBT sessions.

As part of the readmission process I am required to write a letter outlining the circumstances that led to my suspension, and give evidence that I have taken steps to make sure it won't recur. I've kept the letter fairly terse, and also enclosed a letter from the doctor who diagnosed and treated me, confirming my recovery and ability to resume my studies.

Would it be appropriate to stick a photograph of myself (à la a CV) in the top right hand corner of my letter? On the one hand I feel it would add a more personal touch and perhaps increase my chances of being readmitted, but on the other hand I feel it might be a bit manipulative to have a photograph of me beaming back at the course coordinator as she decides my fate, especially given the sob story (which I have tried to tone down as much as possible).

I'm rather unattractive if it matters, but I'm good with photoshop!

Any other advice regarding this application is most welcome. Thank-you in advance, askmefi!
posted by anonymous to Education (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My friend was in charge of his department's intern program before he was promoted. We would laugh at the resumes that had pictures on them. Granted, we work in NYC and we are bitter, jaded and spiteful. But that was way before we came to NY...

But seriously, only cheesy real estate agents and actors/models who don't have headshots yet should have pictures on their resumes.
posted by spec80 at 8:10 AM on October 1, 2007

I'd forego the picture and concentrate on making the letter as good as possible. Keep it business like, but be honest and forthcoming as you have been with us.
posted by orange swan at 8:18 AM on October 1, 2007

I vote no. The only possible exception would be if you were sending the letter to someone who'd met you in person, but who might not remember you just by name. If that's the case, you should state this reason in your letter.

And about the letter - by "terse" I hope you mean "short and to the point," not "without feeling." I would show your enthusiasm for returning to school in your words. I think that would have a lot more impact than a picture.
posted by desjardins at 8:19 AM on October 1, 2007

I am aware of the general rule not to put your photo on your resume but, nonetheless, I keep one on my CV (academic resume). I acknowledge the general rule and disagree with it.

I agree, for your case, that you should only put the photo in if you are sending the letter to someone who might remember you.
posted by letahl at 8:24 AM on October 1, 2007

I would focus on the content of the letter rather than working on picking a photo and photoshopping it. From your post here, you seem like a skilled writer, so just put your effort into that portion of the readmission process.
It's not really inappropriate to have a photograph on the letter, but it's unnecessary and probably won't do anything to sway a decision. In my brief stint as a recruiter it was pretty common to receive resumes with photos on them, and I never looked at them when evaluating the resume. Ever. Most people in the office thought that it was a bad idea as well. So I'd advise against it.
Best of luck!
(on preview, what orange swan said)
posted by k8lin at 8:27 AM on October 1, 2007

Where are you located? Different parts of the world have very different attitudes to pictures on resumes and other applications. In the US it is almost unheard of. In other places it is pretty much required.
posted by alms at 8:42 AM on October 1, 2007

I was expelled from college at the end of my sophomore year and not for anything medically verifiable; it was all stupidly my fault. When it came time to re-apply, I simply and matter-of-factly stated the circumstances that lead to my failing grades, included the transcript of the courses I had taken at the local community college during my expulsion, and hoped for the best. I was readmitted without conditions.

My point is that I don't think you need to put in the photo. With the doctor's letter and a non-sob story from you, you'll probably be fine.

Good luck!
posted by cooker girl at 8:53 AM on October 1, 2007

Like many other people, I used to receive hundreds of CVs and attaching a photo is a serious mistake. It sends the message that you are naive enough to think the recipient is the kind of person who takes note of facial appearance when assessing resumes.

The only exception would be for jobs where a headshot is normally submitted, eg actor or model.

A photo can only hurt you.
posted by unSane at 9:00 AM on October 1, 2007

Why not call the admissions (or other relevant) department and ask them?
posted by amtho at 9:11 AM on October 1, 2007

Academia's supposed to be about the mind, not the face. Including a photo might actually hurt you if it makes you look like you don't realize this.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:17 AM on October 1, 2007

On the other hand, including the photograph would tend to demonstrate that social anxiety was a thing of the past for you.
posted by jamjam at 9:21 AM on October 1, 2007

It really, really depends on where you are. In the U.S., attaching a photo to a CV or academic application would be considered bizarre and inappropriate. In the U.S., I have only heard of this being done for sinister reasons. Specifically, African-American universities used to ask for photographs so they could favor light-skinned applicants over darker-skinned ones. But I think it's standard procedure in some European countries. My roommate applied for a fellowship in Germany last year, and they requested photos. I can't think of any good reason to ask for a photo, but I have no idea what is standard procedure in your part of the world.
posted by craichead at 9:22 AM on October 1, 2007

I'm assuming you're in the UK, but here in the US a picture would actually be problematic for many universities, as it opens up the door to a claim of racial-based decision making.
posted by phearlez at 9:27 AM on October 1, 2007

I have this photo on my resume, in two little thumbnails symmetrical in the header, bookending my name, and I have gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback for it. I'm kind of a superoutgoing and relentlessly fun person, though, and showing off this way communicates the truth of the matter pretty well! I hate having to make these documents conform to conventionality. Ugh, but please don't photoshop photos of yourself. It's not a healthy way to spend your time.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:30 AM on October 1, 2007

Unless you're in Asia, where photos really are usually required on applications ... no. Don't do it.
posted by Xere at 9:39 AM on October 1, 2007

From anonymous's language, I don't think he or she is American. Examples include "suspended from university" (an American would generally use some sort of article before "university"), the reference to a "course coordinator", and a reference to a photo à la CV, meaning that wherever he or she is, it is common to put a photo on the CV.

The question at hand is should anonymous attach a photo to the letter justifying re-admittance. To which I say, absolutely not.
posted by desuetude at 9:50 AM on October 1, 2007

It is not a good idea to include a photo of yourself on any application materials where what you look like is not one of the criteria. For things like schools and jobs, the people making the decisions do not want to know what you look like, so that their personal bias' do not come into play during the review process. To include a photo when one is not asked for also implies you think you're something to look at, and I find that my first gut response after someone implies that is "No, no, you aren't", no matter what they look like. Applicant beware.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:50 PM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Like many other people, I used to receive hundreds of CVs and attaching a photo is a serious mistake. It sends the message that you are naive enough to think the recipient is the kind of person who takes note of facial appearance when assessing resumes.

Absolutely right -- including your photo is a mistake -- in the employment world for sure, and in academic world all the more. I used to be an undergraduate academic counselor and was involved in reviewing readmission petitions. I never saw anyone include a photo. If I had, I hope I'd have ignored it, but I suspect some tiny part of me would have been prejudiced against your case on the grounds of cluelessness.

Just focus on how you've successfully figured out what went wrong last time and how you've taken steps to keep it from happening again. If it's been a learning experience, talk about that too. Remember, they already like you or they wouldn't have admitted you the first time. You don't need to impress them -- you just need to report clearly that you're ready to return.
posted by gum at 5:11 PM on October 1, 2007

okay, so if the idea of including a photo in some kind of academic application is so horrifying, why did Brown require me to submit a headshot with mine, back in 2002?

because rhode-islanders are some shallow, shallow bitches. that's why.
posted by wreckingball at 7:40 PM on October 1, 2007

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