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Ams1990

Question about medical issue

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The first college I attended right out of high school was highly selective and elite. While I was there I started experiencing symptoms of schizoaffective disorder leaving me to have a psychotic break, C's in all my classes and an F in one class. I only spent that one semester at the school before moving into a mental hospital. 7 years later after years of working hard in recovery I am now enrolled at a new university with an almost straight A average with a few B's and two withdrawls. I am completely stable and highly functional. I am wondering when applying to grad school if it would be helpful to explain my failures at my first college by telling them about having an undiagnosed psychotic disorder and talking about how I overcame that disorder to have an almost 4.0 gpa. Will it be hurtful or helpful? I don't want them to hold my disorder against me.
Thanks for your time reading this

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Mentioning mental health in a letter to a university is, at best, a contentious question in academia and TGC. 

In my opinion, I think you should play it safe and call it a health issue or medical issue, with no mention of it being a mental health issue. While most if not all people are sympathetic towards those with broad "health related" issues, mental health specific ones are received with more varied responses--you can't be sure that they would be sympathetic. I personally hope this changes in the future. 

With that being said, I am so proud of you for overcoming that and achieving such a high GPA afterwards! It takes real strength to do what you did, and you should be proud of yourself as well. Congratulations!

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I agree with Nothingtown. As I'm sure you know well, the stigma against psychosis is high, regardless of education level. You could mention that you were hospitalized to show the gravity of the issue, but I wouldn't mention anything about mental health. It's BS, but you deserve a fair shot, and unfortunately most adcomms won't give you one if you mention mental health issues.

Anyway, best of luck in your applications! My partner had to drop out of college last year due to psychosis, so it makes me happy whenever I see someone who's successful and living well with it.

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As somebody who faced a similar dilemma (in terms of revealing personal information to account for a shortcoming) I would strongly advise against it based on feedback I got from admissions committees.  From what I've learned from the admissions process, the improvement in your GPA speaks for itself and you may not even need to include your old transcript on your application if it was for the same degree level. 

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