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Should You Talk About Mental Health in College Essays?

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Shravya Kakulamarri in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



What Are You Required to Disclose in Your Application?


Many students wonder if they should discuss mental health or disability in their college applications. Mental health history or a disability might be an integral part of who a student is, but that doesn’t necessarily make it relevant to a college application. Keep in mind that it is actually illegal for colleges to ask for these types of details about your life because it can be considered discrimination. So, colleges will never directly ask if you’ve had any sort of mental health issue or if you’ve ever had a disability. Based on this reason alone, you are not required to disclose mental or physical health concerns on your application. 


Disclosing your mental or physical health is strictly a matter of personal choice. If you leave out this information, it is not lying and 100% within your legal right to do so. 


Should You Include Mental Health History in Your Application? 


Before you choose whether to disclose your history of mental health or disability, you should think about the purpose of a college application. Everything that you put in your college application should contribute to an overall positive image of who you are as a student and member of the community. 


You usually don’t want to hide integral parts of who you are, but you also don’t want to be sharing challenges that are not going to strengthen your application. This is true not only for mental health or disabilities but also for academics, extracurriculars, and other experiences. Normally, students don’t bring up the time that they got a C or D in a class on their application. Everything that you include on your application should paint the most positive image of you possible. You always want to put your best foot forward and keep the focus on your strengths. 


You don’t want colleges to doubt your ability to succeed and perform well under pressure. If you mention any mental health concerns, they might use that as a way to question if you will do well at their school and be able to handle their rigorous course load. While colleges are supportive of their students’ mental health challenges and provide resources and services, you don’t want their first impression of you on your application to be something that makes them uncertain of your abilities. So, keep this in mind when deciding whether to disclose your mental health history. 


How to Talk about Mental Health in College Applications


If you decide to include your mental health or disability history in your application, there are specific aspects of your experience that you should focus on. Rather than talking about the mental illness itself, focus more on the recovery and management aspects and what you have learned from the experience. 


Discuss things like how you have grown and the coping methods that you have cultivated due to the experience. These will give the admissions officer an idea of the types of strategies that you’ll likely use in college anytime that you encounter a stressful situation. 


Overall, if you choose to talk about mental health in your applications, focus on the learning and growth that you’ve gained because of it. 


Taking Care of Your Health in College


Mental health is an important part of your well-being, and it’s essential to start good habits in high school. This way, you’ll be better prepared to cope when you face new challenges in college. You’ll likely be experiencing living on your own for the first time and have new responsibilities without the same support system that you had at home. It’s crucial to learn how to take care of your mental health early.


Fortunately, most students will have many resources at college to help them through mental health challenges. If you’re dealing with any mental health struggles, there is usually an office of wellness where you can schedule a time to see a therapist. This is usually provided with your school’s health insurance. If this is something that you are concerned about for your college experience, make sure to look into what mental health resources each college provides before applying.