Jump to content
coastin604

Mental Illness and Law School Applications

Recommended Posts

*this post is a bit long for a forum post but it is relevant to people who suffer from diagnosed mental illness (specifically psychosis-related) and their law school applications. If you have insight to the application process for discretionary category to any Canadian law schools, please read and share your knowledge.

Been doing some reading on here and have found conflicting perspectives.

Should I be disclosing my mental illness and applying in the discretionary category to law schools?

In a previous post I disclosed how I suffered from an initially undiagnosed mental illness beginning in my senior year of high school, which persisted, untreated and detrimental to my health and academic performance, until the summer before my second year of university. I was then hospitalized and placed on a medication regime which forced me to take a year off due to inability to cope with circumstances. I then returned to UBC to finish my second year, struggled with the negative symptoms of the illness, and ultimately decided it would be for the best to move home and complete my degree at a local university.

I am now beginning to think about the application process and have some uncertainty. 

I am not insecure or 'hush-hush' about my mental illness (schizo-affective disorder). I often share it with professors and classmates who I feel comfortable with. I do not actively view my illness as a burden or something that defines me day-to-day, rather, I view it as a challenge I overcame that shows resilience to obstacles. It is a serious condition, my psychiatrist's tell me it is a lifelong ordeal, but I have a positive outlook. 

There was a slight dip in my grades in the year following hospitalization due to difficulty adjusting to the medication, but I have a competitive cGPA despite the illness, and anticipate a 3.9-4.0 GPA for my third year.

Given the sheer number of applicants to the Discretionary Category at UBC (300-500 and only 20 accepted) I am uncertain as to whether my case is significant enough to warrant a discretionary application, or if I should even include mental illness in my application and apply in the discretionary category. A user here mentioned I may not want to include mental illness in my application. Is this due to general stigma of psychosis or is there another reason not to include mental illness in my application I'm not picking up on?

I have not prepared any sort of application but I expect my discretionary application to read something like this:

I entered university with an undiagnosed mental illness, fought actively against the illness by myself for over a year and maintained decent academic performance. Succumbed to my illness leading to multiple week, very serious psychiatric hospitalization and placed in the care of a psychiatric team. After some initial difficulty adjusting to life after treatment, I rebounded in academics and in other aspects of my life. Finished last two years of degree working ~30 hrs a week in an office setting to stabilize finances, while taking a full course load and seeing an uptick in academic performance.

I will have medical and academic references.

Should I just forgo applying in the discretionary category and instead focus on getting a good LSAT score and receiving admission through regular category?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So I don’t have that much knowledge of admissions decisions but I can give you my personal experience if that helps at all.

As someone who also dealt with severe mental illness throughout high school (got my shit together a bit for undergrad though so it’s not really reflected in my GPA), I did not apply for the discretionary category for a couple of reasons: a) it wasn’t necessary, as my undergrad grades would likely be considered competitive (I hope this doesn’t sound cocky I certainly don’t mean it in that way) and b) because I’m not sure if the stigma associated with mental illness would lead adcoms to assume I’m not capable of handling law school or being a lawyer, a notoriously rigorous and trying path (I believe there will certainly be challenges but that I am just as capable as someone without a MI). I received an offer of admission from UBC last week. 

I’m not saying you definitely shouldn’t disclose your illness if that’s what you feel is right, but if your stats are good enough, if I were you I’d probably still apply in the regular category but mention it in my PS. 

Someone who knows more than me will hopefully come along and give you more info, but I hope this was somewhat helpful.

Whatever you choose to do I wish you the best of luck! 

Edited by illyria281
Grammar and punctuation
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Something you could consider, especially if you have competitive grades, is applying under the general category and using one of the personal statements to elaborate on the struggles you faced and your commendable ability to maintain above-average grades as you navigated your illness. Different schools have different PS requirements, but many will have an optional/diversity essay where you could discuss your mental health.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, coastin604 said:

Should I just forgo applying in the discretionary category and instead focus on getting a good LSAT score and receiving admission through regular category?

 

Yes!

For right now, forget about the fact that discretionary category even exists.  Such applications are notoriously opaque - nobody is quite sure what they will take into account.  Applying in the discretionary category is effectively random and out of your control.

Instead, focus on what is under your control - your LSAT and your marks.  You didn't give your marks, but you say they'll be "competitive".  If you go ahead and get a strong LSAT as well then you don't need to depend on the whims of a law school admissions office - you'll be in on your own merit.

This is not to diminish the discretionary category, or to demean those who get in to law school that way.  Once you're in, nobody cares how you got there.  But just focus on what you can control.  If, at the end of the day, your LSAT + marks are borderline or not competitive, then and only then focus on your discretionary application.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

3.7 cGPA after two years. I know UBC only looks at first 3 years of UG in 4th year applicants so anticipating ~3.8 cGPA on UBC application (university I transferred to dosen't do percentages so I lose some GPA points to letter grades)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Malicious Prosecutor said:

Yes!

For right now, forget about the fact that discretionary category even exists.  Such applications are notoriously opaque - nobody is quite sure what they will take into account.  Applying in the discretionary category is effectively random and out of your control.

Instead, focus on what is under your control - your LSAT and your marks.  You didn't give your marks, but you say they'll be "competitive".  If you go ahead and get a strong LSAT as well then you don't need to depend on the whims of a law school admissions office - you'll be in on your own merit.

This is not to diminish the discretionary category, or to demean those who get in to law school that way.  Once you're in, nobody cares how you got there.  But just focus on what you can control.  If, at the end of the day, your LSAT + marks are borderline or not competitive, then and only then focus on your discretionary application.

Gotcha. I'll aim towards LSAT marks that will make my application competitive in the regular category. If I can't pull a 165+ in Sept., I'll apply discretionary with whatever my score may be. 

Edited by coastin604

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My percentage was 80 for first two years of UG at UBC, 83 with 2 drops (2 C's in first sem at uni, when I was undiagnosed). Inbetween my two years at UBC, I took 2 courses at local university  after diagnosis and received letter grades D and C+. 

All my classes transferred to local university but were converted from % to letter. Now, with 4 drops, I have a 3.7 cGPA for first 2 years according to local university transcript. Now that I think about it perhaps UBC will calculate my gpa using the percentages from my UBC transcript, in which case I have a ~3.85 cGPA for first 2 years. 

 

Edited by coastin604

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, illyria281 said:

So I don’t have that much knowledge of admissions decisions but I can give you my personal experience if that helps at all.

As someone who also dealt with severe mental illness throughout high school (got my shit together a bit for undergrad though so it’s not really reflected in my GPA), I did not apply for the discretionary category for a couple of reasons: a) it wasn’t necessary, as my undergrad grades would likely be considered competitive (I hope this doesn’t sound cocky I certainly don’t mean it in that way) and b) because I’m not sure if the stigma associated with mental illness would lead adcoms to assume I’m not capable of handling law school or being a lawyer, a notoriously rigorous and trying path (I believe there will certainly be challenges but that I am just as capable as someone without a MI). I received an offer of admission from UBC last week. 

I’m not saying you definitely shouldn’t disclose your illness if that’s what you feel is right, but if your stats are good enough, if I were you I’d probably still apply in the regular category but mention it in my PS. 

Someone who knows more than me will hopefully come along and give you more info, but I hope this was somewhat helpful.

Whatever you choose to do I wish you the best of luck! 

Thanks. Can you share your lsat/gpa and illness if you don't mind? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, coastin604 said:

Thanks. Can you share your lsat/gpa and illness if you don't mind? 

CGPA is 3.96, with drops is 3.98 (on a 4.0 scale) 

LSAT 160

I don’t want to name the illness out loud just for anonymity’s sake, I will say it’s a relatively serious and enduring condition. If you have any questions you can PM me, I could probably tell you that in a private message :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×