Jump to content
switch

How to Mention Mental Health in Personal Statements?

Recommended Posts

Hey Everyone, 

I am planning on applying to law schools this coming cycle. One thing that I feel will be detrimental to my application is my academic record. My GPA was immensely impacted by my first two years where I failed some courses due to suffering from severe mental health issue. Unfortunately, taking time off was not an option for me. It went unaddressed for years until I finally decided seek help in my 3rd year and eventually my grades improved drastically. There is a significant progress over the years in my grades with receiving honours my last 3 semesters. BTW I have repeated the bad grades with significantly better marks.

My main concern is that my application will be immediately tossed out once they see my academic records. To explain the horrendous grades on my transcripts, I want to mention my history with mental health in my personal statement without making it sound like a burden to my success in law school. For those who went through similar circumstances or have any knowledge about this, would you mind sharing how you went about mentioning mental health in your personal statements? Any feedback would be really helpful! 

I am currently studying for the LSAT and will be taking it in October or November. I am aiming for 160 or above. 

Edited by switch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cover these three points in your PS:

(1) general nature of mental illness and how/why it impacted your grades. 

(2) evidence that is is not affecting your current school performance and is unlikely to affect your performance in the future. Essentially, "ever since I have been doing ___________________, it is not a big problem."

(3) show how you overcame challenges to achieve your academic goals. They like to see that.

  • Like 3

Share this post


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

My GPA was immensely impacted by my first two years where I failed some courses due to suffering from severe mental health issue. Unfortunately, taking time off was not an option for me. It went unaddressed for years until I finally decided seek help in my 3rd year and eventually my grades improved drastically. There is a significant progress over the years in my grades with receiving honours my last 3 semesters. BTW I have repeated the bad grades with significantly better marks.

Have you ever heard of a "retroactive withdrawal"? They're not easy to get (depending on school), but they absolutely do exist. You'll need to make some sort of request or appeal to your university, but at many schools the combined factors of it being an undiagnosed illness, it being early in your degree, and you showing great improvement post-diagnosis may make it possible to convince the school to wipe these grades from your transcript. Depending on how formal your school's processes for this are you might need to invest a significant amount of time in making your case, and may even want to enlist the help of a lawyer (some schools have legal clinics that will help with university appeals for free though). In any case, if you find that these grades are truly holding you back, and if you can demonstrate that they're the result of your mental illness, you may be able to make a successful duty-to-accommodate argument to have them dropped.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, PurplePanda said:

Have you ever heard of a "retroactive withdrawal"? They're not easy to get (depending on school), but they absolutely do exist. You'll need to make some sort of request or appeal to your university, but at many schools the combined factors of it being an undiagnosed illness, it being early in your degree, and you showing great improvement post-diagnosis may make it possible to convince the school to wipe these grades from your transcript. Depending on how formal your school's processes for this are you might need to invest a significant amount of time in making your case, and may even want to enlist the help of a lawyer (some schools have legal clinics that will help with university appeals for free though). In any case, if you find that these grades are truly holding you back, and if you can demonstrate that they're the result of your mental illness, you may be able to make a successful duty-to-accommodate argument to have them dropped.

retroactive withdrawal" ? That is something new to me.

Learned something today. Thanks

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Luckycharm said:

retroactive withdrawal" ? That is something new to me.

Learned something today. Thanks

Yeah, when I first came across them it was a shock to me too. Some schools have formalized the process to the extent they have a form you can fill out. Others I know of don't seem to mention the procedure anywhere, but they do it nonetheless if you somehow know to ask for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Luckycharm said:

Your GPA, L2 and B2?

Any documentation for your mental health  issue?

My cGPA is a 3.0 with L2/B2 at 3.23. I am aware that my chances of getting into law school are slim but I definitely still want to give it a shot as its something I'm extremely passionate about.

I did not receive a specific diagnosis from a psychiatrist. However, my doctor stated that what I was going through was certainly mental health related and I was able to get treatment through in school counselling. I am not sure if this would be a strong enough claim. 

7 hours ago, SNAILS said:

Cover these three points in your PS:

(1) general nature of mental illness and how/why it impacted your grades. 

(2) evidence that is is not affecting your current school performance and is unlikely to affect your performance in the future. Essentially, "ever since I have been doing ___________________, it is not a big problem."

(3) show how you overcame challenges to achieve your academic goals. They like to see that.

This is very helpful! Thank you! 

 

4 hours ago, PurplePanda said:

Have you ever heard of a "retroactive withdrawal"? They're not easy to get (depending on school), but they absolutely do exist. You'll need to make some sort of request or appeal to your university, but at many schools the combined factors of it being an undiagnosed illness, it being early in your degree, and you showing great improvement post-diagnosis may make it possible to convince the school to wipe these grades from your transcript. Depending on how formal your school's processes for this are you might need to invest a significant amount of time in making your case, and may even want to enlist the help of a lawyer (some schools have legal clinics that will help with university appeals for free though). In any case, if you find that these grades are truly holding you back, and if you can demonstrate that they're the result of your mental illness, you may be able to make a successful duty-to-accommodate argument to have them dropped.

I think I've heard of this! A friend of mine used it after a close family member passed but the university did not accept her claim, even with evidence of the passing. They are quite strict on following through with these claims which is quite unfortunate. However,  I am not sure if this will be applicable to me as I am a recent graduate and already received my credentials. I will definitely look into this. Thank you!  

Edited by switch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@SNAILS provided a decent summary of how you should go about it. Being upfront about the challenges you faced, how you over came them, and how the experience has shaped you will all be important points to touch on.  

What you also need to seriously consider, apart from your letter, is whether law school (and being a lawyer) will exasperate any mental health concerns you currently manage. Law school to articling is a grueling experience: high competitiveness, a flooded legal job market, intense debt loads, and all this before getting into content and expectations to "produce." Our profession experiences higher rates of chronic stress, depression, and we are at an increased risk of committing suicide. I can't stress enough how important it is to take an honest appraisal of your resilience. 

Please take me for my word when I tell you that I mean no disrespect in stating the above. I've watched - and have personal experience with - the misery that ebbs and flows in law school and during articles. The learning curve is steep, the margin of error is incredibly thin, and very few people can afford to walk away (e.g., fear of shame, financial reasons). The last thing you, or I, or anyone else for that matter wants is for your "severe mental health issue" to be triggered by the inevitable stress and pressure you're going to face. A person has to take care of themselves, even if that means abandoning their dreams. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/5/2020 at 3:14 PM, switch said:

My cGPA is a 3.0 with L2/B2 at 3.23. I am aware that my chances of getting into law school are slim but I definitely still want to give it a shot as its something I'm extremely passionate about.

I did not receive a specific diagnosis from a psychiatrist. However, my doctor stated that what I was going through was certainly mental health related and I was able to get treatment through in school counselling. I am not sure if this would be a strong enough claim. 

This is very helpful! Thank you! 

 

 

"I did not receive a specific diagnosis from a psychiatrist. However, my doctor stated that what I was going through was certainly mental health related and I was able to get treatment through in school counselling. I am not sure if this would be a strong enough claim. "

Did you receive any in school counselling? Can you obtain any documentation from your doctor or school counselling office?  I don't know how "strong" is your case when you didn't even see a psychiatrist? 

 

Share this post


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

"I did not receive a specific diagnosis from a psychiatrist. However, my doctor stated that what I was going through was certainly mental health related and I was able to get treatment through in school counselling. I am not sure if this would be a strong enough claim. "

Did you receive any in school counselling? Can you obtain any documentation from your doctor or school counselling office?  I don't know how "strong" is your case when you didn't even see a psychiatrist? 

 

Yes, I did receive in school counselling and I am currently in the works of getting those records. 

Also, I will be able to get medical records from my doctor as I visited her quite frequently during that time. 

I agree, I am worried that no psychiatrist records might weaken my case but I think I was not referred to a psychiatrists because I was able to find an outlet that helped me from my doctor's recommendations

 

Edited by switch

Share this post


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

@SNAILS provided a decent summary of how you should go about it. Being upfront about the challenges you faced, how you over came them, and how the experience has shaped you will all be important points to touch on.  

What you also need to seriously consider, apart from your letter, is whether law school (and being a lawyer) will exasperate any mental health concerns you currently manage. Law school to articling is a grueling experience: high competitiveness, a flooded legal job market, intense debt loads, and all this before getting into content and expectations to "produce." Our profession experiences higher rates of chronic stress, depression, and we are at an increased risk of committing suicide. I can't stress enough how important it is to take an honest appraisal of your resilience. 

Please take me for my word when I tell you that I mean no disrespect in stating the above. I've watched - and have personal experience with - the misery that ebbs and flows in law school and during articles. The learning curve is steep, the margin of error is incredibly thin, and very few people can afford to walk away (e.g., fear of shame, financial reasons). The last thing you, or I, or anyone else for that matter wants is for your "severe mental health issue" to be triggered by the inevitable stress and pressure you're going to face. A person has to take care of themselves, even if that means abandoning their dreams. 

I greatly appreciate your honestly! Other law students have mentioned the exact same thing and it needs to be said to warn potential newcomers.  I will definitely give a lot of thought into what you mentioned! Thank you!

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.



×
×
  • Create New...