Students are often encouraged to write deep self-reflective statements in their college essays.

But how much information is too much information?

This is such a touchy subject in college admission.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve worked with students who have revealed personal challenges like alcoholism, clinical depression, and high conflict with teachers in their college essays.

Each time, I took it on a case by case basis.

Here are a few excerpts from a recent article about the former practices of New College Florida who red-flagged student applicants that mentioned these issues:

“An investigation by the inspector general of Florida’s university system has found that the admissions policies of New College of Florida probably discriminated against applicants with mental health issues.”

“Colleges may not ask if students have a mental health issue, but it is common for students to write about them — including on their college applications.”

“Under federal and state antibias laws, mental illness may not be ground for discrimination.”

“In the case of New College, the dean of enrollment management (replaced last week) had admissions readers flag those applicants who wrote about mental health issues for a special review, the inspector general found.”

“Some of them were rejected — even if they met the requirements for admission.”

“President Donal O’Shea, in a posted video, said, ‘I’m deeply embarrassed’ by the findings and pledged ‘to set a new standard’ for inclusiveness.”

“Whatever O’Shea’s feelings about the admissions process now, they were not his feelings when students– Maria Simmerling, Eugenia Quintanilla and Dwight Mann — complained about the system. In fact, New College conducted its own investigation of admissions last year and concluded that nothing was wrong.”

“(He’s praising the students now.)”

“All of the readers for the 2018 admissions cycle provided testimony indicating that Dr. [Joy] Hamm expressed to admissions staff, during meetings held in preparation for that admissions cycle, that she wanted them to ‘red-flag’ admissions applications if the applicant disclosed certain information in their application file,” said the report of the inspector general.”

“Some witnesses stated Dr. Hamm wanted them to ‘red-flag’ applications for any mention of mental or physical disability, or mental illness; while others noted that references to a history of abuse, violence perpetrated against or by the applicant, or anything that might lead the reader to believe the applicant is difficult or has problems with respecting others could also be ‘red-flagged.'”

You can read the article & comments here

I’m not surprised by any of this either. I knew an amazing student a few years ago with perfect grades and test scores who was rejected by almost every college except UC San Diego.

Although I can’t prove it, I suspect it was because he mentioned in his college essay that he had Asberger Syndrome.

I don’t always suggest parents read over their kid’s college essay, but it would be a good idea to remind your child not to mention anything in their college application that they would not want to mention in a job interview.

As for colleges and their admissions practices, hopefully bringing these issues to light will make clearer how to handle such cases.

If you need someone to talk to your child about how to write an excellent college essay that will help them get accepted and get tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money, we can help.

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