Scott’s in a jam! He’s good enough to excel at Harvard grad school if he can get in, but he’s got some black marks on his resume (black marks for Harvard, anyway).
But there are good explanations for them. Problem is, the explanation may create new problems.
I’ll let him tell it.
Hello Judge Josh,
I’ve been reading your site for several months now and even though I have not linked back, I do regularly send your post to my friends. 🙂
Thanks, both for reading and passing them along! I don’t say this enough, but I hope you guys all understand how grateful I am that you come here and read what I write. I know you could be Facebooking or watching Jersey Shore or, you know, studying, so I appreciate you choosing to spend some of your time here.
I think you have good advice so here goes.
I am applying to grad school this year. I would like to work in a very specific lab doing research in pre-biotic cellular membranes. Unfortunately, this lab happens to be at Harvard.
I almost went into that myself. I was choosing between journalism and pre-biotic cellular membrane research, and ended up choosing journalism.
I’m kidding, of course. Obviously you are several hundred times smarter than I was at — well, however old you are.
I have a decent GPA of pi (3.14) and a decent GRE score 1280 (mostly from the quantitative-740). Additionally, I will have 6 years of lab experience by the time I go to grad school next fall. 4 years part time at a bio-tech company as an undergrad and two years as a lab tech after graduation.
Well, I have to say, if this whole Harvard thing doesn’t work out for you, I can’t imagine you’ll have a tough time getting a job in your field that pays the bills. That’s a plus!
My question is related to my personal statement. Is it okay to include highly stigmatized medical information in a personal statement?
Hmmm, I’m not sure. Go on…
Ever since I was a child, I have suffered from recurrent depressive episodes. They present with extreme melancholy and lack of motivation, as school progressed they got worse to the point where I would not go to certain classes for a week, and routinely had difficulties both working and studying.
I would imagine so, yeah.
I realized this was abnormal around freshman year of college and have spent a good deal of time over the past 5 years trying to get treatment. This included personal research and consulting with multiple doctors, many of whom just prescribed me anti-depressants and several who basically told me I don’t have anything wrong with me.
Recently, I found a doctor who took my claim seriously and found an atypical neurological event. Several times a day my brain slows down for a few seconds. I began taking medication about a month ago to fix the problem and I haven’t felt this good in years. I have a very high level of motivation and feel that I have eliminated most of the problems I have had over the past few years.
Wow, that’s excellent, and congrats on the persistence. I’ve had several people close to me who have experienced the same thing — not your specific disorder, but having doctor after doctor insist that “nothing’s wrong” when in fact the doctor just isn’t good enough or willing enough to tackle the problem.
Including this information on my personal statement helps to explain several bad quarters, implies that I may have done better on my GRE, and also shows my dedication to research and problem solving. However, the downsides are that my condition is poorly understood and people tend to stigmatize against neuropsychiatric disorders.
I agree on all counts, and I think your worries are justified. A variety of admissions committee members MAY read your statement and interpret you as a mentally unstable student who simply thinks he’s better now.
In short, do you think it would be a good idea to include such information on a personal statement, or do you think it would hurt my chances more than helping them?
Well, it’s a tough call, but I think you have to go for it. Tell the tale of your disorder, the solution and the consequences.
I think you have to, simply because I can’t imagine a GPA and GRE scores that are, as you’ve said, just “decent,” are going to get you into a one-of-a-kind grad program at Harvard University. I’m not familiar with the particular program, of course, but that just seems like an ultra-long shot.
But that’s what you’ve got to work with, and you can either explain it or not explain it. I think by not explaining it, you almost guarantee rejection (I’m not trying to sound harsh, just getting down to brass tacks here). Hence, your only other choice is to explain it.
Now, exactly *how* should you go about explaining it? Because there are multiple ways of telling this story, and the weaker among them will get you rejected as well.
If I’m on your committee, I’m initially dealt a lot of uncertainty by your application, due to the lower-than-average scores and GPA. Your primary task is to kill the uncertainty — all of it.
Your approach in the statement must — MUST — *immediately* counter that uncertainty with confidence, from the outset. If at any point I smell uncertainty coming from YOU in YOUR essay, then you’re finished. At that point, I’m doubting you and you’re doubting yourself, which makes me doubt you even more, and then we’re done. No reason to go any further — reject.
However, if you attack me from the first word with positivity and confidence, then I can be swayed. And I don’t mean that silly, rah-rah, daily-affirmation type of positivity — I mean you need to write the essay as if neither you nor I is even considering any possibility that you can’t complete the program.
What I need to feel coming off the page is that this is a done deal. As far as you’re concerned, you know you’ll be admitted, you know you’ll complete the program and you know you’ll excel there.
Both the subpar academic performance and the psych disorder must be acknowledged and explained, but they should be framed as formative events from the PAST that burnished the smooth, finished product you are today.
If that sound a little complicated, it is — but it’s doable. This is, in fact, how almost all weaknesses should be addressed on everything from personal statements to scholarship essays to resumes and cover letter. It’s the concept of turning weaknesses into strengths.
Remember, if you can get away with not mentioning a weakness at all, then that’s certainly the way to go. But Scott’s GPA and test scores are forcing his hand here. And for the record, I don’t mean to imply that Scott has a lousy record by any stretch — we’re just looking at Harvard grad school here, so the benchmark is impossibly high.
Sorry for the long message, and thank you in advance. 🙂
No problem. Thanks for the unique question! I think we’ll get a lot of opinions, and I bet they’ll be divided.
— So, what do you all think? Should Scott include the details about his disorder and hope they explain some sub-optimal performance, or should he keep it to himself, avoid any backlash and try to get into Harvard on the resume he’s got?
Let us know in the comments below.
34 thoughts on “Should You Mention Your Disorders?”
Woo… Good one! And I’ve got nothing to add except wishing you success in all that you do! I think finding a definitive reason for the meloncholy/depression is a definite plus, as opposed to having “ordinary” depression.
As someone who suffers from bipolar depression Type I with a variety of qualifiers that make life in general tough without a college component. My GPA is finally approaching 3.25 after failing several semesters due to not being diagnosed.
While it is illegal for a school to use this kind of information against you, it does happen and Harvard is as bad as the rest, if not worse, in doing this.
However, with your GPA situation, I think you do need to disclose it and to do it in the positive way mentioned. Depression is treated better by many people than bipolar and I think that is a huge plus in your favor. Mentioning you are on medicine (don’t use the word medication) and medical care is another plus.
Thanks, your post has helped me out; I also have Bipolar Disorder and I am writing a scholarship application today. I wasn’t sure whether I could frame it in a way that would be positive to my application, but you never know how someone is going to take that kind of information, especially since there is so much stigma.
I actually think disclosing the medical history could work to his advantage, if written correctly. His GPA and scores are not shabby and were accomplished while dealing with the *then* unknown medical condition, which would tell me his ability is higher than the transcript indicates. Also, it portrays him as direct and proactive when dealing with problems or obstacles, to include taking the risk of sharing the medical history in a personal statement.
A word of caution, try avoiding any reference to words like mental disorder/illness. When I was first diagnosed, it was misdiagnosis of depression. When I was interviewed on a regional TV show, a relative saw it and raised the issue with my close family about me being “crazy.”
Be upfront, don’t lie even if it seems like the best solution. I don’t always tell my instructors unless 1) I think it may be an issue, and 2) if I think they can handle it.
Under the law, you can request REASONABLE accommodations for your condition, but you have to inform the school of your condition and have it documented medically, including possible ways to address potential problems. This issue can be raised after being accepted by the school and directed to its Disability Services program. You may not need anything from them, but you need to hook up with them before a problem arises.
I don’t know if HTML is allowed, but here is one website that can help.
I agree with Josh. It is highly unlikely that Harvard will accept those scores without some explanation.
Because the doctor found a tangible problem and prescribed something that effectively treated it, I doubt that an admissions committees will see you as unstable. Had there been no diagnosis or an ambiguous diagnosis, people might stigmatize you. It sounds like this is a neurological problem, not a psychological problem.
I would suggest writing about the work that you have done and the interests in the prebiotic research. I do not think it is a bad idea to discuss the issue of your mental health. However, your math score is definitely Harvard quality. whether or not htey may not accept it. Consider trying to improve the portion of your GRE that is low and probably talk more about the work experience that you have. Your work experience will be the determining factor to decide if you will be able to get into Harvard and work at this lab.
It seems that most are in agreement about disclosing the information. I am inclined to agree as well but I’d suggest to consider your audience. As Paul mentioned, many can’t (or won’t) understand and simply chalk it up as “crazy,” “sad,” “weak,” etc.
I made the mistake of advising the wrong people and I wound up losing a scholarship and essentially changing the entire course of my life. And I have yet to find a doctor to diagnose me with something. I’ve even had some fall asleep while I was talking so I may be jaded, but I think a large percentage of people still don’t consider depression serious. They just want to put you on pills and keep it moving.
The fact that there was a neurological reason and solution provided may work to your benefit but only if presented to officials that would understand. If you’re just writing an essay to an admissions committee, it’s probably a shot in the dark but considering my past, I would never disclose depression again.
However, I admire your perseverance in looking for a diagnosis and your courage in considering this. I hope it all turns out well for you!!
In the case of a neurological problem you are probably better off explaining yourself. However, I know if students are applying to psychology grad schools you are cautioned against sharing any information such as family history of mental illness. I would not share information in that case. Mental illness is viewed as a weakness and may prevent you from being able to complete the rigorous coursework that grad school consists of.
Thank you for posting about this issue! I also dealt with a depression and anxiety-induced halt to my motivation (and drop in my GPA) my senior year of college. I’ve been wondering how I should handle it when applying for graduate school. I’m uneasy about asking for recommendations because I’m afraid my last impression (senior year!) will cancel out my performance in my first three years of college. Thankfully I’m being treated for depression now and am gaining back my motivation and confidence. Once again, I appreciate you posting on this problem. Thank you. 🙂
Wow when I read this, I almost thought it was me lol. I’m looking to get into grad school with a 3.15 GPA and a GRE of 1350. I was diagnosed bipolar II a few years ago, also prone to depression, while I was in college, and had a few semesters’ worth of sucky averages that I didn’t know how to explain, because it seems like anytime anyone sees the word “bipolar,” they assume you’re crazy and if you have depression, you’re automatically suicidal. I’ve opted not to mention it at all, and just go for the “it took me a while to find out what suited me best” route which is actually true since I changed my major 3 times. I’m looking forward to the advice here! I was really clueless as to what to do!
It doesn’t really apply to the OP – you know where you want to be and you’ve put a lot of work into qualifying for this particular lab.. but maybe you’d find it useful too.
Here’s what I did: I went to a less selective school (not bad reputation, just easier to get in) and I pulled a 4.0. in my second bachelor’s. (Compared to a 2.9 – accumulated from 1.5 to 4.0 over the semesters for my first degree).
When I applied for the graduate program, I was admitted on the GPA for my 2nd degree and my GRE – no questions asked. I guess they just figured I was too busy partying the first time around… not true, I slept 90% of the time… but I didn’t feel the need to correct them.
As has been said, there is some major stigma with mental illness/disorders/ however you want to PC it. All of these condtions are a direct result of chemical imbalances in the brain, which in some cases cause things like epilepsy (most commonly associated with seizures) to the very ambiguous term depression. Without getting into reasons why one is “acceptable,” for instance no one would turn you out of class for having a seizure, and one is not, you need to tell the committee exactly what you told us: There is an atypical neurological event that occurs several times a day in your brain. During the years it took you to find a doctor to diagnose and treat this -imbalance, change, problem, however you want to define it- your schoolwork suffered. The treatment works, you can concentrate in class and study, and hopefully even show an improvement in grades. This explanation is most importantly true, and avoids stigma and prejudice and the possibly uninteresting (to the committee) history, while explaining the situation completely and showing your ability to find a solution and change your own life.
Having a son who is a high school senior who suffers from depression, this really hits home. Something that I think could help prove your position that you haven’t felt this good in years is to have a recent community or church project to add to your package. Whether it’s assisting with your church’s child care program during services, volunteering with the elderly, setting up and executing a campus improvement project at your former high school or a local park, or assisting with a boy scout troup, it will show that your motivation and drive has increased. If it’s something you can do on a regular basis, at least long enough to get through the application process, I think this will really help show that you’ve turned a corner in your life.
I agree with a lot of things already mentioned, especially these two:
“I think a large percentage of people still don?t consider depression serious.”
“There is an atypical neurological event that occurs several times a day in your brain. During the years it took you to find a doctor to diagnose and treat this -imbalance, change, problem, however you want to define it- your schoolwork suffered. The treatment works, you can concentrate in class and study, and hopefully even show an improvement in grades.”
I have been trying to find a balance and treat my depression since I was an undergrad and still am as a grad student. I got into the program I wanted, and I did not tell them about my depression in my personal statement. I told them about how passionate I was about the field and how I couldn’t wait to be a part of the program. However, if I could have framed my situation differently and explained it in a way that wouldn’t cause bias and assumptions (the way the word “depression” does), I might have done that to explain my poor grades (GPA of 3.2 and very very bad GRE scores). Scott is very fortunate that he can explain his condition by describing what happens in his brain and not simply saying he is depressed.
It’s also to his advantage that he is very proactive and persistent about making things happen as far as his health and his school/career goals. I really hope Harvard says yes. I would, if I was looking at his application.
The follow up question to this one (should you mention disorders on your application?) is: should you explain it to your professors? That is something I’m currently struggling with. The disability office won’t do a whole lot for me, because of the whole “gray area” with depression. It’s difficult, because if you tell your professors, they could have the misconception that “depressed” automatically means either you’re crazy or you’re over-reacting/lazy. My biggest concern is NOT telling them I have a legitimate medical condition and having them think I’m lazy or inconsistent. Right now, they are a bit baffled how one week I am totally into my work and the next week getting a C on a test. It’s definitely something to consider on a per-professor basis, in my opinion.
(Sorry for the long response!)
It might work as a nice bit of ear candy, if none of them understand the difference between an isolated neural phenomena and mental instability, to mention that after the diagnosis, the doctor mentioned it was (and these next four words are the most important soundbyte) rare [I assume it’s rare; I’ve certainly never heard of this phenomena] but easily curable [seeing as it has, in fact, worked incredibly well for you] with the medication you’re currently taking. The only problem was diagnosing it.
Those four words being attributed to your doctor will hopefully be enough for most people.
I want to go to Pratt for Art Education. One of the reasons I want to be an art teacher is because having great art teachers being in the environment of an art classroom is part of what helped me overcome my anxiety and depression. It is a large part of my inspiration. Should I talk about this?
i have also been diagnosed and dealing with depression since teenage-hood. it greatly affected my college gpa for a few semesters so i can definitely feel your pain. if you’re set on Harvard, I feel like it would be a great option now that you’re feeling better to first to some post-grad classes to show the committee that now that you are getting the help you have been needing that you can be successful.
I hope you get in. the stigma related to the disease is ridiculous. hopefully they can see past that!
very nice story
Actually, I would be careful about what to disclose. This doesn’t mean you have to keep any secrets, just learn more about your right to privacy, your audience, and the effects of disclosure. Make sure the people you tell can handle what you say and keep it private. In a competitive group relationship like school or work, the benefits of disclosure will expire quickly; especially when what is stated makes others socially uncomfortable.
I agree with disclosing it. Harvard will expect some kind of explaination for the GPA. But you don’t need to make your whole personal statement about it. You can fold it into your work experience, the good GPA you do have, and your overall goals.
Mention that you were able to make the GPA you did while dealing with the issue. You didn’t let the depression stop you from getting your bachelor degree, or stop you from finding job opportunities that help you gain experience in the field. Then state that since you got a clear diagnosis and correct mmedicine that your energy is better, and improving. That you will now be able to be more focused and more successful going forward.
This kind of explaination of why your GPA is not as high as you believe you are capable focuses more on your future ablities then your past. It shows you are aware of the problem and have dealt with it. Most committees are interested in what you will do going forward–with scholarship/grants, and education. They have the transcripts to show what you have done, so while some mention of past achievement is ok they really want to hear about what you will do with what you learn in their program. Are you going to go out and succeed, making them look like a top notch institution? Will you continue to work towards being an achiever once in the program? Are you truely going to apply your self to the work and expectations?
GPA, GRE, etc… are all past performance. Unfortunately for most people the only indicator of future performance is past performance. While your GPA is decent for anywhere, and congrats on the GRE score, Josh is right Harvard is another level. So if you have a genuine reason why you scores weren’t higher then by all means explain. It will show two things. 1) You don’t just fold when things get hard. 2) You understand being persistent in solving problems when they present themselves.
Basedon those two things alone you have most people beat. Success is made of two main elements–the ability to persist in the face of adversity, and the willingness to step you and deal with a problem. Talent is important, too, but lots of talented people fall down on those other two elements and never get thier lives off the ground.
Best wishes & good luck:)
This was a fantastic article, and I’m glad that someone brought up disorders of any sort. While I do not have depression, and I am not bipolar, I have been cursed with the rare diagnosis of Narcolepsy. Yep, Narcolepsy. My mother has been diagnosed for 12 years, and I was diagnosed in June a couple days before high school graduation after spending 2 years sleeping through almost every single class. I have EDS (Excessive Daytime Sleepiness) and severely irregular sleep cycles (I don’t go through all the stages of sleep. I’m in REM sleep all night). There are a couple college professors that wanted to know us on a more personal level that I HAVE told about my problem, and my Composition I teacher said to let her know if I ever had any issues because she understands how that can affect me outside of class.
I was lucky to get into a state university with the GPA and SAT scores that I had. Even though my weighted GPA was a 3.9, failing Algebra II and Pre-Calculus and dropping AP English wasn’t something they wanted to see on my transcripts, nor was that C in Physics. While this may not be an achievement for many, if not for the summer program here at University of South Florida and the essay I wrote detailing why my grades were sub-par from Junior year on up, I probably would not have made it in.
As many users have said here already, make it sound like a weakness you have overcome that has made you stronger and capable of doing higher level work. Harvard IS a step above superb, but with your background and labs perhaps they’ll take a second look at your application. Be lucky that you have medication that always works though. Unfortunately, even though I am on medication, I still have days where my medication just doesn’t cut it, like today when I slept through my 8:00-9:15 college algebra class… and missed two 7:30am discussion sections for that same class… Even now, I’m battling with it, and I want to go to a grad school to be a Pediatrician… Or a sleep specialist… lol
I do hope that everything goes well for you and that you’re able to get into Harvard. Disorders of any sort shouldn’t be taken lightly, including depression, bipolar, and the things that people don’t really look at as hindering everyday life. Hopefully an admissions officer who get your paper understands you, and if you do not, maybe you can schedule a sort of Meet & Greet appeal with admissions at Harvard to see what you need to get into their program. Best wishes. 🙂
Thank you SO much for this post! It is such a relief to know that there is finally healthy, honest conversation about mental illnesses/disorders and how they affect students pursuing post-secondary education.
I was diagnosed with major depression during second semester of my senior year of high school- after being accepted to some of the top schools in the nation. For the past 3 years, it has been so difficult to figure out how to approach my college career because, while my high school academics are an accurate reflection of my natural inclination for overacheivement (lol -i LOVE school), the reality is that I am going to be a freshman for the third time in Spring ’11 because I’ve been learning how managing my illness and live like my “normal” self at the same time. I was fortunate enough to attend an institution that saw my potential and allowed me to take care of my health without needing to sacrifice the opportunity to make the most of my college experience, something I had worked my entire high school career to have. I am so grateful to have been allowed to do so, but I know so many other people who were/are in my predicament, that have had to sacrifice everything they’ve worked so hard for because their illnesses were “invisible.” It sucks to feel like you have to pretend to be what people want to see because they can’t understand how you can “be sick” and not “look sick.”
I think the adivce you gave was spot-on; we have the right to be honest about our daily reality of living with this type of illness without needing to constantly provide “proof” of our well-being.
I finally got around to reading this post and I want to thank all of you who spoke so openly about your situations and offered such helpful insight on a very personal subject. My daughter is in college, keeps very tight lipped, and has been going through some anxiety issues which make it difficult for others to understand her behavior, even a good friend/confidant who is a medical professional and knows she is in counseling.
I went to a support group last night and it was sad to hear of other parents struggles with their young adult daughters. (I admit I was silently happy that my daughter is nowhere near their level of depression, anxiety, etc) We all agreed that one of the most difficult things to deal with was the lack of communication between parent, child, and care provider. I want to urge all of you to consider keeping the lines of communication open with your parents. One thing I was told from another parent was that if you have the word “depression” on your medical records you automatically become un-insurable, which of course is another situation to have to worry about.
I think I digressed there a bit….sorry! Anyway, thank you all again for your frankness, and (Dani) when did a gpa of3.2 become having “bad grades”?
This post could not have come at a more appropriate time! Currently as a high school senior, I’m working on my personal statements (Brown & Emory being my top 2 choices) and it’s so difficult to decide how to approach the effect depression can have on your academic performance. Fortunately in my case, I was diagnosed early on (during my Freshman year) and treatment has given me a complete turn around. So there definitely is an obvious shift between before and after treatment in my records. I’ve worked my butt off, especially the past two years, and my grades reflect it. But that Freshman year lowered my GPA considerably, and some of the courses I was taking (and did horribly in due to extremely excessive absences & even hospitalization) are associated with my intended major. So I feel like I should offer up some explanation, not to mention it’s just been such a central part of my existence (I suffered for ten years without diagnosis or treatment).
Thanks a lot for bringing this topic up, it seems I’m not the only one facing this dilemma. This definitely gave me some much better ideas on how to highlight having overcome depression as a strength rather than a setback. I can’t thank you enough!
Congratulations on working through this! Did you get in to Brown or Emory?
I can certainly sympathize with your situation, I have been in a similar one. I suppose it was fortunate for me to have my crisis when I was in Gr. 11 instead of in post-secondary. I’ve had a rather unconventional childhood and as a result have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression. I have been on medication since Gr. 11 but only recently have started therapy (my old doctor was a bit of a pill pusher) and been correctly diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Since the correct diagnosis I have been doing a lot better. However, my “quarter-life crisis” (as I like to call it) in High School resulted in me graduating a year late and with a crummy average, for me anyways. I went from getting 95s to getting 75 – 80. I know those grades aren’t really that bad but between the grades and my complete lack of any idea of what I wanted to do with my life, led me to college (which is the equivalent of community college in the States; I’m Canadian). Now I’m getting the grades I always knew I was capable of.
I agree with Judge Josh, you should explain but only explain it as if it was something in your past and that you have complete faith in yourself. I wish you nothing but the best! Good luck!
Yeah, you should totally talk about your disorder. That’s why there’s something called “Special Circumstance Essay”, you talk about your struggles and what you had to overcome.
Judge is right on the mark with this one. Tell it with the confidence of the person and academic you are today…your wishes and aspirations and goals. Yep…tell. Your perseverance in your chosen major says a lot. And your GPA is no slouch. Harvard isn’t always looking for the 4.0’s, even Harvard wants a well rounded student body. The awareness and sufferers of disorders of this kind is so prevalent now it won’t be a shocker. The person reading it may have one himself/herself! Go for it Scott and good luck!
I have similar problem but it has some different elements. I’m also looking at an ivy league for grad school my GPA is a 3.44 though and my GRE (2 parts) is just below 1500. The low GPA is a result of my sophomore year, at the end of which I was diagnosed with anorexia as a result of anxiety. since then I’ve been taking an anti-anxiety medication and I have received nothing but A’s since. However, I don’t have a medical, neurological anomaly and there are a lot of stereotypes about anorexia. Should I mention it?
“Honesty is the best policy.” I think you need be 100% truthful to someone at the college that you can trust; principally a disability specialist at the college you are going to attend. In most cases, if you show the university that you are not limited by your disability, that will speaks volume about your character as person. I have learning disability and when I took the SAT, I score very low. However I took the ACT and did very well. I think if you could bring something else to the table so that the university can see you as whole package, not just test scores then you will do fine.
I completely! Go for it!
I myself suffer from depression as a result of genetics and dealing with my diagnosis of Syringomyelia and Chiari (two related neurological disorders). My entire personal statement was about how i dealt with these challenges. It shows your determination and i think counselors appreciate understanding the reason for a lower grade ear and there. Obviously my situation is different from Josh’s but by writing my personal statement with a positive outlook or ‘spin’ I was accepted into the College of my dreams (Chapman University:Dodge Film College) along with some other hard to get into schools like Pacific Lutheran University and Sarah Lawrence College. Either way I think telling them is the best way to go.
Best of luck to Josh!
u dont have to say anything about ur life to any1…keep ur personal problem to ur self unless u wana end up a laughing stock or sumthng! u r perfectly well ryt now and i wish dat u remain d same all thru out ur life and may u b successfull! but as far as ur disorder is concerned…dnt tell the world abt it! its nt worth it coz now u r quite well!
I strongly disagree. This is particular to psych grad applications but I think the points it makes still stand– many, many department heads and selection committee members were surveyed. http://www.unl.edu/psypage/psichi/Graduate_School_Application_Kisses_of_Death.pdf
I have bipolar disorder and am well acquainted with how this can derail people’s assessment of my level of competence and stability before they even get to know me. Don’t make excuses. Give solid reasons why you should be chosen. It’s not entirely about numbers.