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addressing anxiety in essays?


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The thread about the "overcoming obstacles' essay was very interesting-- What does the Hive suggest about how to address a student's anxiety and treatment?


At the beginning of September, DS 17 started having anxiety attacks during the course of transitioning to new meds for a mood disorder that up until now had been easily managed. He missed about a week and a half of his honors CC classes, and as a result of his anxiety and depression at the time, we withdrew him to give him time and space to heal and get better. He is doing much better now, with a new psychiatrist and therapist, and new meds. But his plan for his senior year was trashed, and now he has 3 Ws on his DE transcript.


But he also has 5 As (in challenging humanities classes) from the 5 DE classes he took last year as a junior (as 4-5 years each in all the academic subjects.) He wants to address the reason for the Ws somehow, but we are both extremely leery about the stigma. (We are researching the option of a gap year to give him more time, but he wants to get accepted somewhere before deciding on that). Before we pulled the plug at the CC, we began redesigning his senior year into a Senior Capstone Project. He researched topics in an area in which he was interested, found undergrad and graduate level syllabi with texts he wanted to read, and he is doing an in-depth, year-long project. He has 2 profs from a nearby college who are consulting instructors on his project as well as a staffer at a museum downtown. He is publishing essays on his readings on his blog. He has all his other high school credits done, with high grades, so his senior year will be focused on pushing his art further. He has a solo show lined up at a gallery at a regional university, is collaborating with working artists known in the contemporary art world, and is curating other known (adult and established) artists in other shows. So the project is very demanding and time consuming.


He will write the main essay on the first CA topic to discuss his work as an artist. He will use the "Additional Information" essay to discuss his Senior Capstone Project.


For those of you who have had to address your DC's anxiety, how did you go about discussing that? What traps should he and I avoid? He wants to be honest, but we also want him to get accepted! How do you balance that?


Thank you in advance for any advice!






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I read essays for some teens.

My personal view is that generally anxiety/mental disorders are not an appropriate topic for admissions essays.  I find it hard to even imagine an ongoing issue would make one a more attractive candidate.


The only way this works is if it has been resolved and is no longer an issue,or at most, if he mentions it in passing and as a springboard to how he has created a whole new academic path.  With the art (and I don't have knowledge of what role that has played so far), it might be relevant.  


Maybe it could work in his case, but I believe and have advised the kids to only touch on it and move on, if it is really relevant to the picture of themselves that they are presenting.   

I've seen multiple essays that are all about anxiety, and I direct them to another topic.  It's just a potential negative and brings up concerns as to how the student will handle the academic stress on campus without parental support 24/7.

Just my two cents. 



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Unless you have a very, very good reason to go into more detail, I would just say 'a health issue' caused the W's and since he couldn't get back on track at the CC afterwards, here is what he's doing instead.


A college application is where you describe your best self as a student and as a member of a community. It's not where you are totally honest about every detail of your life.

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