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Very brief of the situations that happened from Jan 2021 : Living in a 3rd world country. I completed my masters in math in Jun 2020. Then I wanted to study some additional topics before applying in Europe. So, took 1 year break and went home. Studied fine till Jan 2021, then constant verbal abuse started by my father and occasionally by my mother (they earlier also used to verbally abuse me but I didn't do my bachelors and masters in my native city, so less impact was on me).

Admitted to mental hospital for 10 days in Feb and misdiagnosed with schizophrenia (I have depression). Verbal and emotional abuse continues and again admitted to different hospital in March for 11 days, diagnosed with depression. Verbal abuse again continues after some days of discharge. So, I move out taking a part time job to sustain myself in different city on 1 July and learning some new math topics alongside. Thinking about suicide since March 2021 but postponed to try 1 more year if I am not able to get a phd position as learning and doing math is the only thing I like.

(Reason of verbal abuse: parents wanted me to do full time job and not math research so that I can settle early and also wanted me to take a career like medical doctor or engineer which is more earning and takes less time to settle time). I could only study 1 month of math in these 6 months.

How much should I mention the situation due to my 6 months of my life are being wasted in my CV when applying to PHD position in Mathematics? Will the admission by me that I have suffered from depression affect my selection for Phd i.e. how it would be taken by selection committee?

I don't think I should lie as I would be really weird to make up what I was not doing as what I was doing. I really need advice.

Also, I think if I don't mention it in CV then certainly I will be asked in interview about the gap in studies (and then I will have to explain in very few lines which will obviously change the course of interview to an entirely different thing if it is not known to the prof. beforehand).

Certainly, I am not mentioning it for any sympathy but I think I should write about it very briefly as I write CV in a bit timeline form; if I just left a gap or don't mention it then certainly it would be thought that I have been less productive because of the lower number of things I studied. (But there is a very valid reason of being less productive).

Edit : I feel that I should at least mention it because it is due to abuse by my parents that I have been so depressed and I wasted precious time and I would have certainly been better if my parents were able to understand what I want to do with my life.

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  • @No-OneThanks to you to add a bounty on it.
    – res
    Aug 4 at 17:45
  • What country? As attitudes toward mental health and the reception you might get may vary by culutre. Aug 4 at 18:55
  • @AzorAhai-him- I will apply only in Europe: France, Germany, Finland , Denmark.
    – res
    Aug 6 at 10:32
7

Based on the description, it sounds like everything that happened, occurred during this period:

Then I wanted to study some additional topics before applying in Europe. So, took 1 year break and went home.

That's all you need to say. It's true. You aren't under any obligation to go into details about what happened during that year in your personal life.

I think you are overestimating how suspicious people will be about this one year. On the other hand, disclosing personal information like what you say in your description, unprompted, will almost certainly make admissions committees nervous (at best it is an extra piece of information they have that doesn't contribute positively to your case). Focus on your conveying your background and studies. These things happen, be easy on yourself, and remember we can move on from these personal events that seem very important to us in the moment -- don't tie yourself to it and define yourself by it.

Edit Dawn also made an excellent point in the comments that people are aware the previous year has been difficult for everyone because of the pandemic. In my mind, this goes even further in the direction that people are more likely not to weigh one "gap year" very strongly, and you should not go out of your way to answer a question that wasn't asked by providing intimate details about your personal situation.

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  • "Based on the description, it sounds like everything that happened, occurred during this period" : Ya
    – res
    Aug 4 at 17:43
  • 3
    Agreed. I would ignore this year for purposes of evaluating candidates due to the pandemic. If the rest of your record is strong, best not draw attention to it.
    – Dawn
    Aug 4 at 18:16
  • @Dawn That's an excellent point, I've added a comment about this to the answer.
    – Andrew
    Aug 4 at 18:26
  • 1
    @res In my opinion (having served on PhD student admission committees) this is still too much personal information. Even if you feel you could have done more in those 5 months, the programs you are applying to don't know that you were originally planning to apply in January. Plus many deadlines are actually in the fall, so applying now is not suspicious. My advice is that I would not say more than "I took a year from 2020-2021 to work and self-study additional math topics. I focused on topics X, Y, and Z by studying resources A, B, C." But, you should do what you feel is right.
    – Andrew
    Aug 7 at 16:15
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    Of course, it is different if during an interview you are asked for more details about this year. You should never lie in any application materials, especially the interview. But in terms of the materials you submit for your own application, I would advize not offering details about your personal situation (this is actually advice I would give anyone). Just focus on what is objectively true (you took a year to work and self-study math), and on what mathematics you have done. Again, you need to do what you think is right, but I'm just hoping you don't self-sabotage.
    – Andrew
    Aug 7 at 16:22
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If the gap is short enough that it is unlikely to be noticed, then ignore it for the CV. For a longer break give as few details as possible. Certainly nothing like what you write here. "Medical issues" or "Personal/family needs" is all you need to say.

Reserve the CV for those things that show your productivity and skills, not for those that explain problems.

If you are asked about it in an interview, I also suggest that you give as little information as you can.

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  • 2
    "If you are asked about it in an interview, I also suggest that you give as little information as you can" Why ? I think if i don't explain it in a concise but complete manner I think the interwiewer will think that I am j=hiding something Or I am not competent enough
    – res
    Jul 22 at 16:56
  • 2
    Many people need a time out. Medical and family issues are perfectly valid without detail. No one need to evaluate your relationship to your parents. No one will hire you because they feel sorry for you. Including this in a CV doesn't show competence. If the rest does, you should be fine. Concise, yes. Complete, though, I doubt the value. In some cultures, people get a lot of parental pressure to do things that only the parents want. Others in that culture probably understand how powerful that can be.
    – Buffy
    Jul 22 at 17:04
  • 4
    @res "I was dealing with some mental health issues during that time but have been doing a lot better since then" is sufficient. You can even leave the word "mental" out and just say "health issues", or make it even more vague and say personal/family needs like Buffy wrote. All you need to convey is a) I wasn't able to work during that time, and b) Things are better now and I can work. If that information puts someone off, you don't want them to be your supervisor anyways.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 22 at 17:04
  • 3
    @BryanKrause, I'd leave out "mental". It is a red flag. But "under control" is a vital point.
    – Buffy
    Jul 22 at 17:08
  • @Buffy I think there are reasonable differences of opinion on that, depending on what someone is comfortable with. Certainly I don't think anyone should need to disclose any details, including "mental"; on the other hand, I wouldn't want someone to work for an advisor for whom any mention of mental illness was enough to red flag them and deny admission. Details of the specific nature of the mental illness, though, I'd agree is not really anyone else's business.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 22 at 19:00
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+100

When I am making a decision on a PhD application (for my department, not as prospective supervisor, in the UK) the question I need to answer is:

Will this person, if admitted, in all likelihood do well in our programme and earn their PhD (through a good dissertation)?

The question is definitely not Does this person deserve a shot at earning their PhD? Hence, what an applicant has done is the past is relevant only for its predictive value for what they would accomplish in the future. If I believe a PhD candidate needs skill X but is lacking it, it does not matter whether it is the fault of the candidate that they haven't learned X or not.

The decision is meant to be somewhat objective, made in a rational mode of reasoning. Application material overtly meant to elicidate an emotional response is thus going me me somewhat uncomfortable, as I will need to work to separate this from the decision process.

While I recommend disclosing mental health issues that require accommodation to a prospective supervisor early on, only in very limited circumstances would it seem to be in the applicant's best interest to bring this up in admissions. This situation is when an applicant has temporarily underperformed significantly in the past due a mental health issue that is under control now (and will stay that way); and where the applicant now has the relevant knowledge and skills they should have.

In the concrete situation described in the OP: The mental health episode happened outside of formal studies. There are no bad grades to explain. The impact on the profile of the applicant is that they have learned somewhat less of additional math than they would have otherwise, but that is what it is. There is absolutely nothing to gain for OP by bringing up mental health in their application. If in an interview the question of what exactly OP learned during this year comes up, it makes sense to express that it was less than anticipated due to adverse circumstances. But even here I would not bring up mental health, but rather state that OP is much more productive when at a university.

As pointed out by Dawn and Andrew, the last year was a bad one for lots of us. Most academics will not question a simple 2020/21 was NOT a productive time in my professional life claim, because they either share that sentiment or have heard it from lots of colleagues they respect.

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  • As total wastage of 5 months is not a small period, I will certainly mention it in CV, but will not mention anything about depression , but in a following way, please have a look:" I had planned to apply to phd positions in January 2021 and subsequent months but my father in January 2021 became really adamant that I take a job so I had to take a job. But learning more math and doing research in it is my aim , so I left the teaching Job and moved to different city in June 2021, self studying more math topics full time with my mother financially supporting me"
    – res
    Aug 7 at 12:45
  • There is no mention of depression or any mental health.Any advice/ comments of yours will really help me.
    – res
    Aug 7 at 12:46
  • @res Needlessly personal, doesn't make you look good. A simple "January - June: Teaching job at X", "June - Now: Self-studying maths (primarily books/topics A,B,C" would do.
    – Arno
    Aug 7 at 12:58
2

If you believe it affected your grades or would otherwise affect your application package in a significant way, you can go ahead and briefly mention it. If you go overboard on mentioning it and focus on your depression too much though, it won't necessarily be a good thing and could even backfire.

If it's something like you took a gap year after graduating undergrad to mentally recuperate, maybe even take a job during that time, I wouldn't even bother mentioning it (unless you were productive during that time, then mention what you did to be productive and not your mental health), as others have said. Unless the gap caused by this would be that significant, and even then I'd maybe spend a single sentence or two talking about that and then move on. (I wouldn't even say a gap from March 2020 because of the initial outbreak of COVID to be that significant given how many people the early stages of the pandemic did affect). In your case, 6 months isn't that big of a gap (in industry, at least, it isn't uncommon to have a 6 month gap between jobs, or between graduating and starting your first job); I personally can't justify, mentioning, let alone going overboard over this small of a gap.

On the note of something mental that would require accommodations, that stuff isn't meant for the grad school application package. If and once you are admitted to a few places, THEN you can bring it up with the disability department at your prospective universities and try and work something out.

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  • 1
    "On the note of something mental that would require accommodations" :I am working fine now, studying and looking foreward to my future, and I think when I will leave far away from my father( not even talking to him , like i am not doing now , and didn't talked with him in masters) , I think I will remain healthy , and so in my case I don't think it will be a disability.
    – res
    Aug 6 at 10:44
  • 1
    Just wanted to bring it up in case, but if so more power to you
    – Daveguy
    Aug 6 at 11:51
  • Thanks for your advice. As total wastage of 5 months is not a small period, I will certainly mention it in CV, but will not mention anything about depression , but in a following way, please have a look:" I had planned to apply to phd positions in January 2021 and subsequent months but my father in January 2021 became really adamant that I take a job so I had to take a job. But learning more math and doing research in it is my aim , so I left the teaching Job and moved to different city in June 2021, self studying more math topics full time with my mother financially supporting me"
    – res
    Aug 7 at 12:48
  • Kindly let me know your opinion on this.
    – res
    Aug 7 at 12:48
  • Don't even refer to the 5 months "wastage of time". You had a small gap, or break. That's it. Nothing more.
    – Daveguy
    Aug 8 at 19:50
1

To be honest, most people don't care about personal stuff. I will suggest writing doing freelancing, getting training for any subject etc. People will show sympathy once, but overall, they will criticise it. Yes, exceptions are there.

My opinion sounds negative, but this is reality.

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  • Kujur As total wastage of 5 months is not a small period, I will certainly mention it in CV, but will not mention anything about depression , but in a following way, please have a look:" I had planned to apply to phd positions in January 2021 and subsequent months but my father in January 2021 became really adamant that I take a job so I had to take a job. But learning more math and doing research in it is my aim , so I left the teaching Job and moved to different city in June 2021, self studying more math topics full time with my mother financially supporting me.
    – res
    Aug 7 at 12:49
  • Kindly let me know your opinion on this. Any comment / advice you give me will certainly help me a lot.
    – res
    Aug 7 at 12:50
  • @res I understand your situation, you can mention that you were learning some course, you don't need to be master of that subject.
    – Alex Kujur
    Aug 7 at 17:03

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