Should I mention that I have Bipolar disorder in my statement of purpose and ask my lecturers to mention it in their letters of recommendation(I am doubtful that they will) ?

Bipolar disorder was a critical roadblock in my academic life man. When I was having maniac episode I was like "I am God, I don't need to study, I can clear this test without studying" or it just felt like I am overdosing on caffeine, I couldn't focus. When I was feeling depressed, I was just too withdrawn to study, I was almost suicidal. Either way, I was too emotional to do anything !

The aggregate GPA of my undergrad courses is 3.216 and the simple average of my last 4 semesters GPA is 3.106. It was in the last two years that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I tell you its not easy managing meds and life. Most psychiatrists in India are idiots. Some of these psychiatrists even diagnosed me with adult ADD :| Its because of these drugs and incompetency of my shrinks that I feel my GPA dropped. Should I mention that too, cause in US I would even have access to better shrinks than here ..

My GRE score is 322/340. I honestly feel I could have got a much better GPA and GRE score without this disorder man. I even got highest grades in all my practical exams too.

  • 5
    First, as a basis see: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/324/… In short, reducing this to a less complex issue. The advice there is excellent for that, anyway. The real divergence is the medical issue being cited as the cause for the grades, and how to address this. It's possible that it's best to put it behind the veil of non-specified "medical issues that went undiagnosed". The bottom-line will likely be stressing that the grades are not an accurate reflection of your potential/qualifications, and not so much about the past.
    – BrianH
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 19:38
  • 6
    Well, the main issue is framing. If it comes off as "I have a chronic condition which will make me unlikely to do well in your program", then that's going to go badly . If it's "I had a problem in the past due to a medical issue that was not in my control, but I've addressed it now" and you make a convincing case that you've moved beyond and can function and succeed, then you've got a chance to make something work. That things will be hard for you is absolutely true and my heart goes out to you - but I can't see how the potential for explanation could outweigh the risk of stigma. That said...
    – BrianH
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 20:00
  • 2
    You absolutely must talk with the people who will write letters for you and make sure you get on the same page. If they know of your struggles and how hard you worked to overcome many medical issues (countless others don't ever graduate or even live to tell the tale, so give yourself due credit!), work with them to frame it how you decide to handle it in your letter. If you just say "medical issues" and decide that's good, they need to not 'out' you (and in the US that would a huge no-no for a professor without a release form signed), but whatever you decide it should coordinate.
    – BrianH
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 20:04
  • 3
    Your letter and your recommendation letters should tell a cohesive, mutually supporting story. If you say "I'm much better now and looking to the future" and they say "they have struggled with their condition and I hope you won't count their present medical issues against them" that's not good. They need to match up, regardless of how you decide to handle it.
    – BrianH
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 20:07
  • 1
    Thanks a lot sir :) Thanks for the empathy :) I can't tell you how rare that is these days :) I didn't get what you said here sir. "If you just say "medical issues" and decide that's good, they need to not 'out' you (and in the US that would a huge no-no for a professor without a release form signed)"
    – Aditya
    Commented Aug 28, 2014 at 20:33

2 Answers 2


I would not put it in the statement of purpose as it is a forward looking document (what do you want to study, what qualifications do you have, why study at X university, etc.).

If you must include it, then the diversity statement is a good place.

That being said, I would recommend that you do not include it. You can mention that you “struggled with some health/personal issues” in college but are now prepared for university, but you do not need to give details beyond that. This is your health privacy at stake. You should talk to your letter writers to make sure they know they should not disclose your personal history without your permission.

Once you are accepted, you can inquire about student health services and reasonable accommodation for your needs.

  • 3
    What's a "diversity statement"? There was no such thing on my grad school applications.
    – ff524
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 5:45
  • 2
    I had never heard of it either, but Google is helpful. Here is one explanation: theadvancededit.com/admissions/… (the writing there makes me cringe a bit, but it covers the ground).
    – tripleee
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 8:04

Probably not, and even from reading your question alone - with full respect to the legitimacy and seriousness of your illness - you are using it as an excuse. And in a grad school application, you are making an excuse for failing before you even start. That is not good.

Sometimes these personal facts make sense to share as part of a narrative of resilience or overcoming challenges, but you are not building that narrative right now. You need to convey that you understand the world cares more about outcome than handicaps, and, for instance, blaming psychiatrists in India, does not help.

  • How do I convey this as resilience in my narrative? And I have not failed man. I am in the top 25% of the class. I know its not great but I feel I could have shown a better outcome!
    – Aditya
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 22:10
  • 1
    @Aditya nobody cares what you feel you could have done. Having a reason you could have done something different doesn't make it so that you did it.
    – user18072
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 23:04

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .