Should my disability be included in my Statement of Purpose?


I've recently received my masters degree in mathematics and I'm looking to transfer for my PhD.

I had an undiagnosed neurological disorder for most of my undergraduate career. It wasn't managed until partially into graduate school. It would manifest itself through frequent migraines and even occasional blindness. Consequentially, I would have semesters with low attendance and there would even be the occasional test that I wouldn't attend or that I would attend but be effectively useless.

When it was diagnosed I had it documented with the school's disability services, but I never requested accommodation.

My advisers think I have a shot at some decent schools without knowing about this.


I don't want to be treated differently at a new school. Especially since it's well managed now and I don't need any accommodations. I also don't want my current advisers to think of me differently. However, it also seems absurd to avoid talking about something that has had such a strong impact on my academic career.

I've seen this question: Graduate school and students with learning disabilities . I didn't feel like it applied to me because I am not requesting accommodations and my disorder is no longer as serious of a problem to me.

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    Randomly bumped into this question, when I came here for reference from math.SE. I'm blind in one eye, not that serious as yours, but I chose to mention it on my resume/PhD proposal. – Jesse P Francis Nov 13 '15 at 15:38
  • If your migraine returns before your first grad school final which you then miss, it is better for everyone involved knowing the reason why this happened. I laud your reluctance to ask for special accommodations, but it seems misplaced. Want it or not, these issues are part of your life. You should be evaluated for your potential, not for your potential when healthy. Discuss with your current faculty how to mention it in applications (I expect them to react "But you should have told us!") while avoiding to make it too much of an issue, in line with your personal philosophy. – gnometorule Nov 13 '15 at 16:40

Mentioning your disability in your statement of purpose can be helpful to faculty. Often faculty are trying to ensure there are opportunities for students with disabilities. To do that, they need students with disabilities to identify themselves.

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    Mentioning your disability in your statement of purpose can be helpful to faculty. -- No. By Section 504, admissions decisions come first, and then accommodations are explored as needed. The candidate does not need to talk about his disability during the admissions process any more than a job candidate needs to talk about his sexual orientation during a job interview. – aparente001 Nov 14 '15 at 3:54
  • @aparente001 We are in agreement. However, faculty/institutions need to ensure there are opportunities for students during the admissions process, as well as during instruction. Self-identification at the application stage or before is necessary in order for faculty/institutions to take action during the admissions process. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 14 '15 at 18:40
  • I don't get it. Are you imagining some sort of affirmative action policy in the admissions process? – aparente001 Nov 15 '15 at 2:13
  • @aparente001 that is an option. I would expect that for graduate programs it would be more common to adjust recruitment efforts based on applicant demographics. But for a more concrete example, imagine if an applicant who uses a wheelchair wants to visit campus. Appointments would need to be made in appropriate locations. – Anonymous Physicist Nov 15 '15 at 2:26
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    Look, women were traditionally waaay underrepresented in the high profile symphony orchestras. When these orchestras decided to give women applicants more of a fair chance, they started having the applicants play behind a screen, so the gender would not be known by the committee. And this has helped. – aparente001 Nov 15 '15 at 2:40

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