I was mentally ill for the first three years of my undergraduate studies (altogether, I had the diagnoses of severe depression and anxiety disorder for about five years). The diseases delayed my progress considerably. However, I recovered, and have done extremely well after that.

Two programs, both top-ten globally, are interested in hiring me. I have not listed my grades on my CV to avoid giving a bad first impression; I have instead highlighted my achievements: publications, prizes, research experience, etc.

How / when should I mention this? My BSc is average and MSc very good. I hope they do not care about the undergrad grades. If there is an "other information" box in the applications, should I state something along the lines

My performance during my undergraduate studies was not good due to severe illness. However, I have fully recovered, and done very well since

I know there is a previous question about getting a bad transcript past admission committees. However, I think my qualifications are really good without the bad beginning. Also, I would like not to mention I was mentally ill. What to do here?

  • 1
    Check the other questions tagged graduation-admissions and health-issues, one or more of them may address this question.
    – ff524
    Dec 17, 2015 at 16:42
  • 2
    Along with what @ff524 said and I think you're good. It's very easy to pin an excuse on something (what they'll think) so I would omit what you want to say in the other box. If they ask, which they probably won't you can say the above. If you have solid test scores, great references and did well in your graduate study they won't care about your early years. I doubt you would've gotten accepted to MS with an abysmal GPA. You're good Dec 17, 2015 at 17:15

3 Answers 3


You do not need to disclose the nature of your illness if you do not wish to. It was your illness, and you get to decide how you handle it.

The short explanation you propose is fine. You might want to specify that it was the first three years:

My performance during the first three years of my undergraduate studies was not representative of my abilities, and was due to illness. However, I am glad to say that I have fully recovered, and as my transcripts show, I was able to overcome those early difficulties.


I would advise you to be upfront about it in your SoP; the level of detail as to the cause is up to you. I think if I read in a statement of purpose that someone had gone through clinical anxiety/depression; that it affected his/her early grades; that he/she tackled the problem head-on; and that he/she is doing "extremely well" (backed up by his/her academic record), I'd likely be impressed.


I agree with aparante001 about what you might write and would add that it is important that at least one of your letters of reference corroborate what you say.

When preparing to write letters, I often ask students if there is anything that would sound better coming from me rather than from them, such as that their poor grades one year were due to working 20 hours/week in addition to being a full-time student.

Your advisor's assurance that you heroically overcame your problems, which are now fully behind you, would be a big help.

Good luck!

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