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I have studied for eight years at University and have at the moment achieved a masters degree in Mathematics. During my first 4-5 years or so, I suffered on and off from depressions and my performanes varied. I did a bachelors project in physics and was supposed to do a masters there too, but a combined factor of the depressions with a professor who has a bad rapport with students made me interrupt the education. For a year or so I considered whether to leave academia or to actually fulfill the masters, but the experience left such a bad aftertaste that no interest seemed to come in finishing it.

After a while I decided I wanted a masters after all, but it had to be in a different subject - Math. I took some courses and talked to a lecturer about doing a masters project (he knew about my situation).

I finished much of my remaining course work (doing well in most courses, getting the equivalent of As or Bs pretty much all way through) and did a project under him. By this stage I had essentially overcome my depressions and was at full health. The project went really well and is now considered one of the better works done in recent years and several independent senior people have told me that chances of getting a PhD with such a thesis will be very good. Considering my history though, it has been explained to me that I will not get one at my current Uni. (Guess it would be too talked about, and I am well-known at several departments). I was however enouraged to apply to other Unis.

So I did and only a bit more than a week ago I got an interview. Having had it I thought it went fine, but now after 10 days or so I havent heard back and am believing that perhaps I havent gotten a position (they announced three). During the interview I was asked about why I wanted to leave my current Uni and the answer I gave was that they didn't have the direction of reasearch I wanted to persue (which is true). I think in retrospect that they wanted to now about this history (that I assume my supervisor mentioned in his letter to them).

My questions:

  • is it wise to disclose my history of depressions? They can obviously see my registered masterproject that was never finished and probably contact the department for more info. If I can convince them that the depressions is not a problem anymore I think it is only good, but to what extent will this be the case? Will it look better to avoid the question altogether?

  • 10 days having passed and no confirmation, but am I really out? (After the 20 minute interview I had a private discussion with one of the potential supervisors and he did mention that my master project was very strong and that they seemed interested in the commite. The discussion felt good)

  • I wrote an email after 4 days or so, asking how things went. The response was very short and went '' The decision is not quite made yet. We will announce shortly.'' Is it OK to email him again after a week from the first letter if there has been no response? Or would this potentially ruin any remaining chances?

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It would seem weird for you to disclose your issues this late in the application process (a week after they said that they'll "announce shortly"). Even if there was some benefit to being honest about your past, it's probably too late to do it now. It would have been a good idea to mention your past problems, how you dealt with them, and how you are feeling now if it would give a better impression of your current state, at some point early on in the process, e.g, during the interview, preferably brought up by yourself, but if you contacted them about it now, it would seem more like a desperate attempt to salvage an application process you think is failing (even if it actually isn't).

Even if it could make a difference between being accepted and not being accepted, you have to then wonder why the commitee haven't brought it up themselves then? If this is the issue that'll be the decider here, then I find it highly unlikely (and highly unreasonable) that the commitee haven't given you least a chance to talk about it from your perspective. So, if they know about it and haven't brought it up, it's probably not what's going to decide whether you are accepted or not, so bringing it up now is likely to have no effect.

But, if there's a next time, and you're sure it will be mentioned in your recommendations letters, then bring it up yourself. But remember, nobody is expecting you to disclose the detailed circumstances of what and why. That's your private life, it's nobody's business. But you should at least explain how you overcame it and how you are feeling now. and make clear that it's entirely in the past now (if that's true, obviously, but I can understand how you may not be fully aware of whether it truly is in the past yourself. Just make sure to act in good faith).

  • To clarify: what I really meant was to disclose my history in general and not now when the interview is over. But I agree it might have been a mistake not to explain the situation. Lesson for next time! Also, they didn't ask this explicitly but one person definetly tried to ask in that direction. I just didn't realize this at the time. – Vertex May 29 '16 at 21:31

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