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"Overcoming difficult circumstances" essay

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by VeganChick, Jun 21, 2008.

  1. VeganChick

    VeganChick Tufts University V'13
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    On Cornell's supp app, there is a question about being in a situation where circumstances were against you and how you overcame them. 13-15 years ago, I was seriously anorexic. When I finally decided to get help, the doctors told me that it was going to be extremely, extremely difficult to get better for various reasons, but I was pretty determined. It was unbelievably hard, but I did manage to.

    So, my question is, would writing about this be deterimental to my application? It was a number of years ago, but it is also pretty personal and may be interpreted as the state of my mental health.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. reefervet

    reefervet OSU c/o 2012
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    I think it would be great to write about it. You overcame it, and that's what matters. It shows great character.
     
  3. NoleDevil

    NoleDevil Iowa State CVM c/o 2012
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    I may be wrong, but I thought those essays were geared toward explaining weaknesses in your application. For example, someone may have failed a class at the same time there was a death in their family. Or maybe someone needed to take a year off from school because of some personal problem.
     
  4. meadow36

    meadow36 UF CVM 2013
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    I agree. It's unique, and will stand out. As long as you clearly discuss how you're completely healthy now I don't think it will be a problem.
     
  5. VeganChick

    VeganChick Tufts University V'13
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    The essay I am referring to is on the supplemental application under the "statements and short essays" section, so it is different from the explanation of something in your application.
     
  6. Wolf Vet

    Wolf Vet MSU CVM c/o 2012
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    I agree it would be a valid choice, just try to remember that they don't just want to see if you were able to do this in the past, what they really want to know is can you still? Will you be able to overcome difficult situations in vet school? You might not answer this directly, but keep it in mind while writing and ask "does this make me sound like a better/strong applicant?" This is a very difficult thing for people to overcome, as your doctors said, it can definately show how you are a stronger person now!
     
  7. VetMed555

    VetMed555 VMRCVM Class of 2012
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    I would have to disagree. I wouldn't write about ANY health-related problems. I have a different medical condition myself, but I surely did not mention it anywhere in my application. Yes, it is a big achievement and a huge battle to overcome anorexia; however, not everyone may be so understanding, and this could also be viewed as something they just don't understand/want to deal with. I would not write anything that could hurt my chances for admission. From your previous posts, you have some blemishes in your academic record--that's exactly what I would have addressed. Write about improvement and how hard it is to restore a good GPA. Less than stellar grades are going to be there for them to look at, so you don't want to explain lower GPA AND a period of anorexia during your interview. Of course, you're free to do as you wish, but I would definitely think twice (or a hundred times) before I wrote something that requires so much explaining in my essay. I do not deny how much of an achievent it is, but merely want to warn you that it may hurt your chances.:luck:
     
  8. NoleDevil

    NoleDevil Iowa State CVM c/o 2012
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    I don't think mentioning this issue would hinder your application, per se, but I think you need to ask yourself how relevant mentioning it is. While there's no doubt that overcoming everything you went through made you a stronger person, I would think that it's a very personal, private, and even a touchy subject to have to bring up if you really don't need to. Unless you could say something like, "I overcame anorexia etc, etc... and through my recovery, I was able to visit pre-teens at various schools and educate them about this disease," or something like that. Otherwise, I'm sure there's many more life experiences you can share that have made you a stronger, more mature individual without delving into something very personal. Just my 2 cents. :)
     
  9. twelvetigers

    twelvetigers stabby cat
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    It's also not the most understood disease/condition in the world, so different people might see it in different ways. If you can directly relate it to somthing really relevant, I say go for it... but if it was just something difficult that you had to work hard and overcome, then I would strive to think of more... relevant things. I'm not sure that came out exactly as I'd hoped. I guess what I'm trying to say is, could you convince someone that, by overcoming anorexia, you think you will be a better veterinarian in the future? It may very well be the truth, but explaining it in an essay might be a bit of a stretch.
     
  10. alliecat44

    alliecat44 KSU CVM Class of '11
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    I used the explanation statement on my VMCAS applicaiton to discuss some very personal circumstances surrounding my own academic blemishes. I made sure to indicate that it was "not an excuse but an explanation." I didn't go into grisly detail about it, and there was definitely enough very personal information there to make me question the decision to address it; however, I felt it necessary.

    You are being asked SPECIFICALLY about overcoming a difficult circumstance. There are few--IF ANY--difficult circumstances that are not personal. I cannot imagine an admissions committee member viewing your essay on overcoming anorexia as being "too personal."

    Not an adcom member, but I have heard in general that they really prefer to see you as a human being and not just a series of numbers/GPAs. Focusing on "overcoming" low grades, etc seems to be pretty darn weak if you are asked this specific question. If that's the hardest thing you've ever done in your life (assuming low grades aren't due to some other larger circumstance such as a learning disability, death of a parent, etc etc etc), then good for you and congratulations--but more difficult things are still to come. Talking about such a devastating disease and how you have not only survived but obviously thrived really makes you a three-dimensional human being to these adcom members.

    They are adults, they have all overcome difficult things in their life and realize the value of it. That is why they are asking the question.

    I agree there is a way to address it and present it, but use 1/100th of the courage it took you to fight your way through that and be brave enough to include it in your application. :)

    Congratulations and best of luck to you. :luck: :luck:
     
  11. Badger Girl

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    I agree with AllieCat. Eating disorders have always struck me as being multifaceted, meaning that they can affect all or most areas of someone's life. It isn't just about being fixated on food, weight, or exercise. It seems to me that often, individuals dealing with overcoming an eating disorder are also dealing with other things that may be mental-health related, such as depression, OCD, etc. I think that shows a lot of personal strength to overcome something as difficult as an eating disorder. I work with a lot of individuals in my job as a social worker who are not able to manage their mental health, so I believe that those who are able to really have a lot of strength and courage.

    I think it's a very good idea to explain how overcoming your difficult circumstances makes you a good candidate for vet med. If you can tie it in, I think that would be great. Best of luck. :luck:
     
  12. VAgirl

    VAgirl UC Davis SVM c/o 2012
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    I totally agree with alliecat. That's what they're asking for. Give it to them. If you are able to address it in a thoughtful and introspective way, I have no doubt it will leave a positive impression. I almost can't see how it could look bad...you beat this years ago and continue to beat it every day by the series of choices you make. What could possibly be better suited for this essay?

    Also, I disagree with the idea that one should only use essay topics which are directly related to vet med. Especially for an essay of this type, the relevance is you. You are a living, breathing person, who wants to enter the field of vet med. That is what they're trying to get to know here.. And the experience you're referencing, is, I'm sure, a large part of how you got to be who you are today. It's the exact same principle at work when some schools do the closed file behavioral interview. You may not have answers to their questions that relate to vet med and that's ok. Who you are as a human being, a critical thinker, a moral and compassionate person, that is what you will bring to the field as a veterinarian. Thinking it always has to be totally relevant to vet med, IMO, is a little short sighted and keeps you from addressing some issues that make you stand out in a good way.
     
    #12 VAgirl, Jun 23, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2008
  13. winkle1983

    winkle1983 OSU Class of 2012!!!
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    I think you should def write about it. When I was in my interview this past year that was an exact question they asked me. I think they were looking for something personal...to make me stand out...some kind of life experience. I gave them personal darnit...and regardless how they felt about what I had done, I explained how it made me a better and more understanding/compassionate person. You are a collection of your experiences and I think they want to hear about something more than, "I overcame low grades"...they know there is more to life than grades, so show them you do to.
     
  14. chordy4

    chordy4 OSU c/o 2014
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    i think the difference here that needs to be made clear is that it is a question on cornell's SUPPLEMENTAL app. i did the supplemental app for last year and that was one of the questions for me as well (seems they haven't changed it much), along with 5 or so other short answer type essays. based on the other questions they asked, they are DEFINITELY looking for insight into you as a person...how you deal and cope with difficult circumstances, times your actions made a difference etc.
    so, that being said, for cornell's supplemental app, i definitely think you should write about overcoming your battle with anorexia.

    as some other posts have mentioned though, when it comes down to the VMCAS EXPLANATION statement, that is really more of an area for you to explain any deviations in your academic performance, if there is an explainable reason, which i think the OP understands.
     
  15. loo

    loo Always Sleepy
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    Agree with this and would add the following: Unless you can clearly weave in the why and how this relates to your application and ability to learn/practice (in school and after graduation), don't bother. You are not the same person you were 13-15 years ago. Who knows, some adcom might read it and think, "geez, if this person gets stressed, will they become anorexic"?

    Something to think about.
     
  16. alliecat44

    alliecat44 KSU CVM Class of '11
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    I would be shocked if any adcom member thought this. It seems like a pretty short-sighted viewpoint for them to have. After all, you weren't kept in a stress-free bubble for the past 13-15 years. :D (If you were, I'd love to know where I could get my hands on one!)

    As others have said, I believe you are a product of your past experiences. No, you are not "the same person" as you were back then--but who you were is a signficant part of you now. I know I would not be the "same" person had I not gone through my own difficult periods, and nor would anyone else. I think the level of determination and strength of character this shows would make a direct, excellent impact on your ability to deal with the rigors of veterinary school and practice.

    Look at it this way: if you wrote about something wimpy like, "oh, I got a C+ in this class so I took it again and got an A," and your interviewer found out about your anorexia (comment during interview or whatever)--he/she would much more likely think, "by god, why didn't you write about THAT?"

    Just my $0.02 (yet again). :)
     
    #16 alliecat44, Jun 23, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2008
  17. loo

    loo Always Sleepy
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    Hmmm. Do you think schizophrenics (compliant with medication) should mention it in their essay?

    My point is that you take a risk when you take private, personal health issues and make them public.

    If it is not compelling (i.e. all grades in that semester's classes--not just one--were affected by the health condition), it comes off (to adcoms) as an excuse.
     
    #17 loo, Jun 23, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2008
  18. Electrophile

    Electrophile Working Dog Doc
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    I think that's excellent, especially the part I emphasized in bold. That really shows not only personal growth, but passing on what you learned in a personal way to someone else. But only if you actually did do something like that, of course. Is there anything more recently that you've overcome? That would be an issue is that even though it was serious, there may be something more recent they'd be interested in hearing about.
     
  19. alliecat44

    alliecat44 KSU CVM Class of '11
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    I don't think anorexia is the same as schizophrenia. But there are plenty of schizophrenics who are doctors, veterinarians, lawyers, etc. Plenty of people who are/have been addicted to drugs that have kept their veterinary license.

    As far as compelling--why does it have to be related to grades to be compelling?
     
  20. loo

    loo Always Sleepy
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    They're both health conditions that can be medically treated. "Compelling" only refers to the health condition as the basis of receiving poor grades, not anything else. You can talk all day about your personal circumstances, but it doesn't mean squat if you don't make it past the first cut; hence, irrelevant to bring up in the first place... see Noledevil's response #3.

    I, personally, would not disclose private health information. You may be inclined to do so.

    I'll just agree to disagree.:)
     
    #20 loo, Jun 23, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2008
  21. alliecat44

    alliecat44 KSU CVM Class of '11
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    See the OP's post #5--this is a different essay than the "explanation statement" portion of the VMCAS. Hence, it is not necessary to talk about grades, only overcoming a difficult personal circumstance.

    :) Maybe that helps clarify.
     
  22. VAgirl

    VAgirl UC Davis SVM c/o 2012
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    VeganChick--it seems there are a range of opinions from us. So one theory could be that there might also be a range of opinions from adcom members, both positive and negative.
     
  23. NoleDevil

    NoleDevil Iowa State CVM c/o 2012
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    I still wouldn't talk about it. As I said before, there's no doubt in my mind that overcoming anorexia would make someone a stronger, more mature person. However, to me, it seems like a very personal matter that would be very uncomfortable to bring up in an essay just to say, "I had anorexia and overcame it." For me, that's different than mentioning something like how you recovered after you had a heart attack or after you lost your arm or something (I don't know if those were the best examples...). Things like anorexia, clinical depression, OCD, etc. are all very personal issues that I personally wouldn't mention in an essay, regardless that they made me a stronger person to overcome. I'm not sure if I'm being very clear, but hopefully my point got across!

    BTW- I think VAgirl has a good idea with getting feedback on what adcom members would think about writing about it.
     
  24. loo

    loo Always Sleepy
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    I see what you're saying.:D

    I was trying to clarify (or maybe quantify?) my statement if one were in the hypothetical situation of explaining poor performance.

    Since that is not the issue, I would say do what you feel comfortable with...but I would still be very hesitant to bring up health conditions unless you are very comfortable opening up your "private" life to strangers.

    No harm, no foul, eh?:love:

    To the OP: I wish you good luck with your essay(s) and application. :luck:
     
  25. VeganChick

    VeganChick Tufts University V'13
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    Wow, you have all given me so much to think about! (See, I knew there was a reason I posted the topic!) I'm not sure what I am going to do yet. I think it is hard - not just for me, for everyone - to find the right topic that strikes the balance between being truly difficult circumstances that one has overcome and writing about something that may be perceived as too trite.
     

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