Jump to content

Advice on disclosing ADHD in personal statement or not

Recommended Posts

I desperately need advice on whether or not to discuss my ADHD diagnosis in my personal statement. Here’s my situation (I apologize for the length)…


I was diagnosed with ADHD during my junior year of college. A period of sub-par grades (not terrible, but not at all representative of how hard I worked or how well I knew the material) is what pushed me to seek medical help. Sure enough, my grades improved dramatically as soon as I started taking medication, receiving extra time on tests, and developing more effective studying habits with the help of a counselor. I made the Dean’s list every quarter thereafter.  I can truly say that I have learned to thrive despite having ADHD. I only wish I had sought help sooner.


I am a reapplicant. I applied to a few schools last year but did not receive any interviews (though I did get put on the waitlist for interviews at two schools). This year, I now have ~2,200 patient care experience hours as a CNA, while I only had ~650 last year. I “retook” Human Physiology this past year at a different school and earned a 4.0 (I had taken mammalian physiology before the ADHD diagnosis and only earned a 2.9) and also took Medical Terminology, in which I also earned a 4.0.  In addition, I more than doubled my number of PA shadowing hours from last year to this year(~45 hours to ~105 hours).


Here are my stats from last year (I doubt the two 4.0’s raised my GPAs that much):


Double-degree - B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Psychology

Overall GPA: 3.34

GPA: 3.17

GRE: V – 158, Q – 156, W – 4.5


I asked for feedback from the schools who rejected me last year, and the biggest issue they mentioned was my low number of clinical experience hours. Some also mentioned my grades being on the lower end of the competitive range, but that increasing my patient care hours would help offset this for next cycle.


Going back and reading my last year’s essay, I realized it just really wasn’t that good (lots of fluff and big words without truly explaining my motivations for wanting to be a PA).  It should be noted that I DID discuss my ADHD in it last year.


This year, I wrote a completely new personal statement and am very proud of the piece I have come up with. I have had multiple peers, coworkers, and PAs (that I’ve shadowed) give me feedback on it during the drafting process. They all praised the final product. I chose to still disclose my ADHD in this year’s essay, but I did so much more concisely, while also explaining how it plays a huge part in why I want to go into medicine and how it has shaped my goals as a future PA.


I was planning in turning my application in tonight, but then my uncle who is an MD called me and strongly urged me to hold off. He said I needed to remove the part about ADHD as it is a red flag and automatic deal breaker for admission committees. (I am very frustrated he waited until an hour before he knew I was planning on turning in my app to share this concern with me, but that is a rant for another post).


I get where he’s coming from, but being surmounting my challenges with ADHD is a huge part of my story and has played a significant role in my personal growth, and I honesty don't know how I could answer the prompt without including it. While having to deal with ADHD was not an ideal experience, I am not ashamed by it. My gut tells me I should keep it in my essay, but at the same time I don’t want to be foolish and not consider my uncle’s advice.


Does anyone who has served on PA school admission committees or who has been in a similar situation have any advice on this? I would be willing to PM my essay to you if you felt like it would help you better understand my situation and the type of applicant I am.


Any insight offered would be SO appreciated. Thank you in advance!!

Edited by kamper
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

I'm in the same boat as you. I have an extremely rocky undergraduate career...cumulative GPA was 2.86 ish?  ...I could never focus on my studies. I was diagnosed with ADHD about a year after graduating college. I went to see someone when I noticed problems at work. I was also taking classes at the same time, but I never even considered ADHD as the cause for why I didn't study much outside of class then or during my undergraduate career.


Unfortunately, I don't think it is a good idea to disclose ADHD as the root cause of your academic problems. The admissions committee may think you are trying to blame your issues on a medical diagnosis, even if it is truly the reason why you struggled. They can't discriminate against you for having a medical condition, but they wouldn't need to disclose their reasons for rejecting you either. There are hundreds of other well qualified applicants vying for the same seat as you that don't have conditions that could potentially make them a liability. I interviewed this year and explained my undergraduate performance as due to a lack of focus (which was true) and difficulty developing effective study habits (also true). I think I was better off explaining the situation without disclosing ADHD.


Since being diagnosed I've re-taken a lot of courses and gotten A's....the upward trend will stand out. This might be a good idea if that is an option for you.


If the diagnosis is a big part of your life and your decision for pursuing a career as a healthcare provider, it will be tough to edit that out. The best advice I can give it to be genuine and do what you deep down feel is true to you. 

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think its how you frame it, not that it's included. If it looks like you just want to use it as an excuse for a round of bad grades, that will be a red flag. However if it is presented (and it sounds from your description like it is) in a more subtle manner and included as an example of overcoming an obstacle and further showing your dedication to the field I don't think it would be an issue. Most schools will say a bad bout of grades due to extenuating circumstances is something they do want to know, though I suspect a lot of people address this the wrong way or place too much emphasis on it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd agree with UgoLong. Leaving it general, and saying you have a medical condition that is now under control is a good way to go. I also have an ADHD diagnosis. And, as a woman, it seems to have a lot of misconceptions, even in the medical field. Many people just don't understand what it's like, unless they actually have it themselves. It's hard to know who I can talk to and who I can't.  I've wondered myself if I should talk about my diagnosis in my interview or not (fingers crossed...still waiting to hear). I've also wondered about talking to the disabilities office, if I get accepted, to see what kind of accomidations there might be. Have you looked into any of this?


Bottom line, go with your heart. I felt the way you explained it was really good.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Thank you guys for all of the feedback and encouragement. I ended up discussing my ADHD in my personal statement, and even included my unique/out of the box thinking style (that results from having ADHD) as "something I could contribute to my future class" in one of my supplemental application essays. 


I'm very excited to say that I have been accepted to both the University of Colorado and MEDEX Northwest :) If anyone is in a similar situation and wants advice or input, please, please feel free to direct message me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...
  • 1 year later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

Welcome to the Physician Assistant Forum! This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn More