Mention in app... or not?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Mention in app... or not?
By Saturnine05 (Saturnine05) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:41 pm: Edit

Before I begin, I just want to make sure that this thread stays on the topic of college admissions, and doesn't delve into my personal life.

Long story short: I've been depressed, so I see a psychiatrist. About 9 months into therapy (middle of second quarter of my junior year), my psychiatrist rapes me. I tell no one. The week after that, on my way to another therapy session, I start having flashbacks, and get into a car crash, where my car is totalled. I give up on school, on life, etc.. and my grades drop. For the second and third quarter, my grades are considerably lower than they always have been. Near the end of third quarter, my English teacher and one of my guidance counselors at school find out about the rape, and help me get a new (female) psychiatrist. So fourth quarter, my grades are pretty much back to normal.

My question: On college applications, when they ask about special circumstances.. should I try to explain why my grades dropped? On one hand, it would allow the college to see that the grade drop was caused by something traumatic (at least to me). On the other hand, revealing that I've seen psychiatrists will show the college that I have/have had mental health issues.

(Getting the guidance counselor to write a note about the situation is not an option, since he left the school at the end of last year.)

So should I explain the whole situation, mention the situation w/o the detail of the psychiatrist, or not mention anything at all???

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:52 pm: Edit

I am so sorry for the trauma you have endurred and I am glad that you have someone now to talk to who can help you.

I think you could mention your "circumstance" relating to the grade drop if this question is asked. I don't think you need to reveal details and in fact, do not even need to reveal it was with your therapist. Explaining that you suffered from a rape and how it affected your grades but you got help and have bounced back with your school work actually not only explains the grade drop but shows your fortitude since. Even though your guidance counselor has left, your new one will be writing a rec for you, as will other teachers. I would confide in the new GC that your grade drop was during a rape crisis (again, no need to go into detail) and that your former GC knew about it. Ask that this new one mention it in reference to your grades and how you have since gotten back on track and what that says about you as a student. Actually this is a positive spin on a tragic circumstance. I don't think the therapist aspect needs to even be brought up. You suffered a rape and that says enough. Actually at this point, the fact that you do see a therapist would be seen as a positive thing (though honestly any therapy is a positive thing). Talk to your GC or a trusted teacher about how they might mention this in a rec in reference to your grades and your improvement following a tragic serious circumstance. Again, what you have done since says a lot of good about you.

Good luck.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:53 pm: Edit

PS, I just reread your post and see that the English teacher knew about this and helped you at the time. Perhaps that person can write a letter on your behalf.


By Saturnine05 (Saturnine05) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 12:15 am: Edit

Soozievt - Thank you so much for your help. I might try to get a rec from that English teacher, but it's been really hard for me to be around him (because he knows about the situation).

Also, if I am able to get a teacher or guidance counselor to comment on the situation, would it be appropriate for me to require them not to mention the psychiatrist? I don't want to put anyone in the position of feeling as if he/she is 'lying by omission', but I also want to make sure that the colleges don't find out about my mental health issues.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 12:49 am: Edit

If you have the new GC mention it, even HE does not have to know who raped you or the specific circumstances. You can mention that you went through this traumatic event of a rape, that your previous GC knew about and that is when the grades dropped but once you got help, you were able to rise up and bring your grades back in line. If you feel uncomfortable mentioning this face to face, here is another idea:

My girls, when giving their GC and their teachers (and others) requests and forms for the recs, they wrote a cover letter to that person, individualizing the letter to fit the circumstance. In it, they talked about some things in the past they wanted to remind the person about and also mentioned various things about themselves that they hoped the writer would help support in their letter. In fact, my younger child just wrote and submitted these letters to all the people writing on her behalf. So, not only could YOU do that, but with the new GC, you could talk about how he/she does not know you but you wanted to bring up some things to help him write on your behalf and then AMONG many of the qualities you hope to "sell" about yourself, write a little bit about that you want him/her to know that the drop in grades during junior year were during a very traumatic time in your life when you were dealing with a rape by an adult, for which you eventually got help and support but that that was not right away. Talk about the positives and how you were able to perservere and recover and bring those grades back in line and are now on an upward trend to where you normally would be. Let him know that your previous GC was aware of this and perhaps this one might be able to mention this in his report to colleges, while not dwelling on it but also bringing out the positive way you have shown fortitude in light of a serious setback in your life. That way you are not having a conversation about it, if it feels uncomfortable for you with this person who hardly knows you, but you have given the basic information necessary. There is no point or need to have to mention who it was that violated you or any details. The traumatic event is enough, and anyone would know that it would greatly affect any young woman and then the issue is to simply show that was the only reason for the grade drop and how you have since brought your life and work back to a more "normal" level for yourself. So, this would be part of a cover letter you really should write to the GC and again, be among many other points about yourself that you hope he/she will support in his/her narrative. That way, I don't think you need to also write about this for college. I mean IF you want to discuss a setback in your life, go ahead, but it is not necessary. It would be good, however, for the GC to speak on your behalf over a very very legitimate reason for a drop in grades and again, turn this into a positive in that you came back by the end of the year and are now working hard at school, etc.

Good luck. Schools do not need to find out about your mental health issues. Again, no need to have to share the details. I don't see this as omission or dishonesty at all. Does it matter (in a school report) who raped you? For YOU, it most certainly does but for the purposes of this GC report, it certainly does not. Rape is a traumatic event and a valid reason for affecting a student's performance (and much else emotionally). The details of the circumstances are not necessary to make that point. So, when you mention it in your cover letter to the GC, just tell it like I did above, without the details which at this point, are a private matter that need not be shared.

Good luck.


By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 01:29 am: Edit

I sincerely hope you or the new female psychiatrist have reported this rape. As you are under age, this therapist can be thrown in jail. At least, he will lose his license. Therapists are bound by ethics to do no harm, and yours certainly did. Be proactive, realize its not your fault. Once involved in the legal aspect, i see no problem stating that you sought therapy for family/adolescent issues, and were harmed in the experience.
please keep us posted

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 01:34 am: Edit

Bookworm, I sure do hope that the therapist lost his license! I don't want to pry but I do agree that this should have been reported.


By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 06:11 am: Edit

I agree with those who hope that the psychiatrist was reported. I truly am sorry for how that person who should have been helping you horribly betrayed you. I am glad that you have been able to find help with another therapist.

My suggestion would be for you or your new guidance counselor to write that you had been "viciously physically assaulted" and as a result had post tramautic stress disorder, which caused the grade drop. With treatment, you have bounced back.

"Assault," while true, doesn't give as much personal information as does "rape". Noticing how you have wished to avoid the English teacher who knows about your rape, I don't want you to feel the same way about adcoms, whom I'm guessing that at the small colleges you're applying to, might cross your path once you're a student there.

While the adcoms know that the treatment for post traumatic stress is mental health treatment, I think that they are likely to view it as an understandable problem that's now resolved. I agree, too, with the other poster who said that your grade improvement after coping with such misfortune is a sign of your resiliancy and strength.

I am familiar with some of the colleges on your list, and think your chances of getting some acceptances are good. Warm wishes to you as you go through the college process.

By Saturnine05 (Saturnine05) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 03:51 pm: Edit

Sooziet - Thank you for the continued help. I actually talked to my new guidance counselor today about this issue, and he said that he (and the rest of the school staff) was unauthorized to reveal anything about my personal life on college app recs, whether it be a rape, or a death in the family. I will still try to mention the grade drop & recovery in my cover letter to my GC, but I'm not sure how much weight this will hold if my GC refuses to mention anything about the cause of the grade drop.

Bookworm: I appreciate your concern for both me and the psychiatrist's other patients, but I'd like this post to stay on the topic of college admissions. [[[But just so you know, the incident was reported by my old GC (against my will). Ever since then, I've been trying to drop the situation and get on with my life... only a year til I'm away at college, far away from this town and all of the memories in it.]]]

Northstarmom: DO you think that this could be PTSD? I guess it does fit. Also, you bring up a very good point that I hadn't thought about before: I WOULD be very uncomfortable running into an adcom that knows that I was raped. I'm just afraid that "visciously physically assaulted" might be deemed misleading, and could jeopardize my chances of admission if the incident doesn't fit the adcom's criteria of "viscious assault".

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 04:37 pm: Edit

A rape is a vicious physical assault. You would not be lying.

It is not at all unusual for people who are raped to get PTSD. If you ask your therapist about this or look on-line for info about rape and PTSD, you will find info about this.

I do not understand why your school claims not to be able to release info about students' personal life. That doesn't make sense. It seems that at the very least, there should be some way that you could give written permission for them to release such information.

It is very normal for GCs to be able to include info in college applications that mentions if a trauma, illness, etc. may have affected a student's grades. Doing this is considered part of GC's jobs.

By Mini (Mini) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 05:30 pm: Edit

Sigh. To me, it sounds like the GC is victimizing you a second time. It is indeed not only normal, but expected that a GC write about conditions that affect a student's performance. In fact, on almost of the GC forms I have seen, the colleges explicitly ask for it.

As to mentioning or characterizing the event, or who was responsible, there is no legal shield, and I can't imagine that there is an ethical one, for criminal activity.

Do you have a religious advisor? Minister? Rabbi? etc.? If the GC doesn't budge (or, you don't feel you can trust him/her wholly), I think it would be entirely within permissible bounds for such a person to write a letter for you to accompany your application, setting forth the details as boldly or not as you feel comfortable, and attesting to how you've bounced back. (As one who within my own tradition might be called upon in such a situation, I would feel a strong responsibility to do just that.)

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 05:45 pm: Edit


I am very sorry that you went through such a very harrowing experience and that the GC is not being more helpful. It appears to me that the GC is concerned about FERPA. I am not an expert on this law, but there must be a way to mention that you went through a traumatic experience that affected your performance but that you have pulled through. Your excellent SATs show that. If your GC is unwilling to write such a letter, can the English teacher do so? After all, that teacher has known you longer and perhaps can write a more personal letter. And if the teacher is also unwilling, a letter from an outside person would be in order, as Mini suggested.
Under "personal circumstances" you could mention that you went through a difficult experience that briefly affected your academic performance but that you have since put it behind you.
Please also find a sympathetic person to confide in and talk it out. And never ever feel ashamed for being the victim of an unscrupulous adult.
I don't know what your GPA is, but your SAT scores would put you in the running at the colleges you list in your profile. Give yourself the best chance you can.

By Saturnine05 (Saturnine05) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 05:56 pm: Edit

Northstarmom: Thanks for the info. After reading this boards, I too find it odd that my guidance counselor refuses to write about this issue, especially when it had a visible effect on my grades + transcript. I'll ask my GC whether it is possible for him to release that info with my written permission. If he still refuses, I'll try to find another GC at my school who is willing to mention the incident.

Mini: Thank you for your advice. Yes, I do have a pastor.. but he doesn't know about the situation. And, unfortunately, he's leaving our church next week, so I wouldn't be able to introduce the situation to him and get him to write a letter. Right now, my only hope is to get the GC to budge.. or to try and use another of my school's GCs.

By Saturnine05 (Saturnine05) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 06:08 pm: Edit

Marite: Thank you for commenting. I've never heard of FERPA, but I'll definitely look into it. Hopefully there IS a way where the GC can write about the situation. The English teacher is a possibility.. but one that I am hesitant to use (it is hard for me to be around him because he knows so much about the situation). As for the GPA/class rank, it is 3.93(W)/ 16/447. (Both the GPA & rank were considerably higher before the incident).

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 06:40 pm: Edit

FERPA is the act that is supposed to protect the privacy of students, but it can be interpreted in a very narrow way. One case I remember involved putting students'work on the classroom wall. Some parents objected that their child's work would be scrutinized by others and the child's privacy would be invaded (I can't remember the outcome of that case).
The fact is that colleges do ask for information that can put a student's performance into context. Anything that can help your case should be brought up. Although your rank and GPA have slipped, they are still quite impressive, in particular your rank. If you are uncomfortable around the English teacher, is it okay to ask him to just make a vague mention of the problem, without going into specifics. For example, the letter could focus more on the car accident than on the rape. More important, the rec should mention the positives: that after two quarters in which your grades dropped, you pulled them back up again, and you are on track to graduate with flying colors.

Good luck!

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 10:32 pm: Edit

Saturnine, everyone's advice posted above this afternoon for you is very good advice! I also do not understand the GC's unwillingness to divulge the essence of your circumstances given the context that colleges DO want to know of any extenuating circumstances that might help them to evaluate or put into context your academic record. Now, I know schools normally (not talking college admissions) do not reveal personal information. But I would think if you gave written permission that this information could be used on his report, it would be ok. Again, I do not think the details are important. As I said before there is no need to even mention it was your therapist. If you do not wish to use the word "rape", it could be stated that you were the victim of a criminal assault, as well as had a serious accident soon after, which affected your performance which is otherwise stellar. Again, the emphasis should be on how you have recovered and come back to perform as before and have risen up to a very high level with no academic problems since this incident. If need be, your parents can put in writing permission to divulge such a statement.

Also if you feel uncomfortable approaching the English teacher, it is a lot easier often just to put this all in your cover letter that asks for a recommendation. That way it is not face to face over what is an uncomfortable issue for you. Your idea of asking a GC who has been in the building a longer while is a good idea. In fact, if you have any idea of how to contact your old GC who helped you at the time, you can ask his advice as to how to go about it or who in the building to ask to write this for you. If he is willing, he could get on the phone or write an e mail to your rec writer, or current GC and explain what needs to be done (I am assuming that your original GC would have been willing to have written on your behalf to colleges on this matter, if he had stayed at your school, since he was the one who sought help for you at the time).

Please give some of these ideas a try and get back to us. I am proud of you that you approached the GC today and tried that first. Go back to him about the written permission to divulge this issue. Put this in writing in a manner along the lines I gave, in your cover letter asking for him to write your report for admissions. That way it is clear the level of "detail" or lack of it, that you are looking for, plus the emphasis on your upward trend every since and your fortitude will be given.

I don't know your mom and dad's level of support but they might want to speak to someone at the school such as your GC about explaining the context of your grades in the school's report.

Good luck.


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