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Thread: Grad School Application--How Much to Disclose?

  1. #1

    Grad School Application--How Much to Disclose?

    I applied to a graduate program and the one thing I have left to do is write what the school calls an "intellectual biography." I guess it would be similar to a statement of interest or intent that other schools ask for.

    My question is should I include anything about my disability in this piece of writing? I realize that they can't deny my application because I am disabled. And I have already been in touch with the school's disability services office and they have already said they can provide me with the accomodations I need. So that's not a problem.

    But the reason I ask is I am not sure how to write this. The things I need to address in this biography are standard such reasons for applying to this program, what you want to achieve with the program, what skills, resources, and experience you bring to the program. The main reason I am applying to this program is I need something flexible and this is pretty much as flexible a grad program as there is. Really for now it would be my only option for school. I think I need to stress this somehow without it sounding like "I am only applying here because no other program will work for me." Of course the flexibility is not the only reason I am applying. But its the main reason.

    So what do you think? Should I mention my disability as it relates to needing some of the specific things this program offers that other programs might not have. Or at least they don't have all of them (option for online or classroom courses, flexibility to design my own program, no time limit on completing the degree, opportunity to take classes at other schools and transfer the credit, ability to take leave from the program without penalty or needing to reapply). Or do I just not mention it?

    I honestly don't know what to do.
    Last edited by orangejello; 02-17-2008 at 02:39 AM.

  2. #2
    It might work to your advantage b/c it shows your perseverence, determination, etc. Also, schools like diversity

  3. #3
    Given that what they are asking for is an "intellectual biography" and not an essay on why you want to go to this school, I would only mention your disability in the context of life experiences that have helped you grow as a person, become more reflective, or focused you on seeking more education and intellectual fulfillment. Your disability certainly could have had major impact on these aspects of your life.

    Why you are selecting that particular college should only be mentioned in light of how the major or courses they offer would meet your career goals. I would avoid writing anything about how it just meets your schedule or convenience needs as that might actually back-fire on you.


  4. #4
    Last edited by orangejello; 02-17-2008 at 09:56 PM.

  5. #5
    Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.

    Actually they are asking for an essay I want to attend this school/program. They are just calling it an "intellectual biography" for some bizarre reason.

    I guess I might not have worded my question very well in the first post. There are 2 streams for a master's degree at this school, a more traditional route that pretty rigid in its requirements and an "integrated" route that is far more flexible and open in terms of what you can do and how you can complete the course work. They both end in the same place, just have different ways to get there.

    Regardless of which stream I was enrolled in, the school can/will provide me with disability-related accomodations. But I really need into the "integrated program" because even with accomodations, I don't think I will be able do the traditional program, at least not in the foreseeable future.

    My need for flexibility is of course not the only reason I want to do the integrated program. But I guess my problem with the essay was in deciding how much to stress that I really need the flexibility of the integrated program because, due to my disability, the traditional program is not an option at this time. So it's like should I mention the disability at all? Or do I just make a general statement that I like the flexible program structure and leave out any reference to my disability?

    I know this post is muddled. This is my first time dealing with disclosing my disability in a situation like this and I just am not sure how to deal with. Just feeling a little confused and unsure.

  6. #6
    How has this disability, or different abilities, educated you? You know how to deal with caregivers, schedules for getting cares and life complete and more life skills.

    You may use your disability if you want, but show what you have learned from it and how it qualifies you further.
    C2/3 quad since February 20, 1985.

  7. #7
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Windsor ON Canada
    I know our situations are different but I had to complete some essay-like questions to get in as a mature student to University of Waterloo.

    I did mention my disability, because I remember visiting universities and colleges back in high school and running into a severe access problem. I stressed that online course offerings were perfect for someone in my situation, rather than fighting for wheelchair parking in a snowy parking lot at the University of Windsor (who don't offer as many course offerings online as Waterloo does).

    That was only a small part of the reason I didn't continue my education after high school. The biggest reason was financial (I stressed that in my questions that I had the money but no time now since I was working full time shift work).

    I imagine there's others who require the flexibility of the progam you're after because of family commitments (lots of those in my online program), working hours and probably medical reasons for others too.
    Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Since they are asking why you want them, I would mention your disability, and briefly why the flexible program is such a good match for you. I wouldn’t say that it is the only reason you are going there or anything (lol). Just something about it being the best match for you, and will be one less obstacle in your path.

    Perhaps like trainman said, mention your disability in the context of how it has taught you things/made you grow. You have learned patience, perseverance, that you sometimes have to look for another way to accomplish things, (another perspective, thinking out of the box) not afraid to approach obstacles and over come them ….. (I am just rambling here)

    Anyway. My thoughts aren’t terribly coherent tonight, I am glad I am not writing that essay! I will post them anyway, perhaps they will give you some ideas. But yes, I would mention it. It can really only put a positive light on you. Just don’t make a big deal about it. You don’t want a “You have to take me because I have a disability” any more than you want a “I want to go here because you are the only place that is flexible”.

    Good luck with this.
    T7-8 since Feb 2005

  9. #9
    Thanks everybody. Still really struggling with trying to get it written but the comments here and elsewhere have been a big help.

    Lynnifer I have heard Waterloo's distance program is top notch. I know several people who have enrolled there. I am glad you are enjoying your course so much. I am really looking forward to school again and having something different to focus on. And learning cool new stuff is always fun.

    First I have to get this damn essay written though.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2004
    My opinion, I have a Masters degree too, is they could give to shits about your disability. They want a biography of what you know/can do mentally, NOT what you can do physically.

    If, your disability lends something to your intellect, then mention it. But, I'd not try to work it in just because.

    Good luck, you truely can never go wrong with school.

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