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Revealing Personal Problems in a College Application

College/Career Expert Advice from Carol Carter

Q: I am a 22-year-old recovering alcoholic with 3 years of continuous sobriety. In the last year I made a decision to go back to school at the local community college. Next fall, I'll be transferring to a 4-year school. Most of the schools I have chosen are fairly prestigious. Due to my past problem, my grades in high school were very dismal. I have an I.Q. of 142 and am excelling at the college level. Should I be open with the universities about my past in my personal essay?

A: Absolutely. Colleges value people who are real and who work hard to overcome their challenges. You are a success story in the dedicated way that you have fought your addiction. Level with the admissions officers and write about your journey in your essay. You are someone who can meet challenges in life head-on. That shows maturity and resilience that is uncommon among incoming freshmen. I am very proud of your courage and your commitment to yourself and your future.

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Carol Carter is the author of many books on college and career planning. She is the cofounder of Lifeskills, Inc., a nonprofit organization that encourages high-school students to explore their goals, career options, and the real world through part-time work and internships. She also gives workshops around the country on career exploration and other issues directly related to helping students succeed in college, career, and life.


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