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I am currently a university student applying to companies for internships. In my first two years at university, I was experiencing symptoms of an autoimmune disorder that went misdiagnosed as something completely different (I was receiving incorrect treatment). I feel like I could have been one of the top students in my class, but the pain and discomfort really held me back. Despite that, I did reasonably well in my first two years (85% average).

I am currently in third year and after receiving the correct diagnosis and treatment recently, I feel much better at school. I'm confident I can do a lot better now, but there won't be any numbers to prove it until I finish the fall semester. I am tempted to tell companies about this situation on my cover letter to indicate that my value is higher than what my grades indicate now that I'm healthy, and that I was able to do well despite the setbacks. However, at the same time I am worried some companies might see a chronic disorder as a negative thing.

Is it a bad idea to share this on my cover letter?

  • They will see it as a negative thing. Don't lie, but don't volunteer the info. – Jenny D Sep 19 '14 at 8:01
  • @RaduMurzea companies care about your grades (overall GPA anyway) when applying for your first position out of university. There are a number of companies which won't even grant an interview unless your GPA is above a certain level. – alroc Sep 19 '14 at 12:56
  • @alroc It's the worst criteria possible. If you, as a company, have no better way to filter out applicants, then this should be a deal-breaker for anyone because you'll be flooded with a lot of bureaucratic crap when working there... I'm just saying judging an applicants by his GPA is like judging a person by his bank account. It's just not decent... and frankly, a bit stupid... – Radu Murzea Sep 19 '14 at 14:26
  • @RaduMurzea I don't disagree with you (and have anecdotal evidence to back it up), but the truth of the matter is that companies do do this. Many get flooded with so many applicants that they need to apply some sort of quick filter to reduce the number of people they need to sift through. Otherwise, how do you (properly) perform even the most basic of interviews for 200 candidates in the span of 2-3 days, with a team of 5 interviewers? – alroc Sep 19 '14 at 14:58
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I am tempted to tell companies about this situation on my cover letter to indicate that my value is higher than what my grades indicate now that I'm healthy, and that I was able to do well despite the setbacks. However, at the same time I am worried some companies might see a chronic disorder as a negative thing.

Is it a bad idea to share this on my cover letter?

Are you imagining writing something like "If I hadn't been sick, I would have done better"? I can't see how that would work to your benefit. It's speculation at best, and pleading at worst.

And in a cover letter, you only want to accentuate the positive. You never want to draw attention to (potential) negatives.

Instead, just finish up with great grades.

If, during an interview you are ever asked how your grades improved so dramatically, you'll have a great story to tell. You can express how you overcame adversity to become a great student. You can talk about the fact that you have a chronic disorder, but that it no longer interferes at all with your ability to excel.

  • Great answer! +1 for the "You can express how you overcame adversity to become a great student" – Cary Bondoc Sep 20 '14 at 1:58
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Abstain from telling it till asked for.If you are asked to fill a form and it asks you to mention any medical condition then you fill it, as not mentioning it there will mean withholding information. Do not mention it proactively on your resume or during interactions.

Answered based upon the assumption that the condition does not render you unproductive for prolonged period frequently.

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Quick Answer: Yes, avoid from mentioning your disorder until they ask you questions that are related to your health.

Explanation: Every time you apply for a job / internship your goal should be to sell yourself and land for a position you desired. Saying that you have a disorder early during your interview can make your interviewer turn off.

Never say I feel like I could have been one of the top students in my class, but the pain and discomfort really held me back. because that can make them think that you are just excusing yourself and you are just reasoning.

Also, since your disorder is not infectious and you are now under the correct treatment which will not make you unproductive I see no point in telling it during your interview.

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Typically the cover letter is used to highlight your skills,passion and qualification to state you would be the best person for the job. It would not be appropriate to mention reasons for a set back in it as it would not do any help in getting you an interview with the company. Try highlighting the positive traits that would be more constructive towards getting you the interview.

Like Amar mentioned you could mention it in the application form or when asked in person during the interview regarding a set back. You could project your confidence and determination to push through the hurdles that you faced during your interview phase

I understand what you are going through. But I wish that your medical condition does not stop you from where you are heading to. Wish a quick recovery. Hope this is helpful.

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