Should You Write A Disadvantaged Essay?

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ADG 176: Should You Write A Disadvantaged Essay?

Session 176

This student needs to know – should they write a disadvantaged essay? How should they go about this context essay?

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[00:58] Question of the Day

Q: “I’m considering whether I should even consider doing a disadvantaged essay. I have never really thought of myself as disadvantaged. It’s hard to label myself that but I have analyzed my circumstances back when I was growing up and the schools I went to. And so I really feel like I am one.”

A: AAMC leaves the disadvantaged essay very vague in terms of what the criteria are. So mark yourself as disadvantaged. They give some general guidelines like whether you or your family has ever been on Medicaid or any sort of government welfare type system.

The one that most students kind of look at and fall back to is whether you’re from a medically underserved area, and those are very classically defined. You can search for your zip code to see if it’s a medically underserved area.

If you come from a low socio-economic status, or from immigrant parents, or you yourself are an immigrant, whatever your specific situation is, it doesn’t mean you have to have bad grades. It doesn’t mean you have to have this big trauma or pity story or anything else like that.

[03:25] A Context Essay

The way that I’ve been framing the disadvantaged essay lately is it’s a context essay. It gives context to everything else in your application. So you can have a 4.0 GPA and still mark yourself as disadvantaged.

Too many students will write a disadvantaged essay without really understanding what it means. So be clear about that. 

'Anyone can mark themselves as disadvantaged. The biggest question is, what was the disadvantage?' Click To Tweet

Think of it this way. How was your upbringing, education, experiences, or access to those experiences? How was that different than a “typical premed student?” Did you have to work and so you couldn’t do as much?

There are lots of questions to potentially ask around that to just put your life through that lens. And maybe if you don’t have the same resources, the same options, and availability of things to you as everyone else, then maybe mark yourself as disadvantaged. Give that context to the reader.

If a medical school is going to read that disadvantaged statement, and they’re not really buying it, that’s not going to be an issue. That will, almost always, not hurt your application. Ultimately, you have to give context around the rest of the application.

[07:11] Dig Deeper Into Your Story

Q: “I’m 32. I have so many career changes in my transcripts. And so, I feel like that would kind of explain why I feel like I never had any kind of guidance since high school. So I don’t know if that would be a good kind of a disadvantage. My parents are both immigrants.”

A: Having lots of career changes at 32 is normal for someone to take a while to figure out what they want to do.

'Just having immigrant parents doesn't equal disadvantage.'Click To Tweet

Just because your parents are immigrants doesn’t equal disadvantage. Just because you’re a first-generation college student doesn’t equal disadvantage. What specifically was it about your parents being immigrants or being a first-generation college student that equals disadvantaged in terms of applying to medical school?

It’s very common for first-generation medical students or immigrants to not see those people in power or authority who look like you or talk like you. And so, dig a little bit deeper in terms of how you’re seeing yourself as disadvantaged. What was it specifically? It’s not just because you’re a non-traditional student and you bounced around a bunch. Or that your parents are immigrants. You have to dig deeper.

At the end of the day, it has to be your truth and your story, and you have to be comfortable with it. And if you feel like you’re digging and it’s a little bit of a stretch, then maybe it’s not, and that’s okay, too.

This student also added that she went to her assigned advisor, and asked for a little bit of advice in my classes when she had just gotten started in her prereq courses two and a half years ago. She sat her down and told her she was good for pharmacy school. And so, she never went back. Good thing she found Application Academy to help her out on this journey.


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