A Different Way to Think About the Disadvantaged Essay

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PMY 469: A Different Way to Think About the Disadvantaged Essay

Session 469

This week, find out why the disadvantaged essay should really be called the context essay and what you should be thinking about when writing it.

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[01:25] A Context Essay

Our session today was prompted by a conversation that I had with a student for Mission Accepted recording. I was reviewing her application and reviewing her disadvantaged essay.

Many students have a lot of concerns when it comes to the disadvantaged essay. They have so many questions like whether they qualify as disadvantaged. Whether they’re as disadvantaged as other people or if their disadvantages are worthy of marking themselves as disadvantaged on the application. And if they write about their disadvantaged status they’re worried people are going to pity them. These are all common concerns that I hear day in and day out from students just like yourself.

I reframed the disadvantaged essay as the context essay, which resonated with both her and me. The disadvantaged essay is for context. Who are you? What obstacles have you had to overcome? To be where you are at?

'The disadvantage essay on the AMCAS application is a context essay.'Click To Tweet

The same thing could potentially be said for the optional essay on TMDSAS, where they ask you if there’s anything else you want to talk about.

[03:43] What Makes You Disadvantaged

Now, you don’t have to have bad grades or a bad MCAT score to be disadvantaged. But you have had to overcome something in your life to mark yourself as disadvantaged, whatever that may be.

That barrier that line is going to be different for everyone. Having two butlers while all of your neighbors have four butlers is not a disadvantage. We have to draw the line somewhere. And just because you got a 4.0 doesn’t mean you were not disadvantaged.

'Just because you got a 4.0 doesn't mean you're not disadvantaged and just because you get a 3.0, doesn't mean you are disadvantaged.'Click To Tweet

I had a student a couple of years ago who was an immigrant to this country. He came to this country with just his younger sister. They lived in hotels and had to figure out what credit cards were. They had to figure out what credit was to be able to get a rental apartment. They had to figure all of this out while going to school and taking care of his sister while she was in high school and he’s going off to college. And so, he had to figure all this out.

On top of that, he was a 4.0 student. He figured out how to be a great student, and to be a “parent” for his sister in a new country with a new culture, and a new language, and everything else. That is an example of a disadvantage.

[05:38] Why It’s a Context Essay

The disadvantaged essay is for context. And so, when I’m reading Sally’s application, and I see that she has a 3.8 GPA and a 505 MCAT score and she marked herself as disadvantaged on the AMCAS application. Then I’m going to go read that essay and see what I can find out about Sally. That gives me context into everything else that I’m going to see in the application. It offers the reader a different lens to view your application. 

As you’re thinking about writing your application coming up here in 2022, or beyond, and you’re thinking about marking yourself as disadvantaged, think about it as a context essay. How can you give the reader context into things that you’ve been through as a child, as an adult, as a student, that frames everything in your application, whether good or bad?

'It offers a lens to look through to read your application and view it in a different light.'Click To Tweet

If they see that you’re a very successful student, in spite of all the obstacles, that is pretty amazing. If they see you’re a mediocre student, but maybe with a good upward trend while you have all these obstacles, great.


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