Help with adversity essay topic?

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Which topic would make the best essay?

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5+ Year Member
Aug 7, 2017
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Hi all,

First, please don't quote any more than you need to. This is all kind of personal, so I'd like to be able to go back and edit/remove what people see if for whatever reason I feel it's necessary (although I've made sure not to include anything that I couldn't live with if a troll decided to quote it).

I'm starting to prewrite my secondaries, and I've got to the adversity question. I've lived a pretty sheltered life overall, but I have had a couple experiences of varying adversity that I could expound upon a little in this essay. I was hoping to get some advice on which option may be the most compelling. Fair warning, there's a lot of text ahead.

Option 1
We moved halfway across the country when I was in middle school; this led to a lot of fighting between parents and some scary situations as a kid. It definitely made starting a new school harder, and it even affected my academics initially (not having a "safe" area to work on assignments or study). I basically coped by spending more time with my brothers and burying myself in music and other random interests. This is the most "legitimate" adversity, but I probably am not completely over it and the thought of talking about it in med school apps or on interviews makes me really uncomfortable. I also haven't really thought about what I've learned from it (except for generic stuff like you never know what someone's going through, to be forgiving).

Option 2
Before moving, we lived very close to my Spanish (from Spain) grandparents. Growing up, they were a huge influence on me – language, history, music, food, games, general life outlook, you name it. Moving away and the subsequent loss of my grandfather led to an identity crisis of sorts, where I had to figure out what it meant to be a non-Latino Spanish-speaker and where I fit in with everyone else (i.e., I'm not Latino, but I barely knew any white Hispanics growing up and didn't really have a Spanish-speaking community) without having that familial bulwark for my sense of self. I eventually figured it out (through introspection and talking to various mentors), that I can still be a part of the greater Hispanic community and contribute that way, but that when it comes to Latino issues specifically, my role is much more listening and supporting than it is speaking, and maybe even using my status as a white person to help amplify those messages that need it. This is heavily reflected in my med school app (I've done a lot of work with the local Spanish-speaking population, both clinically and in volunteering), and I feel fine discussing this topic at length. That said, I'm a blond-haired blue-eyed midwestern guy (and my last name is technically Catalan, so it's not obviously Spanish but is obviously non-Anglo/German/etc), so most people from the US wouldn't assume that I speak Spanish at all, and I worry adcoms may see this prompt as trying to oversell diversity(?). I'm also afraid this isn't "adversity" enough.

Option 3
My freshman year, I was always getting sick in my dorm room (made going to class and labs tough, but didn't affect my grades). The next year, they had to shut down the room when they tested it for mold and the levels were too high for safe inhabitation. During my freshman year, I basically had to find study spots not in my room on campus, and had to really watch my time management to get everything done. This honestly feels like trying to stretch the "adversity" bit a little too much to me, though.

Option 4
At one point, one of my college friends who I knew from high school got dangerously intoxicated after coming back from a party, and I had to make the call to call 911 for her (even though it could have had serious repercussions for her academically). I wouldn't use this for adversity, but more for a tough moral situation.

I'd especially be interested in SDN adcom advice (@LizzyM @Goro @gonnif @gyngyn).

Thanks to everyone who made it this far!

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The key in the adversity essay is not to portray a dramatic scene or to show that you had it worse than other people. Rather, it is to show that you learned from the incident and had the character to deal with it successfully. For example, if you were forced to become a fish out of water, you can describe how you summoned the resources to overcome the initial shock, what you learned, and how it ultimately made you a better person/medical school candidate.
Read the prompt. Every school is different. Some want you to focus on how you dealt with a situation, others want more about the situation itself. This can't be a one size fits all.
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