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Is Marking DISADVANTAGED just setting yourself up for terrible interview experience?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Doc.Holliday, Dec 6, 2005.

  1. Doc.Holliday

    Doc.Holliday Senior Member
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    I'm applying this coming year, and I've long deliberated whether marking myself as "disadvantaged" is in my best interest. To keep the thread on topic, just take it as a fact that i qualify.

    With all the interview horror stories and the scary approaches many interviewers take to weed through applicants, it seems that marking oneself as disadvantaged is asking to be grilled, and grilled about personal information at that. If i choose to do so, i will of course be prepared to explain my situation to interviewers if need be, but i dont really think id enjoy it being the center of my interviews.

    Has anyone gone through or are going through or at least know someone who has gone through this process as a disadvantaged applicant?
     
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  3. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    While I'm sure they don't hold disadvantaged status against you, if it's in your application, it certainly may come up.
     
  4. Hausdaddy24

    Hausdaddy24 Im that man fromNantucket
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    i don't know if anyone i know is applying disadvantaged but intuitively it seems like it should be an advantage to you. They have to have the disadvantaged box on the app for some reason and I seriously doubt that it's to discriminate against you. They may ask you a bunch of questions about it just to make sure that you really are disadvantaged and not just trying to take advantage of the system. I think this can only strengthen your app but if you really dont feel comfortable talking about it don't mention it. Good luck either way
     
  5. pdiddy348

    pdiddy348 Senior Member
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  6. baylormed

    baylormed On the Search
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    Are you kidding me? Use it to your advantage (disadvantaged=advantaged, lol). If they ask you to explain it, say how you have succeeded not because of it, but in spite of it. If you have worked 10 times harder than other people I think there's nothing wrong with saying so. This can help you prove that you are a hard worker and that you will be successful when other obstacles come your way!
     
  7. Ashanti Rock

    Ashanti Rock Senior Member
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    I also contemplated whether to mark this or not. For me, it is such a part of who I am that I could not get around it. I've had two interviews so far, and only one out of five interviewers has brought it up. Even then, it has not been condescending, rather how did you survive and succeed with all that history. I have 5 more interviews coming up so I guess I'll see if it comes up again. I heard that UWISC counts it against you if your parents do not have a college degree, but I 've got an interview coming up there, so it must not count that much. Long story short, if you feel it describes you then go ahaed and claim it, just know that your interviewers can bring it up. G'luck!
     
  8. Doctor Bagel

    Doctor Bagel so cheap and juicy
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    as long as you're comfortable with answering probing questions about why you're disadvantaged, i'd go for it. yeah, they're gonna ask you about it probably to make sure you're not lying or exaggerating. however, as long as you're telling the truth that shouldn't be an issue.
     
  9. Elastase

    Elastase StanfUrd bound!!!
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    Being marked disadvantaged does help your application. However, you have to really understand that experience of being disadvantaged. They will ask you questions about it. Not directly, but things like tell me about your family...For example, for the "tell me about yourself", if you are disadvantaged, you will know that you have a lot to talk about knowing disparity (health and other). If you think you are disadvantaged (i.e. english second language, single parent family, poor, always worked, etc.) then make sure you put it down on your AMCAS!
     
  10. pdiddy348

    pdiddy348 Senior Member
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  11. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    When I went through interviewer training we were told not to ask any questions related to age, race, ethnicity, religion, sex/gender, pregnancy, etc. I'd expect that disadvantaged status would be another topic that interviewers would steer around although I could be wrong.

    Mostly interviewers should be interested in your motivation for choosing medicine as a career, your ability to do the work (thus the questions about anything on your appie that might be a red flag), and your ECs (because interviewers by nature have to be curioius people who want to learn more about all kinds of things and this might be the only chance to ever talk to someone who was both a peanut vendor at Shea Stadium and a deckhand on a oil tanker). Because most interviewers are scientists and/or clinicians, they are often interested in the latest research coming out of other labs, hence that conversation. Finally, they may want to gauge how interested you are in their school and do what they can (if they are impressed by you) to tell you why you should want to come to their school.

    I think that you are more apt to get a question along the lines of "given your high gpa and the fact that you are a philosophy major, how to explain what happened on the verbal section? A 33 is great but the 8 in Verbal must have been a shock, no?" Now, that might or might not be the place to mention that you grew up in a house without any books and didn't learn to read until some kind college student began tutoring you when you were in the fourth grade. The ball is in your court if you want to bring it up but I don't see an interviewer wanting to go there.
     
  12. Doc.Holliday

    Doc.Holliday Senior Member
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    its a part of me too, and as its dictated so much of my college career, i cant help but mention things. Im not against talking about my experiences, i'm quite willing, and without them they would certainly not have the entire picture. Im certainly worried about them being condescending, but im also exceptionally worried that they will associate me too much with weakness etc of my parents and family. Disadvantaged status isnt an obvious classification like URM etc, and as it is supposed to give some sort of an advantage (or at least put the application in better perspective) im worried about being met with a lot of distrusting and accusatory interviewers (what makes you think youre disadvantaged you caucasian little prick? there are people dying of starvation all over the world!).

    Counting it against you for parents not having a college degree? thats terrible! my dad has a degree, an mba even, but hes filed for bankruptcy 3 times in my life, so i think that negates any education hes had, at least in my book.

    thanks for your post, and keep me updated!
     
  13. Ashanti Rock

    Ashanti Rock Senior Member
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    I know that there are certain criteria that AMCAS lists on the application, but I'm sure that the list is not all inclusive. Feel free to PM me if you want to talk more about this. Honestly. if you feel you qualify, and have just reasons to beleive so, then no interviewer has a right to deny you that. People that try to fake it is a whole 'nother story. Anyways.... good luck with everything!
     
  14. sanford_w/o_son

    sanford_w/o_son locl jnky-gota thred man?
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    i don't get this. why would u wisc count it against an applicant that their parents didn't get a college degree?
     
  15. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    As I posted on another thread, there is considerable humility and angst in the adcom office during admission season -- from the adcom & interviewers. Some of the adcom members I've met have great respect for "bootstraps" -- appliants who have improved their lot in life through their own efforts. The adcom members were once applicants, many have kids and they know how lucky/blessed that they and their kids have the opportunities they've had. Then they look at the application of someone who has helped support the family from an early age, who has worked more than one job, who had parents who were not in a position to give their kid every advantage (i.e. it is much easier to shadow or work in a lab when dad or mom calls a collegaue, friend or neighbor and helps you make it happen) with tremendous admiration and respect.

    That said, as much as adcom members that I know want to give every benefit of the doubt to an applicant who is "disadvantaged" there is a point where they do ask if the applicant is strong enough to make the most of the opportunity. A slightly poorer than average application is forgiveable but the adcom won't mentally add 9 points to the MCAT and 0.8 to the GPA to make up for the hardship.
     
  16. Doc.Holliday

    Doc.Holliday Senior Member
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    thanks everyone. as im now leaning towards marking myself so, i come to more questions.

    on amcas there is a place where i am to explain my situation. How should i format this? a chronological list (as in Third grade: blah blah, 4th grade:blah etc)? or should it be formatted more along the lines of a story? and one more, sorry for so many questions... how deep should i go into my explanations? Just touch on significant events and general circumstances/trends of my life? or should i provide specific stories exemplary of my experiences (maybe better for my personal statement of subsequent essays etc)?
     
  17. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    Typically, students who complete the AMCAS section on disadvantage write the narrative in a single paragraph of 100 words or less. (My family has lived in public housing my whole life. My father has been in prison since 1998. My mother did not finish high school and is currently employed as a housekeeper at a motel. I was responsible for my three younger siblings from the age of 14 until I started college. I was fortunate to be admitted to a Jesuit high school and college on full scholarship. ) There are some yes/no questions about working before age 18, contributing to the family's finances, being the recipient of gov't assistance, family income (most recent year, I guess), and family size. There is also a section where you show what percentage of college expenses were met by family, self, loans, need-based grants, academic scholarships, etc.

    Employment goes in the Experience section including hours per week and time period in months/years. (e.g. 12/03-12/05).

    One could certainly write about hardships in the Personal statement, particularly if the experience was formative or led to a desire to pursue medicine as a career.
     
  18. spot the cat

    spot the cat Member
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    I live in, have always lived in (except for college & grad school), and intend to return to an under-served county, according to AMCAS. I don't consider myself or my upbringing "disadvantaged" - my parents sent me to private school & I didn't have financial aid as an undergrad - but it seems that the default in AMCAS if you are in an under-served county is to mark you disadvantaged. I debated about unchecking the box, but instead decided to write what I said above... that I am not disadvantaged, myself, but am planning to practice in an underserved community... I figure this will give me something positive to talk about at interviews, and it does shine a little bit of light on my reasons for going into medicine - and that I want to practice in a rural area.

    I don't think that marking "disadvantaged" will trigger a bad interview - in fact, just the opposite.
     
  19. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers
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    Coming from a medical underserved community and being disadvantaged are two different things.

    Do you know that Manhattan is considered a medically underserved community? (The county has four medical schools! but a shortage of primary care docs.) The applicants I see from Manhattan are most likely to have attended private H.S. and have parents with professional degrees - -they hardly qualify as disadvantaged.

    Certainly, noting that you hail from a rural area and want to serve the people of your county as a doctor would be a topic for a paragraph in your personal statement; you need not check the disadvantaged box on the AMCAS just because you come from an underserved county.
     
  20. spot the cat

    spot the cat Member
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    I absolutely know they are different - although with my financial situation these days, who the heck knows what I would be considered... AMCAS is geared to parental support, and I haven't been supported by my parents in any way other than moral for 15+ years - but I thought it was interesting that the county I live in triggered the "disadvantaged" status box to appear when I printed out my draft of the AMCAS application.
     
  21. TX515

    TX515 Senior Member
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    just tell the truth.
     
  22. MollyMalone

    MollyMalone I'm a Score Quadruplet
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    Wow, I've never heard this and I'm here at UWisc for undergrad. Also, while I'm not a disadvantaged applicant, neither of my parents have college degrees. It didn't come up during my UWisc interview and they apparently liked me enough to accept me.
     
  23. NapeSpikes

    NapeSpikes Believe, hon.
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    Are you sure about that? The only thing that came up for me was a little "U" next to the county I put down. An "R" would show up for rural. I've never heard of anyone's Disadvantaged box being checked by default.

    In any case, the question specifically asks (paraphrased), do you consider yourself disadvantaged? And then you left it checked Yes and wrote, "I am not disadvantaged, myself"?? That makes no sense. :confused:
     
  24. nimotsu

    nimotsu 荷物
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    As long as your story checks out, then it should be fine. It really makes wonderful fodder for a personal statement or an interview. Only a true dingus is going to nitpick this declaration in an interview, but I'm sure some adcoms are cynical behind closed doors.
     
  25. robotsonic

    robotsonic Senior Member
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    This is sort of a weird question... but do you have to identify yourself as "disadvantaged" to qualify for the Scholarships and Loans for Disadvantaged Students? I never considered myself disadvantaged, and never checked the disadvantaged box, but throughout medical school I have been getting the Scholarships and Loans for Disadvantaged Students. I'm not complaining - those are really nice loans! But it surprised me because I don't think of myself that way. I guess the financial aid person must have looked at my parents' income :p
    Still, until then I didn't think you could get those loans unless you identified yourself as disadvantaged.

    As for whether it would hurt you in interviews: Interviews are all about spinning things so that you come out looking good (think about those "tell me your weaknesses" discussions). You can do it with anything, and it's a very good interview skill to have.
     
  26. Saluki

    Saluki 1K Member
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    Same for me....
    On a side note, one of my interviewers actually asked me why I had not checked the disadvantaged status box (maybe something in one of my recc letters???)
    I decided not to check disadvantaged, because I wasn't sure what qualified and I didn't want to end up being embarassed by having checked with too few disadvantages. My advisor said I should have, but I guess it's water under the bridge now...
     
  27. Peter Griffen

    Peter Griffen Member
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    I think that those from rural communities are disadvantaged when compared to most college students, even if there families are financially secure while growing up. If you have attended high school in a very rural community, you would know exactly what I mean.

    Also, I'm curious about married applicants. I know several applicants that are married, completely independent of their parents, and have to struggle to pay for their own schooling. They also live in government housing and are forced to work full time, low paying jobs while trying to take classes that a lot of students get to concentrate completely on. I wonder if these people are disadvantaged? I would think they are.
     
  28. MoosePilot

    MoosePilot Y Bombardier
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    I checked the box. It never came up. My family received food stamps, commodity cheese, I had free school lunches, and later I had to be in foster homes. I thought my application would be incomplete if I totally ignored that background, but I'm firmly middle class now through my efforts.
     
  29. jbone

    jbone Herro!
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    So do I. I'm one of those folks. It sucked but I consider myself advantaged, not disadvantaged because I feel I can handle more when times get tough. :thumbup:
     
  30. Peter Griffen

    Peter Griffen Member
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    Thats true, you are advantaged! Having to handle all that stress really makes you a strong person!
     
  31. TX515

    TX515 Senior Member
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    I disagree
     
  32. madonna

    madonna Senior Member
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    do you think it is alright to mark the box but not talk about it in the personal statement?
     
  33. LizzyM

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    If you check the box, you do have to answer the yes/no questions, provide annual family income and household size, and show the % of college costs covered through varrious sources. You must also provide a narrative description of your disadvantage. After all that, you may certainly leave any mention out of your longer AMCAS essay.

    Please note that this isn't the financial aid form. You can still get financial aid if you don't check the disadvantaged box.

    This is about your formative years and so does not apply to how one is living as a married couple, etc. It is about disadvantages that you suffered over a long period of time as a kid.
     
  34. titoincali

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    Definitely ok. I checked the box but decided to focus on my clinical experience and 'road to medicine' story in my personal statement. It hasn't counted against me and no one has asked me about it.
     
  35. novemberrainne

    novemberrainne Junior Member
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    I have yet to meet in person (though I've seen some posts here on SDN) another pre-med who has worked over 40 hours per week and attended school full time. I think it makes a huge difference if you're supporting a family, taking care of a household, children, parents, grandparents, etc. on top of school, living in government housing, studying for the MCAT, no insurance, etc. Many may not see this now, but when (if) you are doing the above you'll see what I mean. I have received nothing but respect from interviewers for my extra experiences and hard work. The only thing I've been asked is when I slept. You can't be whiny about it, but I think it must be conveyed. If you have had it harder than others it is truly an advantage. You don't have to try to convince someone that you will be a hardworking doc in the future who is able to handle a lot of stress because you have already shown that you can handle a lot. I was never asked any nasty questions about my background or experiences.
     
  36. Paws

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    I checked disadvantaged because I was on my own from a teenager and I was basically homeless at eighteen. I am pretty middle class now, as moose pilot also mentioned, but it is through my own efforts. Most people who know me don't have any idea about my earlier life. Some people even think I am 'well-off.' Well, I sure worked hard enough to over come my earlier time but I am not 'well-off.' I also thought that to not mention it would be a diservice to me and what I have done.

    I think that the school where I am at now sort of liked that about me and my past. That I had worked hard and overcome some crummy stuff. :oops:

    As for what you describe above, naw! that's just normal life. We all get to slog through that stuff. I often feel that my early hard scrabble life made me better equipped to deal with really difficult stuff, like someone else mentioned above. Sometimes thorns have roses.
     
  37. mustangsally65

    mustangsally65 Sally 2.0
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    I think there are a lot of people who have worked full time and gone to school full time. I did it during undergrad, working two jobs while taking 19 hours. It sucked, but I didn't think it was out of the ordinary. Also, I think pre-meds don't like to admit anything they think could be perceived as a hardship like working and going to school, because the anal personality doesn't like to admit it might be too hard. Or be embarassed by the rich kids who don't work and who will have their med school paid for by thier parents too.

    And not everyone who works full time and goes to school full time has a family to support. Even us single people have to do it. Do you really think this is helpful to an application? Maybe I should have put it in mine. . . :p
     
  38. BooMed

    BooMed Optomist
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    :thumbup: I am in awe of people like you. Most of my friends graduated college never having worked a day in their lives. I worked for extra cash but nothing like this.
     
  39. novemberrainne

    novemberrainne Junior Member
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    I think anyone who is employed full time and goes to school should definitely bring that up when applying or interviewing. Put it on your AMCAS, even though it takes up an activity. It is underrated by applicants, but definitely a benefit in the eyes of an adcom.
     
  40. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    If you're not sure if you qualify to check the "disadvantaged" box, you probably don't.
     
  41. MarzMD

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    I applied disadvantaged, and it has not come up in any of my interviews. Im not sure why an interviewer would choose to focus on that fact if you have so many other interesting things on your application. I have found that an hour long interview is not even long enough to talk about half of the stuff on my applicaition, and the conversation between me and my interviewers has always had to be cut short. It is so easy to sway the interview a certain way if you know how to speak during these interviews, and what questions to ask to influence them to ask you certain questions. As far as them "grilling" you, I took a psych course that outlined the criteria for disadvantaged status. Im not sure what they all were, but you just had to have 3 or 4 out of the 8 or so criteria. That is how I know I apply for disadvantaged status. You may want to do some reasearch on that.
     

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