Medical Would this be considered disadvantaged for AMCAS?

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tantacles

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Hi,

Thanks for taking the time to read this really long post. I've been debating for a while whether or not I should apply as disadvantaged. I didn't last year because I was afraid it would hurt my chances of being accepted. Basically this is my essay:

When I was in middle school my father all but disappeared. Towards the end of high school, my mom and I found out about his other family. He became financially abusive after this. Having the bills paid depended on his mood. My mom filed for divorce. My father started coming around again but every time they would fight, which made it harder to concentrate on school. Though she obtained a master's degree, my mother had to reenter the workforce after being out of it for over a decade to make ends meet. I became like a second parent to my brother. I would do household chores while keeping up with his schedule. Balancing home and school life was difficult but it gave me the opportunity to learn how to manage my time and take responsibility for someone else. In college, I decided I would no longer beg my father for money. I worked throughout college but the first two years were the hardest as I adjusted to the heavier coursework, which impacted my grade significantly. I developed strategies to learn smarter, like making flashcards so I could study anywhere. My grades significantly improved and for the last two years of college I made Dean's List. Looking back, my disadvantages produced many advantages including developing self-reliance, strategies to manage a heavy workload and ways to cope with stress.
I've never felt comfortable talking about my background and have never told anyone except my closest friend but I thought it might be an advantage to explain why my grades suffered so much those 3 years going from HS to college. On paper my background does not really look disadvantaged. Education-wise, I come from a district with a not so great educational system (my elementary school was significantly behind other schools and my middle school consistently tested below state average in every subject) but went to a really good HS (top 10 in the state) because I tested into it. My mother is well educated and my father took a couple of classes at a community college. Economically, my family is considered middle class. However, this doesn't account for the fact that my father is supporting a whole other family that's not listed on our taxes, which strains finances a lot more.

I worked in high school and saved up but once I got to college I quickly ran through that money. I really didn't want to ask my father for money and had wanted to live on campus because the drive to and from school took so long and the place where I worked was closer to the school than to my home. However, I didn't qualify for assistance (except loans that I did not want to take out) and didn't make enough to afford housing.

I'm grateful for everything I do have and I don't want to make it seem like I'm trying to elicit pity from anyone through the essay or making excuses for poor grades because I'm sure most people had to work through college and half of my friends were commuters at some point throughout the 4 years (although most didn't live that far from campus). For me it was just hard dealing with all of these things at the same time. My poor performance that first year of college also sort of spiraled me into a bit of depression that lasted well into sophomore year because I've never had that low of a GPA before (though I know now getting bad grades won't doom me forever and can handle it much better). I snapped out of it after sophomore year and worked 3 jobs that summer to make enough so that I could focus on just studying the following year. Ultimately I'm afraid applying as disadvantaged will make adcoms judge me or make me seem slightly unhinged (because I've heard mental struggles and possibly family issues are not something to put in the application) and put me at a disadvantage. I'm not even sure if I am considered disadvantaged. What should I do and if I do submit are there parts of my story I should focus on or omit?
While I think this would make for a great essay about adversity, I don't think this situation makes you inherently disadvantaged. It's hard to figure this out as there are no clear metrics. That being said, there are things that would make me say, "yes, disadvantaged," but the absence of these factors does not mean that you weren't disadvantaged, if that makes sense.

1. Did you receive government subsidies due to this?
2. Did you receive medicaid benefits due to this?
3. Did you participate in a food assistance program due to this?

If any of these are the case, I would definitely use this experience. If not, it doesn't necessarily mean that you were not disadvantaged, but it might be harder to justify. Many people do have to take out loans for housing for college, so that's sort of the status quo.
 

Goro

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To follow up tantacles' wise observations, the prompt is not about who had the most horrible life.

From the wise LizzyM: It might be completely legit to self-identify as "disadvantaged" even if you are cis, white and male. "Disadvantaged" is meant to help identify people who may not look disadvantaged on the surface but who grew up with "less" than the vast majority of applicants. (As you could see when you got to college and realized that your "normal" was much less than usual state of affairs for most college students.)

Did you live in Section 8 housing? Qualify for free lunch? Work for spending money and/or to help with household bills before age 18? Those are all questions (or related to questions) on the AMCAS that help explain "disadvantage". Basically, it’s the question, "did you grow up in poverty such that poverty limited your choices/opportunities and your preparedness for college?" Some people growing up in poverty don't attend very good K-12 schools and are less prepared for college than students who attended better schools.
Thanks for the help! This has made things much clearer and I do like the idea of making it into an adversity essay.

My parents are both immigrants so I've grown up with the mentality that no work=no food. I've technically been working since I could lift a serving tray without dropping it (I believe this was 4th or 5th grade) in a restaurant partly owned by my family which eventually closed because we weren't making enough to keep it running. I also took on delivery routes for my father at his job as soon as I learned how to drive. I don't know if these count because technically I wasn't paid to do any of this so I wasn't contributing to the household bills directly. I did have my own job in high school but I saved that money for college rather than using it as spending money or towards bills.

In terms of government assistance I was given reduced fee lunch all throughout K-12 but my brother now qualifies to get free lunch and my family does receive insurance through Medicaid after we were removed from my father's insurance plan.

In education, the only time where I felt disadvantaged was going from middle school to high school. Transitioning from my district into a better high school was a struggle because I was behind compared to my peers in certain areas. However, I was fortunate to have great teachers and peers in high school that challenged me and really pushed me to learn so I think I was not too disadvantaged going into college.

I think it would be tough to explain why we're on Medicaid without explaining the situation with my family and even though my education was not great until a certain point I got through it. All in all, I don't see myself as too disadvantaged compared to some other peoples' stories I've read on SDN today. My mother always made sure we had food on the table and a roof over our heads so I won't be applying as disadvantaged. I'm still a bit uncertain as to whether family matters are appropriate as a secondary essay though?
 
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