You're doing it wrong, part 3: disadvantaged

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Most of your AMCAS application is composed of facts. Your name is _. Your gender is _. You're address is _. You went to college at _. Your GPA is _. Your MCAT is _. Your grade in Dr. Frisbee's organic chemistry class is _. You shadowed Dr. _ for _ hours at_. Call _ if you don't believe me.

The space for emotive expression is quite limited. In fact, I would argue that the personal statement is the only place where appeals to subjectivity are unassailably allowed, although the most meaningful EC slots permit some latitude in this area.

The disadvantaged field is likewise not a place for emotional appeals. AMCAS instituted it as a mechanism for applicants to mitigate deficiencies that are beyond their control. We know some people fill it out without good reason. We also know that many people who could legitimately claim disadvantaged status choose not to. Put that in your pipe, George F. Will. The point is to keep it concise and factual. I go there looking for an answer to a specific question.

When deciding whether or not to declare as disadvantaged, please note the following:

- Age 0-18 only.
- Documentable evidence is key. It's not that you will ever be asked to produce documentation, but if your family was on government assistance, or you lived in a cruddy school district with a broom for a teacher and no AP credits, those are objective facts. A record of them exists somewhere.
- Hardships are common to all people. Having them does not necessarily make you disadvantaged. Your parents getting divorced does not confer disadvantaged status, unless the court proceedings forced you to live with your dad in a trailer outside of Bexar, Arkansas.
- It's possible to be disadvantaged without having suffered significant economic hardship. For example, I can think of an applicant from a solid upper middle class family who was raised in a rural area with underperforming schools. He had no alternatives other than being homeschooled, which was not a viable option.
- Finally, and most important, there is no singular gauge to determine disadvantaged status. You don't get a letter from AMCAS saying "Congratulations! You have been awarded disadvantaged!" What one school finds compelling another may find laughable. So tread carefully, but don't feel shy about claiming disadvantaged if you are doing so in good faith and with supporting evidence.

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This bears repeating:

- Hardships are common to all people. Having them does not necessarily make you disadvantaged.

Applicants need to be honest in their introspection. Some applicants want to overdramatize their struggles in an attempt to claim disadvantaged status, and I think the two most common reasons are 1) lack of insight, and 2) earnestness of desire to become physicians. But attempting to claim disadvantaged status for entirely common life struggles doesn't make schools sympathetic, it makes them see you as a user and a phony. So think carefully before listing disadvantaged status and ask yourself whether your circumstances truly were exceptional in a negative way. Otherwise, the only disadvantaged thing will be your application (boo-yah!).
 
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This bears repeating:
Applicants need to be honest in their introspection. Some applicants want to overdramatize their struggles in an attempt to claim disadvantaged status, and I think the two most common reasons are 1) lack of insight, and 2) earnestness of desire to become physicians. But attempting to claim disadvantaged status for entirely common life struggles doesn't make schools sympathetic, it makes them see you as a user and a phony. So think carefully before listing disadvantaged status and ask yourself whether your circumstances truly were exceptional in a negative way. Otherwise, the only disadvantaged thing will be your application (boo-yah!).
In addition to the wise words from my learned colleagues, the disadvantaged section is also not meant to be a pissing contest as to who had the more horrible life, like the old TV show Queen For a Day.
 
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Most of your AMCAS application is composed of facts. Your name is _. Your gender is _. You're address is _. You went to college at _. Your GPA is _. Your MCAT is _. Your grade in Dr. Frisbee's organic chemistry class is _. You shadowed Dr. _ for _ hours at_. Call _ if you don't believe me.

The space for emotive expression is quite limited. In fact, I would argue that the personal statement is the only place where appeals to subjectivity are unassailably allowed, although the most meaningful EC slots permit some latitude in this area.

The disadvantaged field is likewise not a place for emotional appeals. AMCAS instituted it as a mechanism for applicants to mitigate deficiencies that are beyond their control. We know some people fill it out without good reason. We also know that many people who could legitimately claim disadvantaged status choose not to. Put that in your pipe, George F. Will. The point is to keep it concise and factual. I go there looking for an answer to a specific question.

When deciding whether or not to declare as disadvantaged, please note the following:

- Age 0-18 only.
- Documentable evidence is key. It's not that you will ever be asked to produce documentation, but if your family was on government assistance, or you lived in a cruddy school district with a broom for a teacher and no AP credits, those are objective facts. A record of them exists somewhere.
- Hardships are common to all people. Having them does not necessarily make you disadvantaged. Your parents getting divorced does not confer disadvantaged status, unless the court proceedings forced to live with your dad in a trailer outside of Bexar, Arkansas.
- It's possible to be disadvantaged without having suffered significant economic hardship. For example, I can think of an applicant from a solid upper middle class family who was raised in a rural area with underperforming schools. He had no alternatives other than being homeschooled, which was not a viable option.
- Finally, and most important, there is no singular gauge to determine disadvantaged status. You don't get a letter from AMCAS saying "Congratulations! You have been awarded disadvantaged!" What one school finds compelling another may find laughable. So tread carefully, but don't feel shy about claiming disadvantaged if you are doing so in good faith and with supporting evidence.

Thank you for making this!
 
Thank you SO much for making this, because this section gives me nightmares. Anyways, I hate revealing information about myself, but hopefully this will help a future reader at my dispense. If you grew up with a single parent that had grand mal seizures, income below $12,000.00, and lived in a "questionable" home. Do I just make a quick & dirty story about that? Like, "I didn't have the best life. Super poor. My parent had too many seizures to count. But it taught me valuable life lessons." This is complete absurdity for a sentence, but is that the direction adcoms would like to see?
 
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Im basically point 4 that you made. I was battling with this essay coming from a family who is of good SES but in a rural area and a bad public school. My school was the only one in the state labeled under "fiscal emergency" and they were cutting things left and right. I decided to drive 40 min to a college because we had few AP classes. So when college apps came around, people from other schools were applying with 4.0+ while we maxed out at 4.0 (not to mention most ECs and JV sports being cut). But to me this was normal and when looking at the question I was thinking "well I didnt have it as bad as the people in the area with this AND low SES". And Ill echo was Goro said that its not the olympics of seeing who is the most disadvantaged.
 
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I'm still baffled how a hillbilly state produced a Rhodes Scholar and exceptional President like Bill Clinton.

I've met some folks who grew up in rural Arkansas and it's like all the worst parts of "Deliverance" come to life. I guess Trump needs to cull his ignorant voters from somewhere LOL.
Ignorant, judgmental posts like this are why SDN needs a downvote function.
 
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Thank you SO much for making this, because this section gives me nightmares. Anyways, I hate revealing information about myself, but hopefully this will help a future reader at my dispense. If you grew up with a single parent that had grand mal seizures, income below $12,000.00, and lived in a "questionable" home. Do I just make a quick & dirty story about that? Like, "I didn't have the best life. Super poor. My parent had too many seizures to count. But it taught me valuable life lessons." This is complete absurdity for a sentence, but is that the direction adcoms would like to see?

Work the story backward...

I was raised in a single parent household and grew up in substandard housing due to our low household income (~$12,000/year) that was a result of my parent's chronic grand mal seizures. I did learn valuable life lessons as a result of these hardships.
 
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When deciding whether or not to declare as disadvantaged, please note the following:

- Age 0-18 only.

Would the adcom consider it disadvantaged if a student was under 18 for a few years during college and thus were not able to get clinical experience or shadowing due to age restrictions? Or would it be better to not mention it?
 
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Thank you SO much for making this, because this section gives me nightmares. Anyways, I hate revealing information about myself, but hopefully this will help a future reader at my dispense. If you grew up with a single parent that had grand mal seizures, income below $12,000.00, and lived in a "questionable" home. Do I just make a quick & dirty story about that? Like, "I didn't have the best life. Super poor. My parent had too many seizures to count. But it taught me valuable life lessons." This is complete absurdity for a sentence, but is that the direction adcoms would like to see?

I can see how far you've come from the rest of your application. Adding an innocuous sentence about how the experience shaped you is okay, but not necessary. I'm really just weary of applicants who use every field in the application to sell themselves a little bit more. We get it, you were raised in a burning car and managed a 3.4/506. Welcome aboard.
 
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Would the adcom consider it disadvantaged if a student was under 18 for a few years during college and thus were not able to get clinical experience or shadowing due to age restrictions? Or would it be better to not mention it?

Starting college "a few years" under 18 is the antithesis of disadvantaged.
 
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Would the adcom consider it disadvantaged if a student was under 18 for a few years during college and thus were not able to get clinical experience or shadowing due to age restrictions? Or would it be better to not mention it?

Disadvantaged does not mean in terms of having the best app. It is deficiencies that you had no control of that significantly impacted your life.
 
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What about being disabled/chronically ill since childhood & coming from a rural/medically underserved community?
 
What about being disabled/chronically ill since childhood & coming from a rural/medically underserved community?
Could be disadvantaged, unless your parents were wealthy.

Look people this isn't hard. Disadvantaged is about what could have affected you in your schooling that would have been hibited you in preparation for college, and thus affected your ability to perform well in college.
 
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@Goro do you know if marking disadvantaged can ever hurt one's application? Like will it cause schools to think you can't afford it (or need more guidance) so they reject you?
 
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This is slightly related, but just curious whether adcoms look at your biographic info like family income and size and living location? Like do they make note of applicants who come from low income families/medically underserved areas? (Even if they don't mark themselves as disadvantaged).
 
@Goro do you know if marking disadvantaged can ever hurt one's application? Like will it cause schools to think you can't afford it (or need more guidance) so they reject you?

Everyone can “afford” it with those lovely loans.
 
@Goro do you know if marking disadvantaged can ever hurt one's application? Like will it cause schools to think you can't afford it (or need more guidance) so they reject you?

Just because you grew up disadvantaged doesn’t mean you are still disadvantaged or so terribly messed up that you can’t qualify for federal loans. If you were able to go to college and apply to med school, I’m guessing they assume you can pay for med school.
 
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@Goro do you know if marking disadvantaged can ever hurt one's application? Like will it cause schools to think you can't afford it (or need more guidance) so they reject you?
Other Adcoms hete on SDN have told me they have rejected some egregious examples of hyper-priveledged people who checked the box.
 
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@Goro do you know if marking disadvantaged can ever hurt one's application? Like will it cause schools to think you can't afford it (or need more guidance) so they reject you?

Claiming disadvantaged can hurt if they cited reasons are not very good.

"I struggled with depression after my parents bought me a 3-series BMW for my 16th birthday, as my older brother had gotten a 5-series."
 
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Would the adcom consider it disadvantaged if a student was under 18 for a few years during college and thus were not able to get clinical experience or shadowing due to age restrictions? Or would it be better to not mention it?

The cure for that is more time and life experience before applying. If you don't do this yourself, the schools you apply to in your first cycle may do it for you.
 
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Spending ages 0-5 in graduate student housing and not having educational toys...

Daddy, a doc in a high paying specialty in a nice suburb, won't pay for med school because he already paid for college.

Grew up in a medically underserved area... both parents are physicians.
 
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Spending ages 0-5 in graduate student housing and not having educational toys...

Daddy, a doc in a high paying specialty in a nice suburb, won't pay for med school because he already paid for college.

Grew up in a medically underserved area... both parents are physicians.

So saying I was disadvantaged because my dad had to sell his plane to afford our boat was probably not a good idea?
 
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What if the elementary and high schools were okay, but the 3 years of middle school were at an underperforming school with fluctuating D and F grades given by the state education department?
 
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First world problems

Sarcasm is not helpful. The age time-frame for disadvantaged is 0-18. Overall, my state is at the bottom of the country in education, crime, and economy. Even many of the “okay” public schools are considered subpar compared to the quality in most other states. I probably won’t list it, but wanted to see what the consensus was.
 
What if the elementary and high schools were okay, but the 3 years of middle school were at an underperforming school with fluctuating D and F grades given by the state education department?
Did you get to college and have to swim a little harder to catch up with your peers?? did that middle school experience hold you back when it came to college performance? If not, then no, it doesn't count as "disadvantage".
 
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Did you get to college and have to swim a little harder to catch up with your peers?? did that middle school experience hold you back when it came to college performance? If not, then no, it doesn't count as "disadvantage".

Thank you, @LizzyM. Your response was very helpful. I thought along those same lines, but wanted to make sure I was correct.
 
Did you get to college and have to swim a little harder to catch up with your peers?? did that middle school experience hold you back when it came to college performance? If not, then no, it doesn't count as "disadvantage".

So are you only considered "disadvantaged" if the experience affected college performance? For example my family immigrated from literal slums in a third world country (not just a poor area, but literally an undeveloped and dirty squatter area where my parents hand-built a house out of scraps and govt donations). However I was honestly too young to understand the situation, it's so far from my memory, and my life was considerably better after the age of 7-8.
 
So are you only considered "disadvantaged" if the experience affected college performance? For example my family immigrated from literal slums in a third world country (not just a poor area, but literally an undeveloped and dirty squatter area where my parents hand-built a house out of scraps and govt donations). However I was honestly too young to understand the situation, it's so far from my memory, and my life was considerably better after the age of 7-8.
Your parents having it bad in country X: Not disadvantaged
YOU having it bad here or there: disadvantaged
Because life got better after age 8, I don't consider you disadvantaged.

There's a theme here, people. You wanna be doctors? You should be able to suss this out based upon the information you've been given in this thread.
 
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From an adcom perspective, would being homeless for several months during high school and moving frequently around the country with my mother during these years (I attended three different high schools) be a significant enough experience to write about in a disadvantaged essay? I'm very hesitant to speak out of turn, because I know many people have had much more substantial obstacles to overcome, but I did almost drop out of high school and had difficulty getting started in college etc... I'm not looking to write this essay to make myself a more competitive applicant, more so in order to give context to my "less than traditional" college trajectory. Perhaps it'd be better to work this into my personal statement instead? I'm having trouble "sussing" :oops:
 
I'm still baffled how a hillbilly state produced a Rhodes Scholar and exceptional President like Bill Clinton.

I've met some folks who grew up in rural Arkansas and it's like all the worst parts of "Deliverance" come to life. I guess Trump needs to cull his ignorant voters from somewhere LOL.



Dude he wasn’t trying to be political, he was just informing or reenforcing a couple of the surprising facts about Arkansas. Also Arkansas has more than just hillbillies. You should come tour my hometown, Pine Bluff, and I think it’d give you a different perspective about us.
 
From an adcom perspective, would being homeless for several months during high school and moving frequently around the country with my mother during these years (I attended three different high schools) be a significant enough experience to write about in a disadvantaged essay? I'm very hesitant to speak out of turn, because I know many people have had much more substantial obstacles to overcome, but I did almost drop out of high school and had difficulty getting started in college etc... I'm not looking to write this essay to make myself a more competitive applicant, more so in order to give context to my "less than traditional" college trajectory. Perhaps it'd be better to work this into my personal statement instead? I'm having trouble "sussing" :oops:

Yes, that might be a legitimate "disadvantage" particularly if it led to a non-traditional trajectory to college.
 
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From an adcom perspective, would being homeless for several months during high school and moving frequently around the country with my mother during these years (I attended three different high schools) be a significant enough experience to write about in a disadvantaged essay? I'm very hesitant to speak out of turn, because I know many people have had much more substantial obstacles to overcome, but I did almost drop out of high school and had difficulty getting started in college etc... I'm not looking to write this essay to make myself a more competitive applicant, more so in order to give context to my "less than traditional" college trajectory. Perhaps it'd be better to work this into my personal statement instead? I'm having trouble "sussing" :oops:
Yes, this is fair
 
Out of curiosity, would first generation college students from rural/medically underserved areas be considered "disadvantaged"? Some of the experiences in this thread are highly specific, and I understand that this does not compare. However, the environment growing up was vastly different compared to some of my friends who had parents with something greater than a high school diploma. Academic performance was never pushed on me as a child primarily because it was never a priority for my parents. Honestly, if it is wasn't for an athletic scholarship I would have most likely never made it to college, and I would probably be a welder somewhere like my father before me. Consequently, I struggled all throughout undergrad because I didn't have a solid educational background and I wasn't fully aware of the detrimental effect that mediocre/sub par grades would have on my future. I don't want to generalize, but I do feel that those with parents/guardians holding higher degrees are at an advantage because I feel that most of those students had academic performance heavily emphasized throughout their childhood.This scenario seems to fit the criteria for disadvantaged in AMCAS, but I'm not sure what the adcom members would say to this after reviewing Jane Doe's application from Bexar, Arkansas with divorced parents. I do feel that I should mention this in my application as it provides context for the rest of my application and early academic shortcomings, but I don't want to be seen as the "user" or "phony" termed earlier in this thread if it's not what one considers "disadvantaged". Can I get some insight on this?
 
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Out of curiosity, would first generation college students from rural/medically underserved areas be considered "disadvantaged"? Some of the experiences in this thread are highly specific, and I understand that this does not compare. However, the environment growing up was vastly different compared to some of my friends who had parents with something greater than a high school diploma. Academic performance was never pushed on me as a child primarily because it was never a priority for my parents. Honestly, if it is wasn't for an athletic scholarship I would have most likely never made it to college, and I would probably be a welder somewhere like my father before me. Consequently, I struggled all throughout undergrad because I didn't have a solid educational background and I wasn't fully aware of the detrimental effect that mediocre/sub par grades would have on my future. I don't want to generalize, but I do feel that those with parents/guardians holding higher degrees are at an advantage because I feel that most of those students had academic performance heavily emphasized throughout their childhood.This scenario seems to fit the criteria for disadvantaged in AMCAS, but I'm not sure what the adcom members would say to this after reviewing Jane Doe's application from Bexar, Arkansas with divorced parents. I do feel that I should mention this in my application as it provides context for the rest of my application and early academic shortcomings, but I don't want to be seen as the "user" or "phony" termed earlier in this thread if it's not what one considers "disadvantaged". Can I get some insight on this?

Even if you do not check the disadvantaged box, you can list your parents names, highest education achieved and profession. That is part of the picture. The name of the county/town where you grew up is also listed and the HS you graduated from. Your hometown and your permanent address are tagged by AMCAS if they are in a database as rural and/or underserved.
 
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Out of curiosity, would first generation college students from rural/medically underserved areas be considered "disadvantaged"? Some of the experiences in this thread are highly specific, and I understand that this does not compare. However, the environment growing up was vastly different compared to some of my friends who had parents with something greater than a high school diploma. Academic performance was never pushed on me as a child primarily because it was never a priority for my parents. Honestly, if it is wasn't for an athletic scholarship I would have most likely never made it to college, and I would probably be a welder somewhere like my father before me. Consequently, I struggled all throughout undergrad because I didn't have a solid educational background and I wasn't fully aware of the detrimental effect that mediocre/sub par grades would have on my future. I don't want to generalize, but I do feel that those with parents/guardians holding higher degrees are at an advantage because I feel that most of those students had academic performance heavily emphasized throughout their childhood.This scenario seems to fit the criteria for disadvantaged in AMCAS, but I'm not sure what the adcom members would say to this after reviewing Jane Doe's application from Bexar, Arkansas with divorced parents. I do feel that I should mention this in my application as it provides context for the rest of my application and early academic shortcomings, but I don't want to be seen as the "user" or "phony" termed earlier in this thread if it's not what one considers "disadvantaged". Can I get some insight on this?

I will echo @LizzyM in that the disadvantaged box is not viewed in isolation. We have the economic indicators (E01, E02), we have FAP status, we can see where you were born, where you graduated from high school, etc. Almost 70% of the US population does not have a college degree. Whether or not academics were emphasized in your household, if you were raised in a relatively stable environment and did not rely on public assistance then I would probably defer on disadvantaged status. Instead I would weave some mention of your distance traveled into the personal statement.
 
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Work the story backward...

I was raised in a single parent household and grew up in substandard housing due to our low household income (~$12,000/year) that was a result of my parent's chronic grand mal seizures. I did learn valuable life lessons as a result of these hardships.

Thank you so MUCH!!! I wasn't sure how to word this, because I don't want to paint a woe is me description.
I can see how far you've come from the rest of your application. Adding an innocuous sentence about how the experience shaped you is okay, but not necessary. I'm really just weary of applicants who use every field in the application to sell themselves a little bit more. We get it, you were raised in a burning car and managed a 3.4/506. Welcome aboard.

Gotcha. This makes total sense. You, @Goro and @LizzyM will be the reason Adcoms will assume I am not a *****.
 
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Spending ages 0-5 in graduate student housing and not having educational toys...

Daddy, a doc in a high paying specialty in a nice suburb, won't pay for med school because he already paid for college.

Grew up in a medically underserved area... both parents are physicians.
Funny story: What if I grew up in a medically underserved area and both my parents are docs? Hear me out for a sec! By underprivileged I mean actually underserved as in third world country (India). I’ve talked about that a lot in my PS so it would be redundant if I wrote the same thing for disadvantaged status. Also English isn’t my first language because I spoke a different language until I was about 6 or 7. Then I had to switch to English which was a pain in the ass to learn. As much as I’d like to claim under privileged for that I feel like they’d call me out on it because I have an American accent now and most people can’t even tell I grew up in India even though I lived there for 13 years. My grammar is pretty trashy though because of it since schools in India don’t really care about it. I just have other people proofread important essays to make up for it. Should I claim underprivileged or nah? I wasn’t thinking about it but I’ve read some other stuff that’s not as bad as mine that people have used.
 
Funny story: What if I grew up in a medically underserved area and both my parents are docs? Hear me out for a sec! By underprivileged I mean actually underserved as in third world country (India). I’ve talked about that a lot in my PS so it would be redundant if I wrote the same thing for disadvantaged status. Also English isn’t my first language because I spoke a different language until I was about 6 or 7. Then I had to switch to English which was a pain in the ass to learn. As much as I’d like to claim under privileged for that I feel like they’d call me out on it because I have an American accent now and most people can’t even tell I grew up in India even though I lived there for 13 years. My grammar is pretty trashy though because of it since schools in India don’t really care about it. I just have other people proofread important essays to make up for it. Should I claim underprivileged or nah? I wasn’t thinking about it but I’ve read some other stuff that’s not as bad as mine that people have used.
Growing up in a different country does not count as underprivileged.
 
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Funny story: What if I grew up in a medically underserved area and both my parents are docs? Hear me out for a sec! By underprivileged I mean actually underserved as in third world country (India). I’ve talked about that a lot in my PS so it would be redundant if I wrote the same thing for disadvantaged status. Also English isn’t my first language because I spoke a different language until I was about 6 or 7. Then I had to switch to English which was a pain in the ass to learn. As much as I’d like to claim under privileged for that I feel like they’d call me out on it because I have an American accent now and most people can’t even tell I grew up in India even though I lived there for 13 years. My grammar is pretty trashy though because of it since schools in India don’t really care about it. I just have other people proofread important essays to make up for it. Should I claim underprivileged or nah? I wasn’t thinking about it but I’ve read some other stuff that’s not as bad as mine that people have used.

It's disadvantaged, and I doubt growing up in India with dual physician parents will earn you much sympathy.
 
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I'm sorry if someone else has posted a similar story, but can someone give me a quick yay or nay if I should put myself down as URM? Can PM if anyone is interested. tl;dr: food stamps & some ****ty times during the great recession, had a parental suicide sophomore year in high school.
 
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