Disadvantage Status

Hi All,
I'm taking a peak at the application, and I found a section about being disadvantaged. I'm not sure what I should put for this.
I grew up disadvantaged, but that was a long time ago. Furthermore, you may say that I 'made it' out. I not only went to college, but I started my own business and became very successful - although, after leaving work for full time school over a year ago, I may be disadvantaged again :wink:
It seems silly, as a non-trad student, to put disadvantaged, but yet, I did live with that until I was over 20, so it was a good portion of my life. I do weave that into my ps btw.
Any thoughts or suggestions?

Hey Bacmedic,
I don’t actually have any suggestions but am writing simply to say that I am in a similar situation. Looking back I think “Damn, I was a regular mojado” but at the time, that’s just the way life was. I don’t know if i consider myself to be very succesful but I pay my bills and have enough, to save a little and have a little left over to spend as I will. I don’t know how to work this in to my app either. Hopefully someone will have some suggestions. Later.

I would hesitate to play that card unless you can substantiate an educationally disadvantaged background; for example having attending a poor, inner-city school or on a reservation…things like that. Of course, I do not know either of you well enough to even imagine I could advise you on whether or not to check that box…I considered it myself. Personally, I have more than enough Cherokee in me to gain tribal membership & all those advantages…if we could only ID an ancestor on the Cherokee Nation member roles.
Early in my trip back to Ugrad, when I still believed it was nearly impossible for an old fart like me to get into medical school, I strongly considered playing my Native American card…getting tribal membership & applying as a disadvantaged minority. However, in one of my OChem classes, I met a guy who was 100% Lakota Soiux who grew up on a reservation, went to truly disadvantaged schools and was working his ass off to earn a slot in med school…and he was still just considering applying as a disadvantaged student.
After that conversation, I realized how much of a hypocrite I might become since I grew up in middle-class suburbia & went to solid public schools. I saw that those slots are intended for folks who were like him & that I would have making a mockery of him and cheating out some Native American or inner-city youth from a slot that they deserved & I might not have deserved.
So, I checked the “white dude” box and decided I would do my best & let the chips fall where they may.
Now, I am not trying berate or discourage you from taking the disadvantaged route in any way. if you truly fit those circumstances & have clawed you way to this point to be a competitive applicant to med school – I support you taking this path 200%. But, if you do not fit it, I ask you not to take that route…cause it may be cheating someone out of a seat like my friend from UTDallas.
I don’t know if he ever got in, but he earned my respect in one conversation. His story was incredible & inspirational. He was planning to reapply, his second time, the cycle after the one when I got in. The first school day after I got my first “YES LETTER” (from KCOM as a matter of fact), I took all of my getting into medical school books, gave them him as a gift for good luck – and I told him how much he had inspired me with that one brief conversation. I sincerely hope that he got in. I know that he’d make one hell of a Doc. His plan? Not to get into med to escape the poverty of the reservation…no, he wanted to go back and not only be a Don on a reservation; but also to show other Native American youths that it could be done.

Hey Dave,
Thanks for the post? Good points all around. Bacmedics post made me think about a couple of things. First, what is disadvantaged? He says he grew up disadvantaged. I'll take his word for it. I would generally claim the same; i.e. poor, hispanic (although I'm still not sure where exactly Hispania is), parents not around, rural northern New Mexico…), but that was fourteen years ago. And, as mentioned previously, that was just the way life was. Since then I've completed a bachelors and masters degree. I work as a research assistant (glorified technician) in a research lab and have a few publications as co-author. I own a house (or at least I have a mortgage), pay my bills, and take a vacation now and then. Similarly, Bacmedic has a achieved a level (high level in his case) of success. Should you check the box because you came from that background? Does AMCAS still consider you disadvantaged because of earlier experiences. More importantly, do the admissions folks want such person to check the box. Or, because you achieved some level of success, is disadvantaged no longer part of your demographics?
Second and more to the unarticulated question in my post, it made me think about my application in general and specifically about what is going to go into my personal statement. What do I put in and how do I do it? Those experiences growing up helped shape who I am and why I want to be a physician, but that time only makes up half of my lifetime. I have done a lot more living since then and the actual decision to become a physician has only been made in the last few years. Even then, the decision was no epiphany. It was an evolutionary process of my experiences. I know this is the case for a lot of folks out there but reading Bacmedic's post was the thing that made me realize that I have to synthesize a coherent and memorable essay to make the admissions folks believe that I'm their man. Reading a statement like Joe Wright's is motivational and a little intimidating at the same time.
I'm curious to know what you think. This goes for everyone out there and not just Dave. Thanks!

I would argue that for non-traditionals from disadvantaged backgrounds who've since gone on to some form of middle-class existence, it is at least as important to let the admissions committee know about your socioeconomic disadvantage as a child, particularly if it affected why you're not applying to medical school until now. It may have affected your record in ways you don't fully realize; for instance, were you as ready to take risks as your wealthier classmates, or did you make education and career choices that you thought of as surer paths to financial stability? Were you as confident as your wealthier classmates in your abilities, or did it take until you were older to get that confidence? Did you have to provide for other members of your family while you were getting not so great undergraduate grades? Was college a massive culture shock the first time around? Did your high school prepare you equally well for college when compared to people from wealthier areas of the world? Did you feel that you had to do everything perfectly because you were the first one in your family to go to college, and so couldn't stand o. chem because you were scared you wouldn't do it perfectly? etc.
I can't tell you how your history has influenced your path–everyone has their own story–but it's likely that it influenced it somehow, and that is worth explaining, because there are probably at least faint echoes of it throughout your record. I agree with Dave that you shouldn't claim forms of disadvantage you didn't have, but you shouldn't be shy about explaining your story either.
I'm glad that my statement was motivating, and very sorry that it was intimidating in any way. Keep in mind that I'm a professional writer of personal essays–I've been writing in that voice and style since I was 14, and I would say that before I am a doctor-to-be, I am a writer. (I might give up medicine later, but writing is something very basic to me.) And still, the personal statement was very difficult for me to write. Yours doesn't have to be slick. It just has to be honest and true. In what you say about this process of evolution it sounds like you're already doing the thinking you need to do to get to being honest and true about your own story. I'll try to post separately about things to think about when writing a personal statement, some time in the next few days.
Good luck.

Thanks for the post! I appreciate the thoughts! Don't worry about the intimidation. You didn't give me an inferiority complex or anything. It's just that it's a pretty darn good statement. Fortunately for me, you have already gained admissions so I won't have to worry about competing with you. Although, Harvard is probably a bit out of my league so I don't think that would have been a problem even had my applications been concurrent with yours.
Thanks again!!!

I thought about the disadvantaged status too while I was filling out my AMCAS application. I opted not to do it but chose to use my personal statement to show the adcom the journey that my life has taken and why I made some of the decisions I made along the way, especially because I left college the first time around because I flat out couldn't afford it (financial aid wasn't one-stop/application shopping back in the 80's like it is today with everyone throwing money at you) and ended up at West Point because I new finances wouldn't be an issue and wouldn't be in a position to have to leave college again (that wasn't the only reason I chose there but it was on of the top 3).
Important to me was to not apologize for making the decisions I made, but to show them how each step along my journey made me the person I am today. During my interviews, I even joked about how I've developed into a people person, but if I had gone straight through I would probably still be the same person who would be content to be put in a corner to work on a project by myself.
You can definitely be creative and get your point across in your personal statement without putting yourself in a position of possibly being questioned if your status is (or was) disadvantaged, which was one of my concerns since I am standing on my own two feet today (albeit later than many in my peer group), along with the fact that there are others out there who needed to check that box far more than I did.

Thanks all for the replies – it has given me a lot to think about.
Many have commented that that was the way life was. Well, ya, and the funny things is, you (I) did not know that there was any other way – at least, not for us. When I was very young, we were driving out of the projects and passing through another part of the city that was filled with three-decker homes. These structures were so different than anything I had ever seen before (1 - not made of bricks, 2 – standing by themselves, 3 – there was green stuff all around, what I latter found out was called grass), that I asked what they were. I remember the comment that they were places where the rich people lived – only three families lived in the entire place – simply amazing. My dad eventually made it into one of those, and then into a single, but we were still in the city going to the same schools as those in the projects. I really did have a pretty bad educational experience. During the seventh grade kids would be outside the school prior to first class drinking beer and other illicit things – seventh and eights graders at 7:30 in the morning! With 1/4 to ½ of your classmates high did not really afford the best learning environment – it was really a zoo. That was not the place for me, so my dad pulled me from that and into a trade school. That did not work out so well either, so I ended up leaving while in the 10th grade.
It turns out that college was my first real educational experience; so explaining my background by simply checking disadvantaged may perhaps explain away my not so stellar GPA. Of course, picking physics as a major did not help much either.
This designation is not to apologize for those past grades – those are the facts of life, and we do what we need to do. As we all agree, out past makes us who we are. Perhaps without that struggle I may have been an entirely different person. But know this – that struggle to get out was a consuming desire that motivated many of my actions. Not just because of the lack of education, but everything else that goes with a city – fighting off the perverts (they were everywhere), the violence… I recalled when I was 15 that, if I ever lived through this I vowed I would never bring my children up in the city. But enough of this reminiscence.
Even now I worry at times about my educational performance. I started off in the premed curriculum with a GPA of 3.8 after my first semester, and now I will be lucky if I end up between 3.55 and 3.6 when I finish this semester – will it be good enough! Normally I do not beat up on myself to often, especially when I’m doing better than many of the kids – but it is not them I’m trying to impress. However, it is a LOT of work for me and I wonder if it is a lot of work for everyone. Do I struggle because of my past, or despite it? Either way, it makes no difference – we do what we need to do when we need to do it. Speaking of which, I can’t believe I just rambled on like that since I have an Ochem exam in tomorrow and a physics exam on Thursday – then on to finals! I better get back to it.

When I applied to medical school back 1998, I tried to obtain an MCAT fee waiver. My thinking, if I can get an MCAT fee waiver, then I would check the disadvantaged status. The MCAT fee waiver is based upon The Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines. In 1998, a person was considered at poverty level if s/he did not exceed $8,050 in income. For a family of two, they were considered at poverty level if their combined incomes did not exceed $10,850.
Well, my job at a local sandwich shop near the UTDallas campus paid me a whopping $9,700; hence, I was not considered at poverty level. The people who determine the MCAT fee waiver also asked to see income taxes from my dad (my mother had already died). The take home message is you have to prove your current disadvantaged status.
I did check the box that says I'm an underrepresented minority (1/2 Shoshone, 1/4 Cherokee, 1/4 Choctaw, 0/4 Lakota, 4/4 American Indian). Disadvantaged status and underreprented minority (URM) are not the same.
BTW, I graduated form the University of North Texas in 1994 making a second go round with medical school admissions. I also attended UTDallas and took organic chemistry. I seem to remember a nice fellow with the good news of being accepted to a DO school at that time. That person also gave me a book having to do with medical school admissions for non-traditional students. Hmmmmmmmm.
p.s. I am a longtime looker and a first time poster.
Gerald Jimmy jr.
aka (eagleeye)

I will be dipped in buttermilk!!! Is that you…from Org 2 lab? I think I mucked up some of the details of your story…but our conversations in lab truly had a major impact on me and my decision to not choose to check the box. In fact, I have used our encounter to hopefully inspire a few folks along the way…it ain't easy to move me, but you were able to do so.
Damn, it is awesome to hear from you! Please send me an e-mail to update me on how things are going. My e-mail is OldManDave2003@aol.com
Oh…and I apologize for not having all of my facts straight – no malicious intent there!
Looking forward to hearing from you.

QUOTE (eagleeye @ May 14 2003, 10:45 PM)

Disadvantaged status and underreprented minority (URM) are not the same.

Hey Eagleeye,
Good point in your post.
I'm glad that you decided to post. It's interesting to have someone with a glimpse into OMD's past on the site. By the way, how is your journey to med school going?
QUOTE (eagleeye @ May 14 2003, 10:45 PM)
I did check the box that says I'm an underrepresented minority (1/2 Shoshone, 1/4 Cherokee, 1/4 Choctaw, 0/4 Lakota, 4/4 American Indian).

Hey! I'm 0/4 Lakota Indian as well!
just joshin' smile.gif
QUOTE (GED2MD @ May 15 2003, 06:53 PM)
Hey! I'm 0/4 Lakota Indian as well!

It took me while to catch on to that one tongue.gif

Just for the record, I am b/t 1/4 & 1/3 Cherokee and very proud of my heritage. Unfortunately, this sense of heritage has come later in life & at a time when I have not had the time nor the energy to invest in learning more about who I am…at least from whom I descended, outside of Neanderthal man, of course (once you meet me, you will get the latter part of the joke). I would love to gain tribla membership & have more than sufficient “Native American” in me to do so. However, to get this accomplished, I must demonstrate direct linage to a Cherokee ancestor/ancestors who sign up for the Dawes Native American roles in OK territory of in North Carolina. At that time, it was a tacit form of protest to not sign the roles…as pig-headed as I am, I sure as hell would not have done so…I fear my ancestors were of the same mind-set. According to my Mom, who is the family geneologist, we have had at least 5 full-blood Cherokees marry into our line in the last 5 or 6 generations & at least a couple of other fractional Cherokees too. Again according to Mom, one of the full-blooded ones was some sort of Chieftain or some other some such thing.
Once I can come up for air, I plan to do some research into the numerous firms that provide a service of researching & documenting Cherokee heritage…can’t throw a stick in OK w/o hitting one of them. Now that I am past the application/admissions part of the game, I can declare my tribal membership w/o being questioned as to my motives – purely for pride.
I have taken a couple of courses in Native American religions & culture. Talk about ornate, complex and beautiful. Much of it is very zen, almost far eastern in its underpinnings. Oh well…one day, I will make the time.

Joe made a very good point about disadvantaged status - how it changes your perceptions, willingness to take chances, etc. I am filling out the AMCAS app right now, and checked the space to see what the questions were. The questions regarding disadvantaged status refer not just to income, but also whether you lived in a medically underserved area (which I did not), if you worked and contributed to your household prior to age 18 (which I did), and the type of area you lived in, among others. There is also the educational level of your parents, which many federal programs take into consideration as well. As a SOAR student when I was at Richland Community College, there were 3 considerations for admission to the program (1) income, (2) handicap, or (3) parents not college graduates. As I had no HIGH SCHOOL grads in my family, I qualifed easily. When your parents have a below average education, their lack of education passes on to you in the form of lost opportunities, less knowledge about being successful in school, etc. It can have a mighty impact on your future. As for the URM angle, I am also part Cherokee and Osage, but my ancestors chose to run into the hills of Arkansas rather than be sent to Oklahoma, so I’m not registered, though I know there are relatives in Broken Bow, OK. I’ve not checked on whether I have a registered relative as well. My advisor actually suggested that I try the URM angle but I grew up pretty much a white girl, a marginal white girl, but still in subarbia. See what happens when I stay up late night after night? I ramble. <!–emo&<_dry.gif

I agree with things that JoeW pointed out about putting onself thru school, as was my own case. I decided to check the ‘disadvantaged’ box but only entered information about the self-education. It was weird having to put down information about my parents’ income, which was fairly high, and then to add the fact that I was entirely self-supporting from the tender age of 18 onwards.
But I felt it was important to say I did this very difficult thing by myself and the way I did it was to just simply say that ‘while I did not consider myself traditionally disadvantaged, I had supported myself and paid for my own education and was able to maintain a good gpa, which at the time I did not realize was so big a deal but that now I more fully understand the importance of what I had done and that today I was very proud of that achienvement.’ smile.gif
Something like that, because to leave a fairly well-off family in the suburbs and come to NYC on her own at 18 (and I mean ALL alone), and then put myself thru a difficult school and actually do pretty well, I think it’s important to spell that out. I definitely do not want to be considered under: another spoiled kid fully supported by their parents, kind of thing, who just was messin’ around. Sheesh, if that was the case then I would like to feel that my grades would have been all A’s!!
I know that for me I found it very dificult to gain the confidence level of my peers, who raced off into the world after school, full of optimism and family support and I found it very difficult to come to the awareness that I could even consider medicine as a career for myself. I don’t know if other people can relate, but it took me a long while to believe that I could do this and that I was just as able as anyone else etc. So where we come from can have a huge impact on where we end up going, and if we’re lucky we can change our thinking and then change our world.
I think this thread has been great for talking about these issues …

moving a little off-topic (from disadvantaged to URM)
- myself, I've always thought that oldpremeds/non-traditional applicants should be able to be considered URM -

QUOTE (LisaS @ May 18 2003, 12:42 AM)
moving a little off-topic (from disadvantaged to URM)
- myself, I've always thought that oldpremeds/non-traditional applicants should be able to be considered URM -

I think that in a very real sense, we are. Having been through the admissions process, and finding my nontrad background to be of great interest to adcom members, and also knowing folks who serve on adcoms and listening to what they look for in an applicant - I believe our differences lend us an advantage in many scenarios. In a far more subtle fashion than the URM designation, of course.

Hey Damon and Dave,
My medical school journey ended when I was waitlisted at The University of North Dakota (UND) in 2000. UND has a program called Indians Into Medicine (INMED). The focus of the program is to encourage American Indian applicants from all over the nation. At UND, medical students will get a rural/ reservation medicine curriculum. Once you graduate, most INMED students obtain residencies at underserved medical areas- specifically reservations and Indian Health Service (IHS) clinics. If you remember from Old Man Dave's post, that was my goal- to practice on an American Indian reservation.
My number on the waitlist at UND was #2. I thought I was sure to come off the waitlist and into medical school. In the end, the waitlist ended at person #1. Now, I don't claim to be a theologian or a shaman; but, I do believe there are times when the doors of opportunity will remain closed for a person for whatever reason. When the time is right, those doors will eventually open for that person to enter. Meanwhile, that person has to find other doors that are already open. In my case, the door of medical school remained closed. The door I entered that was open- teaching. I teach chemistry in an urban school in west Dallas (Oak Cliff).
I feel that the medical school door is about to open for me since I found this site. I had a reason not to post previously- the timing was just not right. Now, I hope I can contribute more posts in the future.
Gerald Jimmy Jr.
aka (eagleeye)

QUOTE (eagleeye @ May 19 2003, 09:43 PM)

I feel that the medical school door is about to open for me since I found this site. I had a reason not to post previously- the timing was just not right. Now, I hope I can contribute more posts in the future.
Talk to you later.

I'm glad to hear this! I'll look forward to hearing more from you in the future. The many different perspectives of OPM's members are what makes it such a great place. I have no doubt that your prescence here will make it even better.