Hi everyone. So, AMCAS opened up today and I started my application. I got to the part about disadvantaged and I am not sure if I should (or want ) to say that I want to be considered disadvantaged. I am white girl from the suburbs, but by no means were my parents upper middle class. My dad was a teamster working refrigeration in a warehouse. My mom was stay at home but also had her own business when I got older painting and wallpapering inside people’s homes. My dad had some post high school classes (tech school) but no degree. Mom is a h.s grad. My parents came from working class backgrounds. No college degrees in my family history except maybe one first cousin. We moved to the burbs when I was just about in middle school. My parents were good with what money they had so we had a decent life, but far from privileged and no where near what my suburban neighbors and classmates had going on. My parents moved us to the burbs just before I was in middle school because they did not want my brother and I to go to city schools.

As stated, I am the first in the family to go to college. My brother is a cop. No other siblings. I am currently a single mom and have been on public assistance. I was in an abusive relationship in my 20s which ruined me in several ways including financially (filed bankruptcy and everything) yadda, yadda, yadda. Got back on my feet. Got remarried, had child, husband lost job in 2008 (details on why are not good and not because of downsizing and I will spare them- they led to our divorce), I went back to school when daughter was 1.5yrs old because I knew it was all on me and I wasn’t getting any younger and I was sick of my life and wanted to change it! It was time to put myself and my daughter in front and pursue my dream and give her and I a good, stable life. Been a single mom in school every since. I hesitate to call myself disadvantaged because I did not grow up in the inner city or in a rural area. My parents gave me a good life. No way were there savings for college or anything. It was always known that college was on me, but to say I’m currently “disadvantaged”? I don’t know. I worry about playing that card. I have gotten help in the form of grants and loans and a scholarship that was awarded both for need and academic performance. I have also gotten public assistance (for those of you who feel strongly in one direction about public assistance I hope we can please keep the conversation away from that heated topic. I have mixed feelings sometimes, too, but I don’t want to start a different conversation).

So, what does everyone think? I am really reluctant and not sure what advantage there would be to claiming I am disadvantaged? Thank you all in advance for your kindness in this situation as I have just made public some extremely personal facts about my life!

Hi Shannon,

Please check your messages!


Whether or not to fill out the disadvantaged statement is often a very hard decision. In this case, I think you should, but keep it very brief. They can ask more about it in the interview if they wish. I would only discuss:

  1. First in family to go to college

  2. Single mother (if you want to bring in the abuse, ok, but that is up to you). I’d leave out public assistance because it’s such a hot topic.

    The key is to be direct and never whiny. The tone you are going for is: Came from a loving family where education was not highlighted–>forged my own path–>some tough life circumstances–>proven my toughness and passion as single mother–>even more proof I can handle medical school.

    Feel free to get in touch offline if you have more questions.

    –Dr. Miller

Thank you, Dr. Miller!

Due to the unwarrented negative stigma associated with being a single Mom, I’d STRONGLY advise against mentioning it. Sexism is alive an well in medicine and I wouldn’t give a person ANY reason to doubt whether or not I could handle the courseload.

I understand. However, it is an integral part of my journey and who I am so it will be hard to avoid. I think my PS, my LORS, my stats should more than address any “concerns”. There will always be someone somewhere who will disapprove and I realize the risks I could be taking. I also need to be true to myself and honest about my journey. Thank you for looking out for me pathdr2b!

I thought it might be helpful for readers of this thread to see the description from AMCAS of “disadvantaged” here:

The following definitions/questions may help you answer the questions on this page:

Underserved: Do you believe, based on your own experiences or the experiences of family and friends, that the area in which you grew up was adequately served by the available health care professionals? Were there enough physicians, nurses, hospitals, clinics, and other health care service providers?

Immediate Family: The Federal Government broadly defines “immediate family” as “spouse, parent, child, sibling, mother or father-in-law, son or daughter-in-law, or sister or brother-in-law, including step and adoptive relationships.”

State and Federal Assistance Programs: These programs are specifically defined as “Means-Tested Programs” under which the individual, family, or household income and assets must be below specified thresholds. The sponsoring agencies then provide cash and non-cash assistance to eligible individuals, families, or households. Such programs include welfare benefit programs (federal, state, and local) Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC or ADC); unemployment compensation; General Assistance (GA); food stamps; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Medicaid; housing assistance; or other federal, state, or local financial assistance programs.

And this is the prompt you get if you check “Yes” that you consider yourself disadvantaged:

“Explain below why you believe you should be considered a disadvantaged applicant by your designated medical schools. The space available for your explanation is 1325 characters, or approximately ¼ page.”

This is obviously a critical essay. You’ll need to express the reasons why you consider yourself disadvantaged and also realize that you may be asked about these things an interview. Only include information you’re willing to discuss freely.

You should also know that under the “Childhood Information” section you are required to fill out financial information and whether you contributed to your education, whether you had paid employment prior to age 18, etc. This can sometimes validate the selection of “disadvantaged.”

I hope this added information helps readers of this thread.



I just came across this post and it made me reconsider my previous answer on my application as far as disadvantaged. I have previously checked no to being considered disadvantaged due to my current life situation not being any sort of disadvantage. Should I take my experiences growing up into consideration? Here is a brief synopsis…

I am currently 30, married with no kids and we both of work. I joined the army at 17 (still active duty), and completed my undergrad due to 95% of it being paid by the military.

I never met my dad until about 3 years ago. Growing up I lived in everything from a car to government subsidized housing to with my grandparents. We were on and off of welfare. Sometime in my preteen years I lived with a step dad for a short amount of time then back with my mom. Due to a drug problem my mom went on a hiatus. I was eventually put in custody of my grandparents- who were not “struggling” to get by. At this time I did start receiving medical and dental care as needed. After about 4 years with them I was then sent to live with an uncle until I graduated high school 2 years later. Living with grandparents and aunt and uncle I did not have to work or contribute to the family economically.

I am the first in my family to go to or graduate college. However, I regained contact with my mother several years ago, and have since talked her into getting her GED and she even got an associates degree recently.

There are other details also which I believe would have allowed to me to consider myself disadvantaged if I went to college right away. Since I have established myself since though, should I check that block?

dws3315: I would consider calling yourself disadvantaged and use the story you just gave us here in your essay that is required if you wish to be designated as disadvantaged. I really flip-flopped on this issue and in the end chose not to go this route, though I could have for several reasons both in my distant and more recent past. However, there is a new numbering classification assigned my AMCAS when you answer questions on the application. You will see these numbers on the final application and you can find out more here:

https://www.aamc.org/download/330166/data/ seseffec…

At any rate, my “EO indicator” is an EO-1 based on the answers I gave to certain questions. I am not ashamed or worried about disclosing that here, either, as I should not be, by the way! So, even if you do not wish to be considered “disadvantaged” you will still be given an EO indicator by AMCAS provided you answer the socioeconomic background questions.

I must say when I was shadowing in the hospitals and running into a lot of med students and residents I was surprised by how many of them are from upper class families. Many of them are children of doctors. For some reason I thought it would not be as prevalent as it seems to be. This gave me pause because it really does hit home that opportunity, despite living in the US, really is not equal for all and it’s not just about race or the neighborhood you grew up in. It’s highly nuanced. There are many factors at play. I know that may make me seem naive to be “shocked” by how many upper class students I encountered but I truly was a bit surprised by just how many there were with physician parents and grandparents and those coming from backgrounds where college degrees and professional degrees are a given in most families. Despite this not being the case in my own family I was never discouraged from higher education and it was never assumed that I would not seek it out. There was certainly no college fund and I had no family members to help me navigate the world of higher education, but I came from a very supportive environment where I was told I could do and go after whatever I wanted. I was never pushed into higher education nor held back from it. When things were rough in my twenties and I never finished college, I wasn’t looked down on by any means, either. And, when I went back 3 1/2 years ago as a pre-med (!!!) I was given so much moral support by my family that has been instrumental in keeping me going. I have hard working roots and I just used those roots to work hard in my education in the same way my grandfather worked hard washing windows and my dad worked hard as a teamster, and my grandmother worked hard cleaning schools. That work ethic runs through my veins and will be very helpful as I get to med school and become a doctor.

Now, the disparities with opportunities? Well, it’s not that I don’t get why this is or anything. I mean, just look at the cost of MCAT prep alone! And volunteer vacations?! Don’t get me started. I’d love to spend a summer in Peru, too, traveling and getting some medical experience, but gosh who can do that? Those with money. Those who do not have to work during the summer. Those who have connections that are often made due to socioeconomic backgrounds. Those who do not have a family to take care of. My goodness, the Kaplan summer intensive for the MCAT is thousands of dollars! Not “just” the $2,000 of the regular course (I won my course! Woohoo, but I got very lucky). Easily $6,000 and up. To say that applying to med school for someone who is economically or otherwise disadvantaged is an uphill battle is an understatement.

However, despite the fact that as a mom coming from the background I am coming from and without the same connections and resources as others I decided not to use the disadvantaged thing. I guess in the end I was too proud. I worked very hard to get here and perhaps my hard work “means” more because I achieved the level of success I did on limited resources including time and money. I worked, volunteered, raised my daughter, had a full course load and prepped for the MCAT. I achieved high grades and an over 30 MCAT while doing this all. I also paid my bills, chaperoned field trips, grocery shopped on double coupon days , managed illnesses, kept my house reasonably clean, made lunches and dinners and breakfasts, etc, etc. But, in the end I think my application including my personal statement will show this. I am not the average Jane medical school applicant and it should be evident from my application. I guess I just didn’t feel comfortable calling myself out as disadvantaged, but I was very close to doing so.

It’s a very personal decision. I do feel that your background, Dave S. makes for a very compelling argument for using disadvantaged on your application, but it’s your call, of course.

And, just so I don’t offend anyone, I feel that every individual’s journey deserves respect including those from privileged backgrounds. So, when I say my efforts “mean” more because of my background and current journey I don’t mean that I am above anyone just that my circumstances are different and therefore my achievements may be perceived differently than that of some young buck with all kinds of time and money at their disposal. But, hey, we all have our story that makes us unique! A young student with doctors for parents can’t help that fact and perhaps has other challenges to overcome that I may not personally understand, but I do respect. I respect everyone’s journey as I would hope others would do the same in return about mine.

So, best of luck Dave S. Let us know, if you are open to sharing, what you decide to do!

  • shanport7300 Said:
dws3315: I would consider calling yourself disadvantaged and use the story you just gave us here in your essay that is required if you wish to be designated as disadvantaged.

I agree with Shanport about DWS claiming disadvantaged status.

But Shanport I disagree with you about you not claiming it for yourself because disadvantaged status could EARN you a free ride to med school with your stats.

And if you're too proud to accept a free ride to med school that you DESERVE, then I just don't know what to think about that.

Well, path, I did not think that using disadvantaged would be the only way to get a “free ride”. Surely, a medical school could identify me as disadvantaged based on my indicators also, correct?

I am certainly not too proud to take free money for medical school. Please do not judge me for not claiming the disadvantaged status. This was not the reason why I did not! I had several reasons why I didn’t, but if I thought that NOT claiming disadvantaged would put me at a disadvantage, well then I guess I was misinformed on the true reasons for checking off that box and that is my error. I cannot imagine the only way to “earn” a free ride is by checking off that box, but I suppose time shall tell. AMCAS is done and submitted. It is what it is…

If one plans to apply the NHSC scholarship, the last several years the number of applicants has so far outstripped the number of scholarships, that almost every scholarship has gone to students who are considered disadvantaged background, as this is their first priority to fund.


That’s interesting, Kate! I know those scholarships are very hard to come by for sure. I don’t know if I’d even be eligible for that when the time comes as my choice of specialty may not meet the needs of the NHSC. But, that is way ahead anyway!

I think my background is pretty obvious and my socioeconomic status is pretty clear. I would be surprised if not checking the disadvantaged box on my AMCAS would hurt me somehow. My “EO indicator” is the lowest one can get after all. I can always make more inquiries with any school that may invite me to interview and/or after an acceptance. I know my #1 choice school has pretty slim pickings when it comes to financial aid as it is. Mostly loans for most of the student body as it is except perhaps after 1st year then I think there is a little more opportunity for scholarship and what not. We’ll see how it all shakes out! I made my decision when I submitted my AMCAS about declaring disadvantaged myself. I would think the school could decide for themselves also if they want to consider me as such, but maybe I’m misinformed about the process.

  • shanport7300 Said:
Well, path, I did not think that using disadvantaged would be the only way to get a "free ride". Surely, a medical school could identify me as disadvantaged based on my indicators also, correct? .

Please don't think I was judging you for your decision because I wasn't even close to thinking like that. I also wasn't suggesting that claiming that status was the ONLY way to get a free ride, so my apologies if what I was trying to say wasn't clear.

I'd simply hate to see you miss a great financial opportunity due to pride.

It’s simple really, you take advantage of opportunities offered. In this case it was to check the box. I recommend to everyone who qualifies to check the box and give their reason why. I have met some who did not and missed out. One friend was not only from a disadvantaged background but also disadvantaged in that they were diagnosed with a learning disability. They chose not to check any box about being disadvantaged nor request a special MCAT. They did not get into a US school and eventually were courted by a Carribbean school and went there. They’ve graduated and are in residency however they could’ve easily been awarded money or at least a seat in the US. She learned this during clinical rotations and speaking with a past adcom who remembered them and was shocked to hear her journey.

All that to say I encourage everyone to take advantage of being from a disadvantaged background.

I wouldn’t trust that people will be able to read our disadvantaged status into or out of our app…plus it will also bring up why didn’t we check the box?

I’m confident things will work out how they’re supposed to and you’ll be an attending soon enough.

I know people always think about the money aspect when discussing coming from a disadvantaged background. After completing first year of medical school, I’d argue that the bigger issue is opportunities available to you once you’re accepted. Many of my classmates are related to docs that teach at the school or who work in the hospital, once is the son of the dean, and the vast majority have family in medicine. The ease at which they find opportunities for leadership positions, shadowing, mentors, etc is astounding. For those of us who come from backgrounds where higher education was discouraged, first generation college student, not even a distant relative in medicine - it can be very challenging. We spend a lot more time trying to make contacts and connections, whereas most students were born into those connections. This has great implications when it comes to residency application because the more “stuff” you have on your app, the more likely you are to find a place. Checking a disadvantaged box may get a person free money, but be aware that that’s just the beginning of the continued uphill battle in this deeply entrenched “good 'ol boys club.” Yeah, yeah - “it makes you stronger,” etc. but quite frankly, most of the time it’s just darn irritating.

Great conversations here everyone! I made my decision to not check the box and I will live with it. I am far from being someone to not grab at every opportunity there is out there, though, so perhaps I should have. I just thought the new EO indicator along with my Personal statement would be telling enough. However, it may just be that officially declaring disadvantaged may get someone further, at least financially, than just going with the indicators, etc. So, it goes. In the end, I just chose not to check that box. Maybe it’s because I see others who had it worse (though, really, there is always someone who had it worse and someone who had it better. Comparing to others is not the way to go here, obviously) and did not feel “right” about it even though my background based on the description of disadvantaged would be considered as such. I have other reasons, but it’s not something I want to keep arguing here and it’s said and done anyway so not worth it. However, for Dave S. who is considering this and hasn’t submitted yet this is great stuff for him to take into consideration and could be very helpful! I may have been swayed earlier if these posts were here when I originally posted about this! Or not. Anyway…

Switz: You make some excellent points as well. It’s not just about $. It’s so very much about who you know and while we are ambitious people who can get out and try to meet the right people, there are some in this game who do not have to put any effort into that. They were born to the right people, their parents are friends and colleagues with the right people, etc. So, those of us w/o connections naturally in place have to expend extra energy getting them. It is irritating!

I have immense respect for my own internist who, like me, comes from a blue collar background. He has amazing connections with his patients because they trust him. They are working people who know he “gets” it. He gets the plight of the “working man”. His hard working roots show through. This is not to say those physicians from different backgrounds do not work hard (medicine is hard work after all), but being someone who had to work throughout school and who had to fight stereotypes is different. It just is. Those of us from different backgrounds have not been groomed for this path since a young age. That makes for at the very least a very different experience altogether. I know many people from my very background who do not trust doctors. Older generations with working class/lower middle class backgrounds sometimes look at doctors as elitists who just don’t listen to them and just don’t get them. Medical schools do need to churn out more doctors from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds if only to assist with creating a profession that has a better reputation among certain groups of people.

However, it won’t happen overnight. Us nontrads just by age alone and life experience will help to diversify medicine. I think medical schools are starting to see this if only because they are forced to due to public pressure and doctor shortages.

Best of luck to us all as we navigate this foreign world and “claw” our way up the golden ladders!

Hi Shannon,

You are right. Declaring disadvantaged status in med app is a highly personal decision. The way I see it there is no wrong or right answer to this if you fall under this category (as defined by AAMC std). I struggled a bit over this issue myself. What is “disadvantaged” in the truest sense anyway? How about an applicant who grew up with all the financial resources world can offer but his/her parents were so preoccupied with their careers that there was zero love or affection in his/her life?

Having said that, I respect everyone’s opinions here re: possible opportunities and taking advantage of all the resources available. If this is truly a financial concern and you have a financial need at this point in life beyond the “norm”, perhaps this is something that could be considered.

As for me (without going into too much personal detail) – lost father at an early age, raised by single mother with 2 other siblings, experienced homelessness, lived with other troubled kids, substance abuse, etc. I chose not to declare myself disadvantaged because in the end I felt that I had been given a unique opportunity to experience an aspect of life many medical students do not get to experience. In some ways, I felt advantaged not disadvantaged. Also, I met a lot of people who had it much worse than me and thought they deserved it more than I did. And lastly, like you, a part of me also wanted to do this without special accommodation.

I feel blessed that things turned out just fine. I was accepted to my top choice school with a mission that truly echoed that of mine. It is quite possible that my decision was a risky one (given my dismal grades) and I was extremely lucky to have had my file reviewed by an Adcom that saw value in my life journey so far.

Anyway, good luck to you and I wish you a successful app season!

Well the AAMC makes it objective rather than subjective. This isn’t about how we interpret being disadvantaged but how they do. If our lives fit their definition then we should check the box. Two highly educated and successful parents does not equate coming from a disadvantaged background. This should be viewed based on how the AAMC defines it. During our interviews is when we would spin it to being an advantage however the reality is being raised on government assistance equates not having access to healthcare which means we was poh! No shame in being raised poh. Let the system work for you because Lawd knows the system can, has, and will crush each and everyone of us if given the chance.

Is it me, or does this thread exemplify the genuine care and concern OPM’s have for each other???