College Advice Blog

Sep 15, 2012

Disadvantaged Doctor: What It Means on Your MD Application

If you are on your way to a doctorate in education, as you are filling out the required American Medical College Application Service forms, you may notice there is a section to let the reviewing committee know if you are in the “disadvantaged status” category. You may wonder what this designation means and how to know if you qualify for disadvantaged status.

This is a question hundreds of medical school candidates, as well as candidates for fields as diverse as marketing MBA and master in public health, routinely face each year. While there are fairly standard criteria outlining which candidates qualify and which do not, there is also a fairly generous window left open for personal information and interpretation. In other words, whether you meet the exact criteria as listed or not, you are still able to make a case for being in the disadvantaged status category, if you want.

What are the Criteria for “Disadvantaged Status?”

You can apply for “disadvantaged status” on your AMCAS application if you were under-served in your geographic area before you reached the age of 18, if your education or social opportunities were limited due to a family matter (this is limited to immediate family members only), or if you or your family received state or federal assistance, or both, before you reached the age of 18. In addition to these three factors, you can also choose to make a case for yourself if you had to work as a minor to help support your family, if your local community lacked sufficient trained medical personnel to care for your medical needs and the needs of the community; it also works if you grew up feeling excluded because of minority status.

How Much Can Claiming Disadvantaged Status Assist with School Bills

While the amount of financial relief or assistance can vary a bit from program to program, the reigning consensus amongst medical students who have successfully met the criteria for disadvantaged status is that the financial relief is negligible. The simple truth is that financing a medical school degree is a big ticket item and will make its impact felt on a budget of any size. There is always a case for claiming disadvantaged status because every bit helps, but don’t count on it totally alleviating the burden of repaying medical school student loans.

Why Do Schools Offer Financial Relief through Disadvantaged Status

Medical schools, like other educational institutions, recognize minorities and students of any ethnicity who may come from a financially difficult or impoverished background can feel reluctant to take on the burden of student debt. In recognition of disadvantaged students being less likely to apply their aptitude in the medical field, the AMCAS has mandated that all colleges under its governance offer an opportunity for students to make a case for being financially disadvantaged at the time of their medical school application.

Do Other Advanced Degree Programs Offer Disadvantaged Status Relief?

There is no uniform policy amongst other institutions of higher education for offering advanced degree candidates the option to indicate disadvantaged status. Often, however, there are other vehicles, such as work-study programs, assistant teaching positions, minority scholarships, grant programs (public and private) and the use of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form to determine eligibility for federal grants, financial aid, and even scholarships and other financial relief programs at the university level. It is well-established that it is often more difficult to find aid and financing for a graduate or doctoral level degree than it is to finance a bachelor’s degree, but it is not impossible, either.

About the Author
Shannon Sims is working towards her MSN nursing degree and has been fascinated by the healthcare field since she can remember.

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