The "Adversity" Question


5-Year Member
Jan 15, 2013

DS is working on his application, and is wrestling about what to do with the "adversity question." From what I've read on here, it looks like the Academy is looking for extenuating circumstances which would help explain lower grades, lack of participation in extracurriculars, etc. DS actually has excellent grades and extracurriculars. However, he has achieved those things despite coping with a father who is suffering from alcoholism and the subsequent disruption in our home. He has had to assume a lot of responsibility and handled all with surprising maturity. Do you think it would be pertinent to mention this, despite it being "opposite" the usual reason?

Also, would the Academy possibly be concerned with this (potential) family heritage, so he'd be better off not mentioning it at all? (DS has never had a drop, for the record)


5-Year Member
Jan 26, 2010
hmm. I suppose it depends on the tone with which your son answers that question.

If I were evaluating a file, it would impress me that an applicant excelled under emotionally tumultuous circumstances. A simple explanation of the home situation, and a quick explanation of how the applicant overcame this, and actions taken to help the family overcome this, would add to the file, of course IMHO.

I believe it would help with the Congressional interview as well.

I don't think the adversity quesiton is only about explaining sub-optimal performance. It is also about identifying applicants who have already proven they can excel, and lead others to excel, in tough circumstances.


10-Year Member
Apr 3, 2008
Most applicants struggle with this topic because they have not really faced serious adversity in their young lives. Hence they fall back on grades blah blah.....

Your DS has a real subject with real adversity to write about. If he and you want to write about this subject I suggest he do it from the heart and be honest. Also, to get the essay perfect he should spend a few days writing and rewriting the essay to his satisfaction. He should then have you or someone that you know and trust, to read and be a critic on grammar, punctuation, and writing techniques. The essay is a critical part of separating your DS from all the other applicants.

The Academy is a leadership school and one of the key harsh lessons it teaches it's graduates is how to overcome adversity. It is a central part of leadership once they hit the fleet. Have your DS do his best, with no regrets, on this essay