There comes a time in every premed student’s life when they are resigned to begin studying for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). With the arrival of my 23-pound seven book set of prep materials from Kaplan this past summer, I took another step in my journey towards medical school.
For those familiar with the college admissions process, it will come as no surprise that the business for graduate school test prep is just as lucrative. The Princeton Review and Kaplan both offer months-long courses that claim to provide the most exhaustive preparation for the MCAT.
The average price of the cheapest course: $1750.
The most expensive, you ask? $9500.
Both companies assert the cost is well worth it. Indeed, each course provides “free” diagnostic exams, full-length practice tests, and thousands of review questions in addition to online tutoring and, in some cases, in-person instruction.
Let’s keep in mind that medical school costs about $250,000 on average. Best Medical Degrees estimates that the total opportunity cost of spending four years in medical school and another three in residency is to the tune of $800,000. (You may reasonably question whether becoming a doctor is worth it.)
Princeton Review: Hell, what’s another $8,000 for a prep course in the grand scheme of things?
Cost notwithstanding, students may also be drawn to the structure of these courses. Having a rigid schedule of material to cover each day can make one more prepared and focused for the exam. The perception that this prep is all-encompassing can also boost a student’s confidence in their ability to take the MCAT.
I want to be crystal clear: these courses are not worth it. I applaud Kaplan’s efforts to offer financial aid to students from low-income backgrounds, though the price still presents a substantial financial barrier. (The cheapest course costs about $800 with financial assistance.)
With this post, I want to disrupt the system, allowing premed students from all backgrounds the ability to study effectively and efficiently for the MCAT. We have already overcome so many hurdles; I refuse to let another stand in our way.
Thus, in this post I present my plan of attack for the MCAT, utilizing about $500 worth of materials and yet preparing just as much as a course from Kaplan or The Princeton Review.