Kaplan Test Prep Survey: Aspiring Doctors Lament the Hypercompetitive Pre-Med Academic Culture

Also: Nearly One in Five Pre-Meds Have Heard
About or Been Personally Bullied By Other Students or Even Professors

Note to editors: Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC)

Press Contact: Russell Schaffer, russell.schaffer@kaplan.com, 212.453.7538
Twitter: @KapTestNews, @KaplanMCATPrep

New York, NY (April 20, 2017) — Between long hours in the lab, late nights studying, early mornings in class, and volunteer work in a clinic, life as a pre-med can be intense. Results from Kaplan Test Prep’s new survey of MCAT® students backs this up: 86 percent of future doctors think pre-med culture is “too competitive.” So competitive, in fact, that a significant minority—19 percent—say they have been bullied, or know others who have been bullied, within a pre-med academic setting.

When asked to share examples of hypercompetitive behavior from their pre-med experience, students shared the following anecdotes:

  • “It seems there is a constant need for pre-med students to make themselves stand out to professors and other authority figures, including speaking in class over others, asking questions simply to ask a question, and accosting medical professionals to the point that they turn and run as soon as they hear you are pre-med.”
  • “One student in my class had the top grade. Another student was competing with her for the top grade and somehow emailed her from the professor’s email address telling her that the exam had been moved and that class was canceled. This sounds like something out of a movie, but it really happened.”
  • “I remember during my sophomore year, pre-med students would try to sabotage
    other pre-med students by offering them incorrect study guides or learning objectives in hopes of other students getting lower test scores and raising the grading curve.”

In some cases, the behaviors crossed the line from ‘highly competitive’ to ‘abusive;’ examples that students shared include:

  • “I know students who have made comments to other students about how smart they are and have basically told them they’re unintelligent and shouldn’t be pre-med.”
  • “There was a student in my cohort who had to temporarily take a leave of absence from the program due to a medical illness. While she was gone, and even when she came back, some students began spreading rumors that she was not really sick and that she was just saying that she was in order to hide the fact that she simply wanted to take time off to get a break from school.”
  • “Some students were bullied by professors every time we would receive our exam grades back to either drop the course or change majors.”

“Healthy competition among pre-meds is to be expected, as the medical school admissions process remains fierce, with less than half of all applicants gaining admission. But it’s clear from our survey that some of what goes on can be downright abusive. There is never an excuse to bully or put down your fellow students. Additionally, pre-meds should know that in medical school, this kind of behavior is frowned upon, as the academic atmosphere is much more collaborative than competitive according to our own research,” says Eric Chiu, executive director of pre-medical programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “We encourage students who feel they are being unfairly targeted by their peers or even their professors to talk with their pre-med advisor or a trusted member of the administration. And if you see someone else being bullied, do what’s right and stand up for them. We must all be part of the solution.”

For a short video illustrating the results of the survey, click here.

For more information about Kaplan’s survey results, contact Russell Schaffer at russell.schaffer@kaplan.com or 212.453.7538.

*The survey was conducted by email in January 2017 of 273 pre-med students who prepared to take the MCAT with Kaplan Test Prep. MCAT® is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which is not affiliated with Kaplan or this survey.

MCAT® is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which is not affiliated with Kaplan or this survey.

About Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan Test Prep (www.kaptest.com) is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With a comprehensive menu of online offerings as well as a complete array of print books and digital products, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 100 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as professional licensing exams for attorneys, physicians and nurses. Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services.

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