Kaplan Test Prep Survey: Nearly 40 Percent of Pre-Med Students Say Stress Almost Caused Them to Drop their Plans to Become Doctors

Also: Kaplan to Host LinkedIn Live Event with Expert Guests to Discuss Results on Monday, March 9, at 3 PM ET

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 (March 4, 2020) – The rigors of pre-med life are taking a toll on aspiring doctors, including lowering their self-esteem and even causing them to question their career plans, according to a Kaplan survey of more than 400 pre-meds*. Almost four in 10 aspiring doctors (37 percent) surveyed say that they have “seriously considered” dropping their plans for a medical career because of the level of stress they experienced as a pre-med.

Among the experiences pre-meds shared about grappling with their decisions to pursue a career in medicine are the following:  

  • “I remember crying constantly throughout the day over how unhappy I was in my major and how trapped I felt studying   biology.  I wanted to do medicine but I felt I wasn’t smart enough or good enough.”
  • “I always think life would be much easier if I simply wanted an undergraduate degree. I never actually considered changing   plans, but I would constantly envy the business majors on my campus whom I watched never study without a care in the world.”
  • “Pre-meds tend to be very competitive as well and constantly compare themselves to the other pre-meds, so that just exacerbates the stress and makes it almost embarrassing for a pre-med student to admit they’re stressed and seek out help.”
  • “I wondered if I’m this stressed out by undergrad, how will I ever manage medical school?”

The Kaplan survey also finds that 57 percent say “self-medicating” (alcohol and other drug use) is a common problem among their pre-med peers who are trying to deal with stress.

Additionally, more than a quarter (26 percent) of pre-meds surveyed say they experience stress “pretty much always,” while 45 percent say they experience it “frequently.” Twenty-eight percent say “occasionally,” while only 1 percent say “never.” 

Dr. Jeff Koetje, director of pre-health programs, Kaplan Test Prep, said, “Between long hours in the lab, late nights studying for challenging courses like Organic Chem, studying for the MCAT, and thinking about how to finance medical school, life as a pre-med can be more than challenging. But when a pre-med’s stress becomes chronic and overwhelming, it’s essential they seek professional help, or at the very least speak with someone they know and trust like a family member, friend, or adviser.  It’s important that we in the medical education community be part of the solution—we need to model, for example, a cultural shift from one that emphasizes competition, to one that focuses on collaborative learning and working. The fact that nearly 40 percent of pre-meds say they almost dropped their plans to become doctors could have significant effects on the healthcare system overall, as the U.S. is already suffering from an acute doctor shortage. Burnout is also a serious problem among practicing physicians.”  

He also noted, “We are also concerned that so many pre-meds say that self-medication is a problem, as that’s not a healthy way to deal with stress and could lead to dependency issues. Pre-meds should feel supported on all levels throughout every step of the medical school admissions process. Just like these future doctors will be there for us in our time of need, we should be there for them now. Kaplan’s MCAT curriculum, for example, includes information, talks, and lessons about the importance of self-care and wellness. We want our students to know we’ve got their backs.” 

On Monday, March 9, at 3 PM ET, Kaplan will host a LinkedIn Live event to discuss results of the survey and provide pre-meds with helpful information about how to better deal with elevated levels of stress. Dr. Jeff Koetje, director of pre-health programs, will moderate the hour-long discussion, and welcome Dr. Pamela Wible, who provides free crisis support for doctors and students struggling with suicide and devotes herself to root cause analysis of physician and medical student suicide; Dr. Isaiah Cochran, president, American Medical Student Association; and Elisabeth Fassas, author of the new book, Making Pre-Med Count and a Kaplan MCAT® instructor. To tune in, connect with Kaplan’s LinkedIn page. You will then receive a push alert when the event begins.  

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

*Based on the results of a Kaplan e-survey conducted in December 2019—February 2020 of 414 pre-med students who took a Kaplan MCAT course.

MCAT® is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Test names are the property of the respective trademark holders, none of whom endorse or are affiliated with Kaplan.

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 200 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school. Among those tests are the SAT®, PSAT®, ACT®, GRE®, GMAT®, LSAT®, and MCAT®. Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services.

# # #