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Heading to grad school comes with a price

Costly Venture

As classes commence for the fall semester, students who are entering their final year of studies are faced with the daunting task of determining what they are going to do after graduation. Today, most bachelor’s degrees do not get youas far as they once did, so more and more students are deciding to apply to graduate and professional schools to further their education and employment opportunities.

However, those seeking to apply to postgraduate schools are faced with a more complex application process than when they applied to university from high school. This process is not only lengthier but can also be quite expensive.
To apply to most medical or law schools and certain graduate programs, students are required to take a standardized exam, usually either the MCAT, LSAT, GRE or GMAT. The exams themselves are not cheap, with the LSAT costing $138, the MCAT costing $210 and the GRE $170.

Due to the emphasis universities place on these exams, particularly the LSAT and MCAT, in admission decisions, students understandably put much time and effort into preparing for them. Numerous companies, such as Oxford Seminars and the Princeton Review, have developed courses to help students prepare for these exams. Most of these courses go beyond examination preparation and include tips on how to master the entire application process. These courses range from in-class or online courses to individual tutoring. They also vary in terms of length, lasting anywhere from a weekend to weeks and even months. Similarly, these courses vary widely in prices, although none of them are particularly cheap. An LSAT course can cost anywhere from $445 to $1,600, an MCAT course can cost anywhere from $445 to $1,700, and a “premier” private tutor can cost up to an astonishing $10,800.

While these courses claim to guarantee better examination scores, it is obvious that with those prices, they are unfortunately out of reach for many students. Luckily, exam preparation books provide a cheaper route to exam preparation. Many of these books are published by the same companies that offer the exam preparation courses so they therefore provide much of the same information, but at a considerable less cost, with most books selling between $20-$40.

In addition to the fees associated with exam preparation and the exams themselves, students can also face expensive application fees. The application fees for graduate and professional programs range anywhere from $40 to over $200 per school. Considering that most students apply to more than one school, these application fees can quickly add up.

All together, the combined bill for students applying to postgraduate schools can easily become equivalent to the value of a term’s worth of books or even to an entire semester’s worth of tuition. Even students aiming to do their applications on “the cheap,” who buy one, if any, test preparation books, and only apply to one or two schools, can expect their bill to easily reach $500. As for those who decide to go all out, and choose to take a test preparation course, and who apply to a multitude of schools, they can easily expect to spend a couple thousand dollars in total. Either way, it is still a lot of money for students, regardless of their financial resources. However, a large bill should not discourage students from applying. The best thing for students to do is to plan, well in advance, and to do research to find the schools and the exam preparation methods that are most suitable for their budget. Even if one does spend a lot of money, the potential long-term benefits of furthering your education by attending a graduate or professional school are worth even the largest bill.