Saturday, May 9, 2015

Kaplan MCAT Prep v. DIY

On various forums, the question seems to get asked a lot about why paying $2,000 to Kaplan vs. just simply buying the books has any value.


I am NOT a Kaplan instructor nor am I employed by Kaplan.  Last, Kaplan is not my client.


Okay, so all that said, why did I pay $2k for Kaplan and what have I found out?

Back in August 2014, a little quick kick in the butt from my cousin got me thinking about the MCAT. That dreaded "B" in biochem had killed my dream and sucked the wind out of my sails.  I gave up.  No gas in the tank so to speak.

The cousin.  More like a sister I never had; I respect her opinion greatly.

Take the MCAT, she said.  Screw that "B" ... damn premeds she uttered under her breath :)

The only way I would do well on the MCAT was a prep course.  I had the EK books ... and over the years had perused them to no great use.

Choking on the cost of Kaplan, they made it easy.  Three payments of $600 or so.  Monthly.  I could do that.  Checking the little box, I enrolled.

Then came that diagnostic.  Everyone who has ever taken the diagnostic for any of the prep companies or AAMC groans loudly.  The diagnostics are hard.  REALLY hard and deflating if you think that way... OR

They are really good at pointing out flaws in the skill sets and knowledge.  Areas to work on.  I liked that.

First session for the old MCAT was interesting.  I was motivated, engaged and raring to go.  Let's get this MCAT party started (with Pink in my head).

Then I found flex sessions that focused more intently on areas that Kaplan had found were useful for pre-meds going into the MCAT... the sessions provided greater in-depth understanding of the concepts tested in prior years on the MCAT.

I loved them.  Class?  Not so much.  There was only so much I could handle from pre-meds who don't do the work asking, "How does velocity relate to acceleration?"  or "why do we care about bond angles" (we do as do the megagazillion pharma industry peeps).

Anyway... I did not sit for my 1/20/15 MCAT.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas and work and ... I canceled my seat.  And asked Kaplan to use the guarantee to put me into a class for the 2015 MCAT.

The class is slightly different but still very helpful.  For purposes of NOT getting sued by Kaplan I won't say why the classes are so helpful but I will say this:

a common theme in our on-line classes is that non-prep course taking premeds will likely get tripped up on some things in the actual exam that Kaplan (and presumably Princeton) take great pride in helping the paying students avoid.

And I will say this - without fear of retribution from Kaplan - we do very little content review.  It's expected you have read the books and done the homework before class (just like in school).  The class is all about applying the knowledge.

So, if you bought the books thinking that you're getting the same materials and learning components for $175 that I did for $2k, you are not.

Time will tell if the extra $1800 paid off or not but at this point, with the questions I see on various forums, I can say that I feel more and more confident that Kaplan's classes and instructors will have prepared me far better than I could have on my own.

Plus, by the time any pays for the AAMC practice tests and packages and TBR and everything else, the only difference is about $300 ...

Good luck to everyone taking the MCAT and applying this cycle.  I hope to see many/all of us on the "ADMIT MS 1 Class 2020" in a few months.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Proud To Be An American

Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me ...
~ Lee Greenwood

No video but I challenge you to add the American, the US Flag to your FB, LI and other social media.  No matter our difficulties the US is still the greatest country in the world.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Well, that's a new one.

Things I've been called in my life:



Wicked smart.




But never, ever have I been called obnoxious and never has this blog been said to be bloated and obnoxious.

Things that continue to astound me... this would be one of them.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Physician Meeting - MCAT Accommodations

My $$$ is worth something apparently.  Because for 15 minutes spent over 2 days, I paid $300 to be told...

well, wait:

And then there's this which apparently, I must remember:

Oh yeah.  I got asked in no particular order:

Do you know how much it is to go to medical school and get through residency?  (yes)

And you have the money to pay for that? (yes, and then briefly explained)

And you think that somehow your age, what will you be, 52 when you start?  and most likely older as you won't get accepted first round so 53 or 54?   so you think you'll somehow get accepted at your age?  (yes, I think I'm well qualified and those schools who are known to not be amenable to older candidates are not on my list)

So, you think that the schools won't let you in? (yes, I believe there are some schools that will not lend themselves to my package and therefore, are not on my list of potential schools)

You brought up panic attacks.  You think it's okay that when you're having a patient in cardiac arrest to panic?  (that does not happen, it was situational on one gen chem exam which is when I was diagnosed)

What's your backup plan?  (what do you mean exactly)

What do you plan to do when you don't get into medical school because frankly, I don't think you will. (I think my odds and total package are solid and I believe I will get in; somewhere, the adcoms will overlook my age and look at everything else; which is very competitive.)

Really.  You have talked to people who matter about this? (you mean like adcom members, deans of medical schools, professors, medical personnel, those types of people?  then yes, I have.  Not one has dissuaded me from the pursuit.)

Good luck to you - I don't think you'll get in.

For that, I paid $300 and none of that had to do with my MCAT accommodations which is what I asked him for help with... which he said LAST week, he would do.

All I can do is say he has prepared me for the questions I surely will get in an interview.  I'll be ready.

That, or I'll be singing funny old people med school songs on a stage with a guitar and piano :)

Friday, April 17, 2015

MCAT Accommodations Part Two

If you've bounced here by Googling "MCAT Accommodations" then I hope this helps you.

I recently received my response from the AAMC and while my request was NOT denied, it surely puts a damper on me trying to take the exam in June and have my application validated in July after my MCAT score posts.

Meaning... I will be a late app no matter what but the request from AAMC for more documentation definitely pushes me to a probable August MCAT date and Sept validation.

Can we say ICK?!

What happened, what you should know.

I submitted my entire MCAT accommodations package with the following:

1)  cover letter indicating current impact ADHD has on my life - work, home, school
2)  every accommodation letter received from my university for my premed pre-reqs
3)  my transcript in all it's ugliness
4)  a copy of the receipt for my ACT score showing I paid for the archival request and that it probably will NOT be obtainable given I took the ACT in 1982
5)  the entire ADHD document of testing done by a licensed psychologist who specializes in adult ADHD dated 2-12-2012
6)  a letter from my current physician who prescribes the medication

The request was for CURRENT impact assessment from licensed evaluator given my evaluation was 1 MONTH too old. In other words, had I submitted the package in late January, I would have been fine and my evaluation - that cost $2,000 to obtain - would have been "current" ...

With respect to my ACT score, the request from AAMC is this:

"Have you ever taken a standardized exam: ACT, SAT, GMAT, GRE, Other" and if so, please attach the score from that exam and any accommodations granted.

So, on that particular question I can either lie (never took the ACT ) and remember what organization I would be lying to (AAMC) OR I could tell the truth that I did in fact take it in 1982.

I did take the exam.  My score is no longer available and no accommodations were granted for standardized tests as ADA laws were not enacted yet so the best I could do was show that I tried to get the score.

AAMC has hogtied me to either lying to them or ... I don't know.  My score is simply not available as ACT will no longer keep scores prior to 2005 or something like that.

What can you do to avoid this nonsense?

Cover letter - keep to one page, summarize what the impact is of your disability on your ACADEMIC career and how accommodations have currently been leveling the playing field for you in school (aka: obtaining accommodations through your current courses)

Make the request: I request X-y-ZZ  - make the "ask" clear.

Sign it, Sincerely... that is proper, polite, and appropriate.

Obtain all accommodation letters from your schools (elementary through college if need be).  ALL of them.  Attach them to your MAO file.

Attach all diagnoses relevant to your disability and make sure they are CURRENT (less than 3 years - learn from my mistake).

Request letters of support how the disability was accommodated at work.  Attach them.  For ADHD, it does not affect me solely at school - it affects me at work, and at home.  Concerta helps the focus but the distractions and noise are still too much at times (so I have a private office or conference room at work).  At home, I've hired people to mow the lawn, clean the house, walk the dogs, and help with every other aspect of personal life because if I don't:

1/2 my lawn gets mowed
dishes stack up in a sink of running water with water ending up on the floor
laundry gets washed but not dried and end up with mildew

And remember: patience.  I figure - this is just my guess - the AAMC wants to make sure that those requesting the accommodations REALLY need it and those who do, will be patient and persistent enough to continue through the myriad of questions, requests, and further questions from AAMC.

Good luck!