Survey says: Pre-law students in it for the money

A recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions found money held different levels of influence among pre-law and pre-med students who took the LSAT and MCAT entrance exams.

The survey, which polled about 1,000 pre-med and pre-law students, found that more pre-law students were concerned about the potential of future earnings in their chosen profession than pre-med students, director of MCAT programs for Kaplan Matt Fidler said.

“We asked a question about earning power,” Fidler said. “To what degree does earning power factor into your deciding to pursue medicine? We found that just under half of those going into medicine said it factors in very much or somewhat.”

For pre-law students, the numbers are a bit higher, Glen Stohr, director of pre-law programs for Kaplan said, with around 71 percent indicating the same response.

At the University, pre-law journalism junior Sarah Arendt fell in line with national trends. She said the potential of high earning power is “somewhere between important and very important.”

“If I’m going to put in so much work Ö I want to make sure it’s worthwhile after,” she said.

On the other side of the spectrum is Anya Dmytrenko, a genetics sophomore who is taking the pre-med required courses.

The potential to earn lots of money is not at all important, Dmytrenko said, but the prospect of helping people is what motivates her.

The Kaplan survey asked students “what most inspired your decision to become a doctor” and found about half responded similarly to Dmytrenko, with “desire to help others and to make a difference,” Fidler said.

The popularity of medical television shows like “House, M.D.” and “Grey’s Anatomy” have “really helped raise awareness about the profession to a much broader audience,” Fidler said.

Both fields are highly competitive to get into, the Kaplan directors said, with more students taking the LSAT and MCAT than there are seats available in the professional schools.

Fidler said with the baby boomers beginning to age, there are definitely enough jobs for the students taking the MCAT.

“Geriatric medicine is a huge topic right now,” he said. “Because the population is aging.”

LSAT students usually don’t choose their specialties until they have been in the field for a few years, Stohr said, but in his 12 years of teaching LSAT prep courses, he’s seen students who come in with a specialty in mind.

Arendt said she would like to be a litigator or work in corporate law, and that she is currently studying for the LSAT exam to take in June.

LSAT scores are usually given the most weight in the admission process, Stohr said.

“A very high LSAT score can do an enormous amount to offset a middling GPA,” he said.

Both students agreed that to pursue pre-med and pre-law tracks in undergraduate education requires strong motivators and self-discipline.

Dmytrenko said she has shadowed a number of doctors in the specialties she is interested in to see what the jobs are like.

“In other careers, it might be easy to switch,” she said. “But once you’re done with medical school, and you have $200,000 in debt, and it’s not what you want to do Ö that sucks.”

Arendt said she was surprised to find how similar the pre-law process is to applying to college the first time.

A lot of importance is placed on the level of grades, course loads and extracurricular activities, she said.

“Cs get degrees,” Arendt said, “But Cs won’t get you into law school.”