Thanks to the VSG Academic Affairs Committee, students this academic year can check out graduate school test prep books at the Career Center and Student Center for Social Justice and Identity.
“The committee began the program because the system of graduate admissions is currently economically exclusive, favoring applicants who can afford expensive test prep and flights to the interviews,” Academic Affairs Committee Chair Nico Gardner said.
Applying to graduate school is a process that can cost hundreds of dollars depending on exam fees, exam prep and application fees. For example, the average pre-law student spends upwards of $900 on application fees alone, according to one admissions blog, and the cost of prep for pre-professional exams only adds to the fees.
“The process is unfair,” senior and prospective law school student Kate Weaver said. “LSAC (Law School Admission Council) is first and foremost a profit-earning company, so all of their actions are motivated by profit. This hurts students of lower socioeconomic status in a number of ways.”
To promote equal opportunities for students post-graduation, the Committee decided last Spring to donate test prep books for multiple graduate exams, including the GRE, LSAT and MCAT, and distribute them throughout the campus.
In order to collect the books, the Academic Affairs Committee set up donation bins in all residential areas as well as in the Law Library and Biomedical Library. When all was said and done, the bins gathered over 35 prep books.
The Academic Affairs Committee then distributed these donated books to the Career Center and Student Center for Social Justice and Identity to be used by the entire student body for free.
“I don’t want to sell this drive as a solution to this macro-level issue, but we hope that it helps level the playing field at least a little bit by providing no-cost alternatives to students here on campus,” Gardner said.
Although Gardner characterized this donation drive as an overwhelming success, he is not stopping with the one event.
“My hope is that every year we are able to provide hundreds of free graduate school test prep books to students from a variety of disciplines,” Gardner said. “This year we will be working on better communication and marketing to the student body.”
The Academic Affairs Committee is working on a variety of other initiatives that will address the inequalities apparent with graduate school processes. For example, according to Gardner, the committee is currently looking at launching another book drive to collect books for GMAT, DAT, Praxis and NCLEX exams.
Weaver expressed her praise for the donation drive, but urged Vanderbilt to do more to assist in the complex application process.
“I do think the book donation is great, but it does not go far enough,” Weaver said. “Vanderbilt needs to provide significantly more resources to students and advisors who can help navigate the process.”