For only a few thousand dollars, you too can have your biggest insecurities preyed upon
It was my first ever LAW121 lecture. I sat down in a sea of ill fitted suits, the lecturer entered the room, and we were told two things. One: look around your classmates. For every three of you right now, two of you will not be in this programme at the beginning of next year. Two: no matter how stressed you get, no matter how badly you want to be that one in three, do not fall prey to external tutoring companies. They are, in loose terms, the devil you do not want to know.
They were referring to Momentum Tutoring, a company set up to help “students gain admission to competitive programmes”. It offers tutoring primarily in first year law, and is currently flouting an individual tutoring instalment plan of only “$600 every two weeks for four weeks” (just say $1,200, I’m begging you). It’s a compelling package, providing 12 hours of individual tutorials with someone that has absolutely no faculty association whatsoever. For a slightly less steep price, you can enter group tutoring, which seems to be a lot of paying to write essays under exam conditions in a dingy room on a Sunday night at 7pm.
The Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences has its own even more exclusive, intense programme, known as MedView. For a measly $3,999, you can purchase the “Complete Package”—setting you up for a lovely summer where you’ll learn the first six weeks of (alleged) course content and “get ahead of the competition”. You’ll then have access to private group workshops throughout the year, touted as a way to “start university life on the right foot, with the right people”. I’m assuming by “the right people” they’re referring to other trust fund kids who can afford to front up about an additional semester’s worth of fees (in this economy).
Ironically, both services offer guarantees that are in fact not guarantees at all. In spite of the claim made by MedView that, “We are your one-stop-shop for getting into medical school”, they’re clearly not certain enough of their own proviso to actually offer any money-back scheme. Likewise, Momentum Tutoring’s claim, “We guarantee that our advice places your best interests first” and you can tell they believe it, with their terms and conditions stating: “We do not warrant that the quality of any products, services, information, or other material purchased or obtained by you will meet your expectations, or that any errors in the Service will be corrected.” In other words: you’re in safe hands.
Even if such courses work, and indeed, many glorified student testimonials across both websites claim that they do, there’s a much more lucrative issue at play in terms of equity. These courses remain inaccessible to the majority of each cohort who do not hail from backgrounds of wealth. Students who attend these programmes climb over the bar of difficult entrance programmes in part because of their effort and diligence, yes, but also because of the hard wad of cash they have to raise their starting point higher than that of an average student.
The ongoing privatisation of educational resources remains a serious problem, and start-ups such as MedView and Momentum Tutoring exacerbate that problem at a tertiary level, a space where inequities are just starting to level out. Though primary and secondary schools covet private education for the wealthy and those who face systemic financial barriers still fall victim to lower tertiary education admission rates, the public nature of tertiary institutions opens up doors for at least some who were locked out before. Private tertiary tutoring providers attempt to overthrow any positive progress in equity, slamming the door in the faces of students without access to financial support.
If you’re a first year student in your second semester of MedSci or Law and are contemplating getting involved with private tutoring, a word of advice: don’t. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars on these programmes to be successful in admission to second year. Attend your lectures, plan for tutorials and assignments, practise past exam papers both individually and with friends. A little bit of effort goes a long way. Reach out to your lecturers, your tutors, your peers for support. It’s free, actually specific to your concerns, and is the best pathway to success.
As for me, I’m doing my bit to end the course of injustice by touting free Law School advice to anxious students on Reddit, and ripping down every Momentum Tutoring advertisement I find on the back of the General Library toilets.