Putting a Price on Life

Alex Arellano, in his essay “Putting a Price on Life,” illuminates the internal struggle that every prospective medical student today is faced with: is medical school worth the overwhelming cost? Arellano displays his argument through an array of facts, statistics, specific examples, and personal experiences, which all come together to reveal the direness of the situation. The amount of doctors coming out of medical school is decreasing, yet the amount of patients who need them is growing constantly. The proposed solution to this problem, close to the end of the essay, feels weak due to its out-of-the-blue nature and lack of specific evidence, which undermines its goal. The essay, while thorough with its logistical information and emotional impact, tends to be somewhat repetitive in its main points and overall message.


The conclusion, which leaves the reader with their final impression of the essay, holds a powerful force of emotion within this essay. The use of emotionally-charged language dominates the final paragraph, with Arellano using contrasts such as “dream” and “nightmare”, and weighted words such as “crisis.” He highlights America as “the land of opportunity,” and then describes how he is left confined by the “price tag” of his dreams (Arellano). The emotional impact that this enforces is great, and the reader is left with a feeling reminiscent of guilt, wondering how this problem grew so large without anyone doing something about it. It is a question that leaves one feeling hopeless, ironic due to the inclusion of the word “hopeful” in the very last sentence. More importantly, it is a question that gives the reader something to feel, whether it be anger or sadness or inspiration, and it makes the essay mean something more than just numbers and studies.

An Analysis of “Putting a Price on Life”

Thesis: “Ultimately, the financial factors associated with going to medical school far outweigh the benefits for many students, leading to a shortage in doctors, despite the sharp growth in demand for physicians in the coming years.” The author gives a clear and direct introduction to his topic, making the problem evident.

Ethos: “Facing the possibility of up to half a million dollars in student loans with interest after medical school, I’ve found myself lost, questioning if saving lives is still worth the cost. Unfortunately for the medical field, these thoughts are not that uncommon among medical school prospects. As the cost of schooling continues to rise in the United States, many students from middle and lower-class families have turned their backs on the dream.” The author establishes his credibility by including himself in the group of people he is talking about; this shows that he is somewhat of an “expert” on the topic.

Pathos: “For me, America was supposed to be the land of opportunity, and I believed that if I work hard enough, I can achieve my dreams. Unfortunately, dreams come with a price tag, and the reality of affording a dream education for a dream job only hit me as I grew closer to achieving my dream. The idea of this dream turning into a financial nightmare also afflicts other students.” The author adds an emotional impact to his argument through his personal story, which he relates to other medical student prospects throughout the country.

Logos: “By examining the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) projected ranges for both primary care and overall physician shortages, it can be calculated that shortfalls in primary care physicians will account for between 34% and 40% of overall projected shortages based on the highest and lowest estimated shortage values (‘Physician Supply and Demand Through 2030’). ” By utilizing statistics, the author adds dramatic emphasis to the situation and helps the audience to associate a numerical value with the information.

Kairos: “The major driving force of this growth in demand is an aging population. In the next twenty years, the population of individuals 65 and older in the United States is expected to rise by more than 50 percent (‘Physician Supply and Demand Through 2030’). This spike is incurred by the baby boomer generation now preparing to retire. While older individuals typically have higher medical costs, the baby boomers retiring will also take with them approximately one quarter of the United States’ public health workforce (Leider et al., 5). ” The author demonstrates that the issue is a current one and adds a sense of urgency to the problem at hand.

Life Is Just a Pink Construction Paper Collage

Fragile balance holds every particle and person in this world together, as if everything is a giant, paper collage of magazine clippings, stickers, concert tickets, newspaper headlines, inspirational quotes, and polaroids, all layered together by a dried out glue stick. At any point, due to some unforeseen circumstance, that glue may become unstuck; everything will fall and paper clippings will flutter to the floor and the world will be in shambles. It is in our feeble efforts to reconstruct something out of the remains that we find value and meaning. 

It was in the third grade that my teacher assigned our class with making paper collages for our mothers in celebration of the upcoming Mother’s Day. The desks were filled with craft supplies, and each student went to task, gathering his or her markers, glitter, and scissors. Carefully, with the utmost precision, I had selected the pink construction paper and upon it traced my two hands one by one. I can remember outlining the hands in thick, black Sharpie and searching through seemingly thousands of Real Simple magazines for photos of purple flowers, dogs, lipstick tubes, the beach, watermelon, and mothers and daughters gardening together. Sticking them together with a purple glue stick, I placed each clipping closely within the lines, being careful to iron out any creases in the paper with my fingertips. Finally, I completed my masterpiece by writing a charming poem, titled, “Why I Love You,” which I printed neatly in the space surrounding the hands.

After I eagerly presented Mom with that cluttered collage on Mother’s Day, it hung dutifully on the refrigerator for five long years. It cycled through a remodeled kitchen and a fancy, new fridge that dispensed your ice cubed or crushed, all with the push of a button. It saw me go through elementary and middle school, and through cycles of friends, hobbies, and sports. It could be seen in the background of plenty of family photos and a multitude of home videos, remaining pink and proud in the kitchen, unable to be missed. All of this changed, however, one fateful November day. 

My parents had informed my younger brother, Aidan, that he would soon be getting braces, and, in his anger, he had released his wrath on all of the house. He carved his initials into a wall, he tore holes in the window screens, and he threw objects across rooms. All of these acts he was of course punished for, but I did not see my mother get truly upset until my brother decided to go one step too far. In the middle of the afternoon, as I sat at the breakfast counter working on homework, Aidan rushed into the kitchen and began to tear the papers that were hung with magnets on the fridge. I watched, shocked, as his fists wrapped around my own tiny, third grade hands, ripping the construction paper right in half. Immediately, the bonds in the glue snapped, the magazine clippings fluttered to the floor, and everything fell apart. 

Tears began to slip from my mother’s eyes silently, falling softly like raindrops, and my brother, finally satisfied, ran hurriedly from the room. Mom cried and cried, as I meagerly offered, “I can make another one, Mom. Really, I’ll make it just the same. With little hands and all.” 

Looking back on this now, it is clear to me why the destroying of that shabby collage had upset my mother so much. It was childish, crumpled around the edges, and I am sure it had been covered in stray pencil marks, yet it was made with pure love—the kind so pure that only a child can possess it. That collage represented my entire childhood, events layered together through pictures of princess crowns and puppy dogs. When it finally was shredded into scraps of memories lost in the past, my childhood was, too. My mother realized, as I soon did, that I was growing up, leaving princesses and puppies behind me. 

It is because of this moment that I believe in the fragile balance of childhood and adulthood, in a mother’s relationship with her child who is growing up all too quickly, and in pink construction paper collages. After all, when the glue inevitably dries out and the pictures fall, we will gather them up with saddened hands, and those will remain our fondest memories.

A Little Bit About Me

Hey, everyone! My name is Laurel Hannigan, and I am a Communication Interest Major from Swedesboro, New Jersey.  I love going to the beach, listening to artists like The 1975 and Harry Styles, and taking spontaneous trips to Wawa, every South Jersey resident’s favorite place.

In the future, I hope to be an editor for a magazine or online news source. As strange as it sounds, I love grammar and spelling, as well as making the ideas people are attempting to communicate clearer. I thoroughly enjoy critiquing other people’s work and helping in making it the best that it can be. 

I look forward to getting to know you all more!