TL;DR: Medical school applications rose at a record pace (18%) but matriculants rose just 1.9% since 2020, leaving a very large gap amongst the increasing applicants and the seats available. The graph below captures the sharp increase in applicants, but only very steady rise in matriculants to medical school.
According to new data from the AAMC, applicants to medical school soared nearly 18% in 2021. That is a record high, with 62,443 applicants to US based allopathic schools. That number is 17.8% higher than the previous year. The applicants include 46,758 new first time applicants, which was 21% increase compared to 2020.
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According to the AAMC, the number of accepted students and new enrollments into medical school also reached new highs, making the first-year class of 2021 larger and more diverse than any before it. However, the increase in medical school seats was substantially less than the number of applicants.
Among the 22,000-plus students who began medical school this fall, those self-identified as Black or African American rose by 21.0% from 2020-21, followed by increases of 8.3% among Asian students and 7.1% among those of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin, the AAMC found. Incoming medical school classes are more diverse than ever in both ethnicity and sex. 56% of applicants were female in 2021 and the number of woman medical students who are enrolled in US medical schools continued to be higher than males. This increasing diversity bodes well for the future of medicine.
With an ever increasing number of applicants, medical schools can be as selective as ever. GPA and MCAT continue to be incredibly important for applicants. The average MCAT scores for matriculants vs applicants is shown below, confirming an emphasis that medical schools are still placing on great MCAT scores.
Every point increase in the MCAT made a large difference in a student’s chances of acceptance. A 8 point MCAT jump from a 502 to a 512 more than doubles the chances of acceptance to medical school. The average GPA of a successful medical school applicant also continued to be very high with an emphasis on the science GPA to prove that an incoming student can handle the medical school curriculum. The average applicant had a science GPA of 3.48, whereas an accepted student had a science GPA of 3.67.
While GPA and MCAT continue to be very important, it is interesting to note that average accepted GPA and MCAT scores have not dramatically increased in the past few years. This means that schools are looking beyond just great academics when choosing their incoming class.
Dr. Sahil Mehta, founder of MedSchoolCoach, has these thoughts:
There is no doubt that seats at US Medical schools are more competitive than ever. With an increasing number of applicants, but a relatively steady number of seats, more and more well qualified applicants are being left out every year. A great MCAT and GPA nowhere near guarantees an admission to medical school as many students with above average statistics are being left out. That said, statistics continue to be incredibly important to overcome initial medical school admissions screenings. Beyond that, schools are placing an ever increasing emphasis on the diversity of incoming students, experiences and a compelling personal narrative. That means a students personal statement, their extracurriculars and their interviews have to really be top notch in order to separate themselves from every other students who may have similar statistics.
2020 and 2021 were unprecedented years in humanity with COVID-19 wrecking havoc amongst nearly ever aspect of our daily lives. Among the fall-out was something dubbed the Fauci Effect, covered by various news outlets including NPR and WSJ. The prevailing thought was that a record number of applicants were being driven by an increase in healthcare, which appears to have been true.
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