Opportunity Abounds, but Competition is Fierce in Medical School Acceptance, New Data Shows

November 1, 2017


With news of the impending shortage of qualified physicians, thanks in large part to the expected mass exodus of retiring Baby Boomers over the next decade, medical schools nationwide are seeing unprecedented increases in the number of applicants vying for spots. Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that between 2006 and 2016, the number of applicants to US medical schools increased by more than 35 percent, rising from 39,108 to 53,042. At Harvard Medical School alone, the number of applicants increased by nearly 50 percent during the same time period, rising from 4,717 to 7,069, respectively. 

The surge in applicants, and the accompanying drop in acceptance rates, is most marked in primary care programs, according to statistics from US News & World Report. In fact, the average number of applicants at the top 10 primary care programs more than doubled, rising from 3,273 applicants for the class entering in 2006 to 7,175 applicants for the class entering in 2016.

Though opportunity abounds over the next decade, prospective students also have stiff competition in part because of the sheer number of new applicants and because the surge is allowing medical school enrollment officials to be more selective, choosing students who have much more to offer than good grades and exam scores. But there are ways to boost your chances of success.

“Show passion for something,” Scott Wallace, associate professor with the new Dell Medical School at the University of Texas—Austin, recently told US News & World Report. “A lot of med school candidates look the same; they’ve worked so hard to get good grades and scores they seem flat. Those who have done something interesting stand out.”

Dr. Luz Claudio, a tenured professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and chief of its division of international health, highly recommends completing clinical research internships with medical school faculty.

“Once working in an internship program, they should aim to co-author a research paper with their internship mentor,” she added. “In my experience, having a published research paper helps students get a second look by admissions committees.”

Medical school officials also encourage students to aim for studies outside of their comfort zones. For instance, a student who is an undergrad humanities student would do well to also take on math and sciences courses, and vice versa.

“To have a history student come in with a powerhouse physics score on the MCAT is a great thing,” said Dr. Anthony McGreggor Crowley, a counselor at the admissions consulting firm IvyWise. “That would quite nicely help an applicant stand out in a crowded field.”

Another way to gain a competitive edge is via customized USMLE and COMLEX review courses, offering tailored study plans, one-on-one tutoring and live classes. We teach an innovative approach to the study and practice of medicine that jettisons conventional memorize-and-recall techniques in favor of a more thorough understanding of the common links between organ systems. Find out how we can help improve your chances for a successful medical career by calling 904-209-3140 and talking with a WOLFPACC enrollment specialist today.