The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on medical school processes and culture in 2020. Canceled MCATs, rescheduled and limited COMLEX and USMLE sessions, online lectures and coursework, virtual interviews and countless resrictions on in-person shadowing all became the new normal – “normal” being a loosely-used and not-quite-fitting term. Going forward, applicants and matriculants can expect multiple pandemic holdovers and consequences in the 2021-2022 medical school admissions cycle. Here are just a few:
- A record number of rejections: 2020 saw an unprecedented 18-percent surge in medical school applications, along with a 2-decade high in matriculants. Applicants numbered more than 7,500 according to data from the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). While that sounds promising at first glance, considering the looming physician shortage that has been widely discussed over the past few years, it does come presenta a problem for many hopefuls. That’s because the number of available spots at medical schools remains steady. Substancial expansion in the number and size of classes requires approval from the Liason Committee on Medical Education (the accrediting body). Plus, class sizes typically are decided long before the semester starts to assure adequate resources such as clinical training sites. As a result, some 60 percent of applications are rejected each year and while the percentage may remain constistent, the sheer number of applicatants passed up for positions this year will be unusually high. In coming years, experts expect a continued pattern of year-over-year increases in medical school applications, though they project the numbers will fall somewhere between the average three percent seen over the past decade and the nearly 18 percent experienced in 2020.
- Adjustment efforts on the part of medical schools: Like most every other field, medical education has initiated many changes to adapt to the pandemic world and prepare for life afterward. Schools have enlisted extra reviewers, added interview slots and taken more time to process submissions. Many also are extending the window of time allotted for interviews to accommodate for travel and hotel restrictions, rescheduled MCAT exams and difficulties in collecting letters of recommendation and other application elements.
- Virtual is here to stay: This fall, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) launched VITA (Video Interview Tool for Admissions), essentially a platform for applicants to record an 18-minute guided speech with no audience – just six question prompts with a maximum of three minutes to respond. Like many pandemic-prompted tech advances quickly adopted to limit face-to-face interaction in countless industries, VITA likely has already caught on with admissions professionals for increased efficiencies. Thus, medical schools are likely to keep using it and other online solutions long after COVID-19 has been subdued and disappeared from the daily headlines. The same is true for the surge in virtual shadowing as hospitals and clinics continue to ban in-person volunteer and shadowing, while schools continue to require hundreds of clinical hours.
No matter what the pandemic and its aftermath throw at us, WOLFPACC stands ready to help medical hopefuls excel in their studies. Call 904-209-3140 to find out how we can help you prepare for and pass your USMLE and COMLEX exams on the first try.