Record numbers applying to U Med School

While nationwide figures remain stagnant, the University is seeing a rise in qualified applicants.

Record numbers applying to U Med School

Even as the nationwide tally remains stagnant, a record number of hopefuls applied to the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Twin Cities campus for the 2010-11 academic year. The school received 3,360 applications, about 100 more than last year. The number of applicants to the school has been rising steadily since 2003 and has nearly doubled since 2001. Meanwhile, the number of applicants to medical schools in the United States has been relatively stable over the past four years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Those who applied can expect a more competitive arena than in previous years, and more will be rejected or put on a waitlist, said Paul White, associate dean for admissions at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Twin Cities. The real success is not the rise in applicants; it’s the rise in well-qualified applicants, White said. The most recent batch boasts higher MCAT scores and GPAs than in previous years, he said. “We could go up to 6,000, but if they’re no better in terms of their quality, you haven’t really achieved anything,” he said. Ever-expanding knowledge about the Medical School’s Flexible M.D. program, which allows students considerable leeway in planning their own educational experience, could explain its popularity, White said. “Students like the idea of having flexibility with their education,” he said, “and we have a great product here, there’s no question.” For the most part, the number of students who enroll in the Twin Cities campus Medical School each year stays at about 170 and does not fluctuate with respect to the number of applicants, White said. The anticipated budget cuts for the upcoming year also have no effect on the number of students enrolled, he said. The Medical School increased its enrollment by five people in 2008 in response to a call for more doctors from the American Medical Association. A “blip” in 2007 caused an over-enrollment of 183 students — a number that wouldn’t be sustainable without adding more clerkships, White said. Each year, the AAMC tracks the number of applicants to medical schools nationwide. While the number for the upcoming school year hasn’t been finalized, it’s not much more — between 10 and 20 people — than the previous year’s number, 42,269. In fact, the number of applications to medical schools in the United States has remained in the 42,000 zone since 2007. The AAMC is continuously investigating applicant trends but so far can only speculate as to why the number of applicants has remained static, Gwen Garrison, AAMC’s director of student and applicant studies, said. “We would like to know why there is not more attraction to medical schools like we’ve seen in the past,” she said, “especially since the medical schools are growing.” While medical school administrators say they still have plenty of qualified applicants, they worry about becoming unable to sustain an enrollment pattern if their applicant pools remain flat, Garrison said. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has also seen a record number of applicants for the upcoming year. At about 3,500, their applicant pool has risen by about 400 people from last year. Lucy Wall, the school’s assistant dean for admissions, attributes the increase to the fact that more people are returning to school in a time of fewer job offerings. “Everybody’s looking for a place to be, something to do, and so some people will decide to attempt to stay in the educational system,” she said. In addition, awareness could be catching on about the shortage of physicians in the country, she said. Like the University of Minnesota, the number of students that will enroll in the University of Wisconsin’s medical school will not change much, even with more applicants, Wall said. The battle for slots will be more competitive, especially among nonresidents, she said. The number of applicants to the University of Minnesota Medical School could increase slightly as late applications trickle in and more applications are verified by the nation’s centralized medical school application service, White said. Garrison said she hopes to see more medical school applicants in the coming years, especially in states that have recently added more medical schools. “We need the doctors,” she said. “We hope that whatever Minnesota is seeing, it will spill over in other places.”