Decline in Medical School Applicants Continues, But 2003 Projections Indicate Turnaround

Decline in Medical School Applicants Continues, But 2003 Projections Indicate Turnaround


While almost 34,000 people applied to U.S. medical schools in 2002 — continuing a six-year decline — preliminary data for 2003 released last month by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) indicate that this decline may be coming to an end. Based on the number of individuals who took the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in 2002 and initial applications to date, the number of medical school applicants is projected to increase by 4 percent to 6 percent in 2003.

“With our nation facing new health challenges and a possible physician shortage, the apparent flagging interest in the medical profession, as reflected by the shrinking applicant pool over the last several years, has been cause for some concern,” says AAMC President Dr. Jordan J. Cohen. “These early projections for 2003, however, provide hope that this six-year decline may finally be over.”

In 1996 almost 47,000 individuals applied to U.S. medical schools, the culmination of a dramatic build-up that began in 1989. Since then, total numbers have steadily dropped anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 applicants each year. This year’s applicant pool of 33,501 is the smallest in the last six years, a 3.9 percent drop from the 2001 total of 34,859 applicants. However, it is still larger than the 26,721 applicants in the 1988 pool.

The sharp decline of males applying to medical schools, a trend that started in 1997, also continued in 2002. There were a total of 16,999 male applicants this year compared with 18,142 in 2001. Fewer females applied too, although the decline was less steep — 16,454 versus 16,717 in 2001.

Interestingly, however, the number of underrepresented minorities applying to medical schools actually increased from 4,091 in 2001 to 4,223 in 2002. That figure, however, is still less than the number of applicants in 2000.

The projected increase of applicants for 2003 is based on preliminary statistics from the number of people who took the MCAT this year in preparation for medical school admission next year.

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