medschoolapps
Photo: Elizabeth Jacobs / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Medical school applications reached an all-time high this year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

32,654 people applied for the first time to medical school, an increase of 2.6 percent over last year. The total number of applicants also jumped by 2.8 percent this year to 43,919, up from 42,741 in 2010.

This is the largest first-time applicant pool since it began tracking in 1989, according to AAMC. Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine has not yet released its application numbers for this year.

“This demonstrates without a doubt that medicine remains a very attractive career to undergraduates,” AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch said in a statement. “We are very pleased that medicine continues to be attractive at a time when our healthcare system faces many challenges.”

The growth in number of applications has also been fueled by an increase in the number of schools and spots available to future doctors.

In 2006, AAMC advised medical schools to increase their enrollment by 30 percent. This figure was produced by a report from AAMC’s Center for Workforce Studies, which estimated that the United States would be short 90,000 physicians by 2020.

Pre-med students at Penn attribute the increasing number of applicants to various reasons.

“Although hard work is needed, being a doctor is ideal because you are looking to help out other people and that’s motivating other people,” said Engineering and Wharton freshman Jackie Chow, who is studying a pre-med track. “And it’s a secure job.”

College senior Grace Ha, who is gearing up to apply to medical schools, agreed that the job security that comes with being a doctor is especially appealing.

“I think the economy is bad, and people who are pre-med want to find stability in their profession when becoming a doctor,” said Ha, a former contributing writer to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “It is more stable [compared to other jobs].”

Ha and Chow plan to take different strategies to stand out in an increasingly competitive admissions process.

Chow isn’t too worried about the all-time high in applications, since she believes this is something she will love to do in the future.

“I believe people who get into the medical school are deeply passionate about what they do,” Chow said. “There are several steps involved [in the admissions process] to show efforts to make sure that it’s what [I] would like to do.”

But Ha, who will take a year or two off after her graduation, hopes to find more opportunities to enhance her candidacy.

“Higher competition does affect my strategy. While taking a year or two off, I will try to find opportunities that will be more attractive to medical schools,” Ha said. “I think I will apply to more schools in order to increase my chances.”

This year, 11 medical schools increased their class sizes by more than ten percent. Three new medical schools — Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Michigan and Hofstra University School of Medicine in New York — opened this year, admitting a total of 154 students into their charter classes.

In additions to existing medical schools, two more are expected to open in 2012 and several others are currently undergoing the accreditation process.

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