The number of Yalies applying to medical school this fall has increased since last fall, according to data compiled by Undergraduate Career Services.
There has been a 5 to 10 percent increase in the number of applications submitted so far this admissions cycle, relative to the same point in the process last year, UCS Director Philip Jones said. Typically, the final number of Yale undergraduates and recent alumni who apply to medical school reaches about 200 by the spring, Jones said, but this year UCS is anticipating a total of up to 230 applications.
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The jump comes at a time when many students are growing anxious about an increasingly competitive medical-school application process, despite Yalies’ higher-than-average rate of acceptance.
“I have no explanation whatsoever for the increase,” Jones said. “A spike one year doesn’t mean there will be a depression the next year, or a continuation of the spike.”
Medical school applications have been increasing steadily over the past few years, both at Yale and nationally, School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern said.
Last year in particular, YSM received 10 percent more applications than the year before, and he expects the increase in applications to continue this year.
But although it is not necessarily clear whether this uptick marks the beginning of a trend, many Yalies currently involved in the application process, said the increase highlights the competitive nature of medical-school admissions, in which the majority of candidates nationwide are turned away.
Erika McCarty ’08, who is applying for an M.D., said even without an increase in applicants from Yale, the overall competitiveness of the process is daunting.
“Applying to these schools with single-digit acceptance rates, it’s like [applying to college] again, except the classes are even smaller and the people you’re applying with are people who have proven themselves, so it’s definitely competitive,” she said.
But the success rate for Yale students vying for spots in medical schools significantly differs from the national average. For the class of 2006, 90 to 95 percent of Yalies who applied to medical school were admitted, Jones said. Nationally, about half of medical school applicants were accepted last year, Robert Mayer, faculty associate dean for admissions at Harvard Medical School, said.
At Yale, the process officially starts with preregistration in the fall of the year before applications are due, as medical schools start accepting submissions as early as June.
Most schools require a primary and secondary application form, after which they select candidates for on-campus interviews.
Even getting an interview offer is an accomplishment, Janice Wong ’08, who is applying for an M.D.-Ph.D. program, said.
“It’s going from the thousands to the hundreds — if thousands of applicants apply, hundreds get it,” she said. “For M.D.-Ph.D., it’s from the hundreds to the tens, a tenfold decrease.”
Mayer said even with nationwide increases in the number of applicants in the past few years, the national acceptance rate has remained steady.
“The national pool of applicants … since 2004, when it was 35,700, has gone up to 42,300,” Mayer said. “There’s been an increase in applicants and a slight increase in the number of positions, so it’s been roughly 44 to 45 percent of applicants that have been accepted.”
Given the larger pool of applicants, Alpern said many medical schools are considering increasing the size of their student bodies. But he said YSM will continue to admit the same number of students, regardless of how many applications they receive.
Keeping the student body small, competitive and elite is important for the educational experience of the institution, Alpern said.
Yale students interviewed differed on whether or not the prestige of the Yale name gives them an edge in their bid for a spot in medical school.
Rachel Jamison ’08, who is applying to M.D.-Ph.D. programs, said she thinks her Yale education gives her a leg up in applications and interviews.
“I thought it would be more of an even playing field,” she said. “But in looking at the interviews that we’ve received and the acceptances we’ve received, given the numbers, there’s definitely an advantage in being a Yale student.”
Others applicants said they think it is the myriad resources and opportunities Yale offers, not the University’s reputation, that gives Yalies an advantage.
McCarty said she thinks Yale’s extremely high success rate for medical-school acceptance reflects the caliber of its undergraduates.
“The people who go here are usually people who have already proven they are driven,” she said. “At the end of the day, if you go to Yale and have a 3.0, it’s not going to help you.”
Admissions officers consider more than simply test scores and objective evaluations of applicants, Mayer said. Candidates with astronomical MCAT scores are turned away in favor of those with lower grades because of other, more subjective attributes, he said.
“We’re looking for a diverse student body, [and] not just in the traditional definition of diversity in gender, race, ethnic background … but also a diversity of interest,” Mayer said. “If everyone played cello in the orchestra, you wouldn’t have an orchestra, and we’re looking for an orchestra.”
He said medical-school admissions officers take into account the relative academic rigor of different schools when reading applications and tailor their expectations according to undergraduate institutions applicants attended.
Admissions decisions started arriving as early as October for early applicants.