Though the number of medical school applicants nationwide has fallen dramatically, applications to the Yale School of Medicine remained steady.

Approximately 3,400 applicants applied to the Yale School of Medicine this year, comparable to last year’s 3,342 applications. Although applications to Yale’s medical school have steadily increased since 1999, medical school applications nationally have declined for the past seven years. According to an Association of American Medical Colleges study released last October, medical school applications have dropped 29 percent from a 1996 high of 47,000 applications.

The 3,400 applicants are competing to fill a class of 100 students. School of Medicine Admissions Director Richard Silverman said 165 Yale College students applied to the medical school this year, a number up from 158 in 2002.

Silverman said recent developments in medical school facilities and a new core curriculum have played an important role in attracting applicants to Yale.

“[Applicants] know about the Yale system of noncompetitive grading,” Silverman said in an e-mail. “They appreciate the value of our unique thesis requirement; they know that our clinical training is top-notch; and they seem to have learned that Yale medical students have a wonderfully positive experience at the school.”

Over the past few years, Yale has made substantial investments in new buildings and programs at the medical school. Most recently, Yale completed construction on the $176.6 million Congress Avenue Building, a state-of-the-art research and teaching facility set to be occupied next month.

Christina Lee ’03, one of this year’s applicants, said she applied to the medical school for its unique opportunities as well as its highly regarded national reputation.

“What appealed to me most about Yale Med is the unique ‘Yale system,’ which really seems to place an emphasis on self-motivation and self-driven learning while also fostering an unusually supportive and noncompetitive atmosphere among students,” she said. “I was also very impressed by Yale’s residency match list, which is one of the strongest I have seen. Yale Med students regularly match to extremely competitive residency programs across the country in virtually every specialty.”

Beyond sheer numbers, this year’s applicant pool is unusually strong in terms of academic qualifications, leadership, medical experience, and diversity, Silverman said. He said the admissions committee is finding the selection process difficult because of the caliber of this year’s applicant pool.

“The size of our entering class will be 100 students, and we could enroll a dozen good classes from this year’s pool,” Silverman said.

Silverman said the medical school has made as few as 160 to as many as 221 admissions offers in a given year to enroll a class of 100 students. He said predicting the yield rate in medical school admissions is more complicated than in college admissions because many students defer their enrollment to later years to pursue other opportunities, including Rhodes fellowships or research projects at the National Institutes of Health.

“At the end of the day, what’s important is not the yield percentage, but the quality of the student body, and we couldn’t be more excited about the quality of this year’s crop,” Silverman said.