Medical schools consider boosting enrollment

Pre-med students may have reason to relax when it comes to applying to medical school next school year.

According to a survey released Jan. 21 by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, nearly half of medical schools are considering an increase in the number of seats for new medical students.

Russell Schaffer, senior communications manager at Kaplan Test Prep and Administrations, said 85 medical schools participated in the survey, including Dartmouth College, Rice University, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

Kaplan surveys medical schools admissions officers on an annual basis to give students a better grasp on what they can do in order to successfully make it into medical school, Schaffer said. He said this year’s survey was in response to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ concerns of a future physician shortage.

Schaffer said the association recommended a 30 percent increase in United States medical school enrollment by 2015. To help accomplish this goal, it recommended current medical schools increase the number of seats available to applicants, Schaffer said.

Of the 85 schools surveyed, 33 percent said they were considering a 5-15 percent increase in the number of the admitted medical students. According to the Kaplan survey, 57 percent of schools planned to make seats available soon enough to affect the fall 2009 class, or the class entering in 2010.

Pre-med students, such as junior biology major Anne Pennebaker, had a positive reaction to the possible change.

“Adding spaces to medical programs would make the entire application process a more positive, less stressful experience for pre-med students.” Pennebaker said. “It is already so competitive which can be intimidating and overwhelming.”

The survey showed 44 percent of medical schools reported an applicant’s MCAT score is the most important factor in the admissions process, which is a 10 percent increase from the 2007 survey’s results. The second most important factor, according to the survey, was a student’s GPA.

Schaffer said increasing the number of seats available for applicants will help a great deal with the possible future physician shortage.

“Medical school admission process has always and will always be competitive – that won’t change,” Schaffer said. “What will happen is they will let a larger number of more high-caliber students in.”

Phil Hartman, professor of biology and chair of TCU’s PreHealth Professions Advisory Committee, said if the change does happen it will have a positive effect for students applying to medical school, especially in Texas.

“I think we are really lucky in Texas,” Hartman said. “We have some great medical schools in the state and it’s been a positive development that they are increasing the class size and developing new schools.”

Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions survey results:
44% of medical schools said they will consider increasing the number of seats in its entering class.
36% of medical schools said they will increase the number of available seats as early as fall 2009