Med School Class Sizes Increase to Meet Demand

The UCSD School of Medicine and other medical schools across
the country have begun expanding their class sizes to accommodate rising
numbers of applicants and address the predicted shortage of medical
professionals.

In response to a call from the Association of American
Medical Colleges to expand enrollment by 30 percent by 2015, the UCSD School of
Medicine has increased its class size by 10 percent this year alone.

Carolyn Kelly, associate dean of admissions and student
affairs at the UCSD School of Medicine, said that this year’s class consists of
134 students, compared to a past class size of 122.

In expanding numbers, UCSD joined the growing ranks of
medical schools trying to meet the AAMC’s goal. Some schools, such as Michigan
State University’s College of Human Medicine and the University of Arizona’s
College of Medicine, are even adding additional campuses.

However, enrollment has not kept up the pace with rising
application rates. Kelly said UCSD’s School of Medicine has witnessed about a
5-percent increase in the number of applications every year for the past five
years. This jump in applicants allows the school to be more selective and
increase the academic quality of applicants, she said.

Nationwide trends mirror those at UCSD, with an 8.2-percent
increase in applications over the past year, compared to only a 2.3-percent
rise in acceptance rates.

Medical school admission is becoming more competitive
largely due to the higher number of applicants. In addition, this year’s
applicant pool was more qualified than ever before.

According to the AAMC, applicants for the 2007-08 school
year had the highest average Medical College Admissions Test scores and
undergraduate GPAs on record. Each year, students applying to medical school
also have more experience in pre-medical activities.

AAMC officials say that there is no obvious reason for the
dramatic jump in applications, but there are several potential causes. The
group has been pursuing efforts to promote medical school, especially to
underrepresented portions of the population. These efforts seem to have been at
least partially successful, with AAMC reporting that black and Latino males
both applied at rates that were almost 10 percent higher this year.

While some students join service groups and study furiously
for the MCAT, others find that the hysteria about medical school applications
may be blown out of proportion.

“Some people may find the task of applying to medical school
difficult, with the separate applications, secondary [supplementary
applications] and interviews,” said Ben Hu, a first-year student at the UCSD
School of Medicine. “But if you’re the type who’s prepared and on top of
things, it’s only marginally worse than the college application process.”

The numbers indicate that medical school still holds a
considerable allure for many UCSD students. Kelly said that the increase may
reflect an rise in population size for students in their 20s — which therefore
leads to an increase in the size of the pre-med section of that population —
and the uncertain economy, which can make medicine seem a stable and lucrative
alternative.

“Ideally, everyone wants to pursue medicine to help people,”
said Revelle College senior Siu-Ling Sit, president of the UCSD Pre-Medical
Association of Students for Service. “Of course, it does pay a tremendous
amount of money, easily six figures, and it’s probably the one job that every
parent wants their child to pursue.”

John Muir College sophomore Chelsea Kolander, a second-year
intern at the Student Services Center, decided to pursue a career in medicine
after developing ovarian cysts at age 14, and started learning about women’s
issues.

Despite the intense competition, many students still say
they are optimistic about their future in medicine.

“I’m definitely going to apply [to medical school],”
Kolander said. “I definitely want to get in right after college but if I don’t
get in, I will apply again the next year.”

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