Quick post: application numbers are rising

May 18, 2007 at 5:47 pm (Applying to med school)

During the past week, I’ve seen two medical blogs say that applications to medical schools are decreasing yet again this year. I want to set the records straight before this rumor spreads farther. Look at the graph below:

Applications vs matriculants

The AAMC recently released this study showing the number of applicants and matriculants each year since 1982. You’ll notice that the numbers have been increasing steadily each year since 2002. You’ll also notice that applications to medical school seem to follow a cyclical behavior. The AAMC does not try to explain this behavior, but I think that it’s due to the economy. When the economy is going great, people feel that they can make money in other fields and abandon medicine. When the economy turns south, college students flee back to medicine. Now look at the graph below:

Quarterly change in GDP, 1977-2006

Here, I show the quarterly change in GDP since 1977. Notice that whenever the economy is growing quickly, the number of applications to medical school drops five years later. Once the economy slows or enters a recession, application numbers rapidly rise. The lag is due to the time required to fulfill all of the pre-med requirements and to make the commitment to enter medicine. I touched on this issue in an earlier post. Now, the AAMC has released more data points further giving evidence towards my claim.

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