Kaplan Survey: Most Medical Schools Say They’ve Made Admissions Process More Flexible amid COVID-19 Crisis and Application Surge

Note to editors: Kaplan is a subsidiary of The Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC)
Press Contact: Russell Schaffer, russell.schaffer@kaplan.com, 917.822.8190

Twitter: @KaplanEdNews, @KaplanMCATPrep

New York, NY (November 9, 2020) — Competition to secure a coveted seat in medical school will always remain fierce, but according to a new Kaplan survey, now may be the most convenient time in recent memory to apply*. According to medical school admissions officers across North America, 93 percent say they have made their admissions process more flexible due to the impact that the coronavirus crisis has had on everything from MCAT® testing dates to the ability to visit campuses to securing the recommended number of clinical hours. Among the most common ways that medical schools have become more flexible this cycle, according to those surveyed, are:

  • Accepting pass/fail grades for prerequisite courses
  • Extending MCAT score submission deadlines
  • Moving admission interviews online
  • Adding a place for prospective students to explain COVID-19’s impact on their overall application 
  • Evaluating applicants from a more holistic perspective

And while medical schools say they are extending MCAT submission deadlines, they are far more stringent and traditional when it comes to other uses for the exam. Only 27 percent think that the Association of American Medical Collegesthe organization that writes the MCATshould launch an at-home version of the exam, like test makers for other graduate-level exams have done, primarily citing test security concerns. The MCAT is still only administered in official testing centers, though to accommodate as many test takers as possible because of previously cancelled exams, the test was temporarily shortened by more than 60 minutes in 2020. Admission officers also say that an applicant’s MCAT score is the most important admissions factor, followed by undergraduate GPA.

Another major way that medical schools are making their admissions requirements more flexible is by being more lenient regarding prospective students’ clinical experience. During normal times, this often includes applicants logging many hours of shadowing doctors, volunteering in a hospital, being an EMT volunteer, or becoming a caretaker. According to Kaplan’s survey, 61 percent have relaxed their requirements in this area, citing the inability of pre-meds to practice social distancing in such intimate settings. Many of those surveyed, however, indicated that clinical experience remains an important admissions factor.

“This is not the application cycle that any aspiring doctor could have predicted or wanted when they took their first pre-med class as a freshman, but medical schools seem to be taking steps to make the process as straightforward as possible under extraordinary conditions,” said Petros Minasi, senior director, pre-health programs, Kaplan. “Pre-meds should keep in mind, though, that although most medical schools are taking steps to remove roadblocks, that it won’t be any easier to get into medical school than in recent years. In fact, with applications surging, it’s more important than ever to put together the strongest application possible.”

The results come on the heels of a new report from the AAMC showing that the number of medical school applicants rose nearly 17% from a year earlier, marking an interest not seen in more than 10 years, and signaling stronger than usual competition to get in. 

Kaplan will release additional findings from its 2020 medical admissions officers survey over the coming months. Other issues explored include the Black Lives Matter movement and whether we can expect to see an increase in the number of medical school seats. Kaplan has conducted this survey annually for about 15 years to ensure that pre-meds get the most accurate and up-to-date information on the issues that impact them most.

For more information about Kaplan’s survey, contact Russell Schaffer at russell.schaffer@kaplan.com or 917.822.8190.

*Admissions officers from 69 accredited medical schools across North America were polled by e-mail between August and September 2020. Percentages are rounded up to the nearest whole number.

MCAT® is a registered trademark of the AAMC. Test names are the property of the respective trademark holders, none of whom endorse or are affiliated with Kaplan.

About Kaplan

Kaplan is a global educational services company that provides individuals, universities, and businesses with a diverse array of services, including higher and professional education, test preparation, language training, corporate and leadership training, and student recruitment, online enablement and other university support services. With operations in nearly 30 countries, Kaplan serves nearly 1.1 million students each year and has partnerships with 2,000-plus universities, colleges, and schools/school districts, and more than 4,000 businesses globally. Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC). For more information, please visit www.kaptest.com.  

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