How will Coronavirus (COVID-19) affect medical school admissions?
At this point, it’s all conjecture! But COVID-19 is already making its impact on current medical school students and applicants. As schools suspend operations, move to online formats, and work to slow the spread of the pandemic, flexibility will be key.
In the short run, the adjustments feel relatively minor:
- The couple of programs that are still interviewing (Wait. What? For real?) are mostly cancelling in-person interviews in lieu of remote interviews. While that’s a real money and time saver, applicants miss out on the gut-level decision making that a physical visit often provides.
- Match Day 2020 looks very different than in years past. Many schools put the brakes on the usual gatherings, instead offering “students only” gatherings and more intimate ceremonies, if any at all.
- “Second Look” weekends have largely been cancelled. A virtual format is a likely alternative.
- Some MCAT centers (especially in other countries) have cancelled/postponed testing. In the US, MCAT test takers are facing options ranging from wearing disposable gloves to rescheduling without penalty.
But what about the long run? What happens to the next class of medical school applicants? Best case scenario, this all wraps up neatly and the impact is negligible. Worst case scenario? The entire process is turned on its head. A few of our predictions for how things might shake out:
- If travel remains disrupted, dangerous, or limited, we will see a general shift toward more virtual/online/remote interview options. We’re talking about potentially thousands of dollars of savings here! In fact, lower-income applicants (and all those students pinching pennies) could find it more feasible to afford their medical school dream. But interviews will likely feel a little trickier for those who shine in face-to-face interactions. Also, it may be more difficult to really gauge the pulse of a program through a screen.
- International applicants could be looking at more hurdles in matriculating this cycle. However, those who persevere may actually see higher acceptance rates than usual.
- If you are an international student currently studying in the US and you can maintain that status through the whole of the application cycle, you may have an edge over students looking to move from abroad.
- Domestic applicants may enjoy a slight bump in their odds. International applications will likely drop this cycle, as they do during times of instability.
One final thought: COVID-19 has sharpened the public’s interest in the current state of American medicine. It is possible that we will see some major injections of funding into our healthcare, research, and medical education systems to shore up our crisis readiness. If that happens, your timing may be perfect to apply!