Why is it so difficult to get medical education in the USA?

It would be hard to argue against the well-known fact that thousands of Americans want to attain a degree in a successful medical school of their dreams. With national acceptance rates that don’t usually exceed 4 percent of all applicants, it is quite common to wonder why it is so hard to get into medical school.

If you were wondering about real reasons that make any U.S. medical school on demand among schoolers, you’re on the right page. Our experts will now shed light on why it is now extremely hard to get accepted to medical universities in the US. Regardless of whether you’re a prospective doctor, nurse practitioner, or an interested reader, we welcome you to check these reasons, as follows.

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Increase in numbers of applications

Due to a variety of reasons, the number of applications to American medical colleges is increasing annually. According to independent research, American medical universities have seen a roughly 25 percent increase in applications over the last decade. Alongside the increasing rates of applications, the number of admissions remained on a fairly same level.

This discrepancy has caused an exceptionally competitive environment, in which it became tough to get admitted even on an undergraduate program. This growing rate of applicants was also caused by the renewed attention of medical programs in STEM sub-topics. Solely because of such an increasing rate of applications, getting admitted to such an institution is becoming tougher annually.

Shortage of academic school institutions

Like it or not, but the second most emphasized reason why it became exceptionally different to get a degree in the US refers to the shortage of institutions. Dozens of experts stated that the US educational system failed to meet the mentioned increase in the number of applicants.

It would be reasonable for these schools and institutions to increase the number of admissions, eventually making the competition a bit less fierce. With a noticeable rise for medicine and medical degrees in the United States, the most vulnerable areas, such as rural regions, started facing tremendous doctor shortages. Even though some university institutions started opening medical schools and departments, the shortage of schools is still a noticeable issue.

         One can also remind that America faces an issue of aging that requires more doctor demand even in the short run. The biggest problem is the fact that medical school enrollment has not increased to the extent of covering such a skyrocketing demand. While the increased number of applicants is a decisive factor, the lack of school facilities is an issue to solve on governmental or state levels.

Admission competition

If you imagine a situation of a typical process of getting to a college right now, you’ll hardly think of average schoolers getting admitted. Only the top students with the most promising achievements and highest GPA scores are getting positive responses to their applications. You might recognize that this factor is a bit more connected to the increasing number of applications and shortages of medical schools.

It is also worth mentioning that a typical application is now more robust than it was even five years ago. Applicants commonly have a higher score, whereas some schools even introduced grants for the most promising students with strong preschool expertise in STEM. Even though it is not impossible to get admitted, the competition is so fierce that only a fraction of all applicants got admitted, after all.

graduating medical and nursing student

The Nursing Program

Another facet of having many elderly citizens means the demand for nurses is increasing as well. Even though the nursing workforce is growing exponentially, changes in health care (such as the Covid-19 pandemic) can affect the supply of skilled nurses to the needy. Registered nurses (RNs) must, at the least, have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a two-year program. However, those with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a four-year course, are more likely to secure a job. Upon completion of the program, candidates must take the National Council Licensure Examination to get their license. Studying to become a nurse may be a tad less challenging, but getting into a nursing school can be difficult. Only those with a high GPA are eligible to sit for entrance exams.

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Graduation factor

Another factor that is intertwined with doctor shortage across the United States is the complicatedness of the graduation. Besides a tough admission to a medical college, a proportion of admitted students don’t finish their studies. When it comes to studying requirements, not all admitted individuals can cope with all the challenges that such an education encompasses.

Since it is generally harder to graduate now than it was before, no applicants are eligible to substitute the drop-outs. Even though this factor is a minor one, we still found it worthy of mentioning it to enrich your experience and knowledge regarding the difficulties associated with medical schools.

More candidates taking gap years

As the competition is getting more intense and fierce over time, the list of requirements grows longer. In the long run, these circumstances have caused an environment where more students are taking gap years to prepare to get admitted. These individuals have more time to prepare for MCAT tests, alongside getting ready to answer all the questions in that test.

This extra time carried out by gap year candidates is focused on improving MCAT scores, boosting academic credibility, and taking unique research projects. Since dozens of schools now closely consider leadership positions of the past and extracurricular research, the number of students taking gap years is growing.

While these phenomena are also linked with other factors, it’s no surprise that the incorporation of school shortages and the increasing number of applicants has created a pool of exclusively saturated and stellar candidates. For that sole reason, such an increase in the number of schools could mitigate a trend of taking gap years, which, in turn, might be handy for closing doctor shortages in the short run.

In a word

Like it or not, but the competition associated with getting admitted to a medical school in the US is on its unprecedented heights. With the incorporation of a skyrocketing rate of applications, school shortages, an increase in MCAT scores, and students who are taking gap years, the odds of getting admitted are continually decreasing. For all students looking for a start in a medical institution, hard work is needed more than ever. Best of luck.


This article was written by Jamil Cobb, a professional medical tutor from PapersOwl. He worked in both universities and institutions across the United States for the last twenty years. Right now, Mr. Jamil focuses on sharing his knowledge with prospective students. Right now, on the website of PapersOwl, he offers top-notch assistance for students of STEM disciplines.