The Fauci Effect and Biden Bump boost medical school admissions

“The Fauci Effect propelled the number of medical school applicants in 2020 to jump by as much as 20%”

The Fauci Effect and Biden Bump phenomenons, attributed to Anthony Fauci and President Biden, may be leading to medical school application spike, with former having propelled the number of medical school applicants in 2020 to jump by as much as 20%.

The Covid-10 pandemic clearly has had devastating effects. The silver lining may be that it is propelling a new generation of minds into medicine.

MedSchoolCoach founder Sahil Mehta explains this increased application rate, why it may be occurring, and what it means for pre-meds who are applying in 2021.

International student applications to US colleges are spiking

According to Forbes in February, “after three years of flat or falling international applications, 2021 is shaping up to be a very good year”. They further claimed that “compared to 2019-20, the volume of international applicants has increased by about 9%”.

This is led by college application spikes from students in the following countries:

  • India +28%
  • Canada +22%
  • Nigeria +12%
  • Pakistan +37%
  • UK +23%
  • Brazil +41%

While the international student increases are not specifically tied to medical school, it is an indicator that the medical school landscape is about to become more competitive.

This bump, coined the “Biden Bump”, suggests that greater foreign confidence in the US is resulting in more students interested in traveling here to invest in their education.

Competition to get into medical school is growing

Just because someone graduates as a doctor doesn’t mean that this doctor can practice medicine. All physicians are required to go through graduate medical education (GME). These residency and fellowship programs are what actually train doctors in their preferred specialisations.

GME programs are government-funded. A lack of government funding at accredited schools means the schools upstream cannot enrol more students. It’s a simplistic view of it, but just because more students are interested in medicine doesn’t mean that more students can enter medicine as a career.

Today, medical schools reject 60% of applicants.

For 2021/22, students who tried to enrol the previous year and were denied will likely be reapplying. This could lead to a “Cascading Fauci Effect” for years as more students are interested in medicine, yet are not accepted into one of these coveted medical school spots.

Extracurriculars remains a crucial factor for acceptance

While students may not be able to engage in the same extracurriculars as they once could, it’s still important they have solid extracurriculars to create a strong narrative that balances out their med school application.

Virtual clinical education programs can substitute for in-person experiences while students are limited in the clinics and hospitals.

Participation in these virtual programs show interest for the medical profession, can also go onto a CV, and be discussed in interviews.

The MCAT exam could become more important

Standardised exams like the MCAT are an integral part of the application process for medical schools, used to filter through candidates and eliminate weaker ones from the pool of applicants. The “Cascading Fauci Effect” may make this even more true.

The 2021/2022 application cycle may be one of the hardest years to gain admission into medical school. Therefore, applicants will need to prepare early to make their application as strong as possible.

Medicine has a bright future

Premed students and medical students are entering medicine at a remarkable time. Medical science is poised to undergo considerable change in the next few years. Current med students should keep this in mind as they start a challenging process.

Researchers developed and rolled out a vaccine in just about one year. Personalised genomics, big data, artificial intelligence and more could transform how healthcare professionals deliver health care.

If we could coordinate efforts like we did with Covid, what could happen to HIV/AIDs, malaria and other killers? What if we could enlist the best and brightest to fight cancer, or eliminate heart disease? The potential could be limitless.


About the author: Sahil Mehta is the founder of MedSchoolCoach and has guided thousands of successful medical school applicants. He is also a practicing physician in Boston where he specialises in vascular and interventional radiology.