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Applications to Harvard Medical School Drop Back to Near Pre-Pandemic Levels

By Paul E. Alexis, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: April 7, 2022 at 2:03 p.m.

Applications to Harvard Medical School fell back to near pre-pandemic levels this year after a sharp increase last cycle.

HMS accepted 199 students to its MD program in the 2021-22 application cycle — 2.9 percent of the 6,914 people who applied. Applications to the school's MD program fell by around 14 percent, or 1,088, compared to last year but remained slightly higher than prior to the pandemic.

HMS Admissions Dean Robert J. Mayer said the 2020-2021 cycle represented an anomaly at HMS due to the pandemic.

“Because of the pandemic, people who had planned to do something between college and medical school — gap years, if you will — found that they couldn’t do it, and they opted to apply directly to medical school,” he said.

“I wouldn’t make much of the decline,” Mayer said. “Everything was flat except for last year.”

Overall, the number of applications to all three of Harvard’s health care schools — HMS, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health — have increased since the start of the pandemic two years ago, according to data provided by the schools.

The Harvard Dental School accepted 35 of the 993 people who applied after it saw a slight drop in the number of applicants compared to last cycle.

Just over 2,900 people applied to the School of Public Health this cycle, sustaining the upward trend of the past two years. HSPH did not provide the number of accepted students.

Overall, applications to HSPH are up by more than 50 percent compared to the 2019-2020 pre-pandemic cycle. This year, the school saw an increase of around 7 percent compared to last cycle.

Kerri L. Noonan, the director of admissions at HSPH, said an optional survey of applicants to the school showed that the pandemic had an outsized impact on career choices for students interested in public health.

“I think it’s just driven more people to look towards public health for a career,” Noonan said of Covid-19.

Due to the pandemic, the School of Public Health did not require applicants to submit the GRE. Noonan said the survey of applicants showed that more than 45 percent of respondents indicated the test-optional policy influenced their decision to apply.

She said the school will decide by June whether it will mandate the standardized test again going forward.

The Harvard Dental School allowed for virtual applicant interviews this cycle — an “applicant-centered approach,” according to Sarah Troy-Petrakos, the school’s director of admissions.

“Interviewees who opted for a face-to-face interview were grateful to have the option to see the campus in person, and applicants who interviewed virtually were appreciative of the time and cost savings resulting from not having to travel to their interview,” Troy-Petrakos wrote in a statement.

She added that the school expects to offer a mix of virtual and in-person interviews moving forward.

Noonan added that the Chan School plans to utilize virtual recruitment in the future after it did so successfully this year.

“I think we’re able to reach so many more people through virtual recruitment,” she said. “I’ll connect with prospective students in Indonesia and then in the afternoon, I’ll connect with students in California. So it’s just been an amazing experience to be able to do this all virtually, and to see the number of people who really are participating in the virtual events.”

—Staff writer Paul E. Alexis can be reached at

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