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Applications to medical school soared by 17.8 percent for the 2021–22 academic year, reaching a record 46,758, the Association of American Medical Colleges announced Wednesday.

Among the 22,000-plus students who began medical school this fall, those self-identified as Black rose by 21 percent from 2020–21, followed by increases of 8.3 percent among Asian students and 7.1 percent among those of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.

No one can pin down one dominant force behind the boom. “I don’t think anybody knows why,” said Kevin Holcomb, associate dean of admissions at Weill Cornell Medicine, where applications rose 15 percent.

Admissions leaders believe an unprecedented mix of developments compelled many medical school aspirants to apply: pandemic-related shutdowns that cut off other opportunities and accelerated medical career plans, increased awareness of how doctors can help to alleviate social injustices, and changes that reduced fees for some students and eliminated travel costs associated with applying.

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