Wayfaring MD

I am a family medicine resident who likes to highlight the hilarious in medicine as I write about patients, medical school, residency, medical missions, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

HIPAA is for reals, folks. All of my "patient stories" have been changed to protect patient privacy. I will change any or all identifiers, including age, location, race/ethnicity, sex, medical history, and quotes. Also, I am an anonymous internet person. Why should you trust an anonymous internet person to give you medical advice? Don't ask me, ask your doctor!
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Well here we are again at the end of the school year, and the TOADS’ inboxes are flooded with “oh crap, I got a C” questions once more. 

Since we are all tired of answering these questions, I’ve decided to make the ultimate guide for bad grade advice. So here goes. 

So you got a bad grade. Bad for you may be a B+ or C-. Frankly, the number doesn’t matter to me. What matters is your first step. You can:

A) Have a panic attack because your mind automatically jumps to seeing you living in a cardboard box with $500K in student loan debt because hey, with that grade there’s no way you can ever be a doctor and if you can’t be a doctor you might as well give up on all your dreams, right? (Proceed to Chapter 1, entitled “Calm Yo Tits”).


B) Tell yourself the grade is ok because dangit, regardless of grades you are getting into med school because it’s your destiny (Proceed to Chapter 2, entitled “Reality Check”). 


C) Beat yourself up about the grade for 5 minutes and then enjoy your summer, after which you will start the semester fresh and ready to study harder (Proceed to chapter 3, entitled “Good Thing You’re Not a Gunner”).

D) Ask yourself “what would WayfaringMD/Cranquis/TNQD/md-admissions do in this situation?” (Proceed to chapter 4, entitled “The Not-So Omniscient Blogger”)


E) Immediately sign up to retake every class you’ve ever taken. (Proceed to Chapter 5, entitled “I owe the Government my Left Kidney”)

F) Blame the grade on your semester of depression / your crappy roommate / your home stressors / whatever (Chapter 6, “Blame it On Milli Vanilli”)

Chapter 1: Calm Yo Tits

Seriously, calm thyself. One bad grade is not the end of the world. Everybody struggles at something. Maybe you’re bad at that subject. Maybe you had other reasons for screwing up. Doesn’t matter. Hakuna Matata. You gotta put your behind in your past. Yep, you’ll have to work harder to bring up your GPA next semester, and you may even need to retake a class, but one bad grade or one bad semester doesn’t have to end it. Geez, if everyone gave up after one failure, we wouldn’t have most of the cool stuff we have today, like vaccines and Viagra and iPhones and sriracha flavored chips. Part of being a doctor is using your mistakes and shortcomings to motivate you to do better. 

Chapter 2: Reality Check

Sure, one bad grade is usually not a big deal. (See Chapter 1). But a pattern is different. Everyone thinks they are special enough to be the kid who got into med school with a 3.2 GPA and a 22 MCAT because of their outstanding extracurriculars and shining personality. Our mamas tell us we’re special and we can always achieve our dreams. Well let’s just get real for a moment. If you’re continually struggling to get through undergrad and are making “minimally acceptable” grades, then you might not be able to handle the pace of medical school. 


Chapter 3: Good Thing You’re Not a Gunner

Way to be, you anti-gunner, you! You know that your life is not over. You understand that you are not defined by the letters on your transcript or by the ones after your name. Hey, why don’t you go on vacation? Get a job. Volunteer. Change the world a little. Don’t sit in the library and agonize over every missed test question. Hey, if your next class builds on the one you bombed, maybe you should do some reading over the summer and brush up on the concepts you’re rusty on. But don’t get crazy. Just try harder the next time around. Change your study habits and methods. Get a tutor. Give up Facebook (or heaven forbid, Tumblr!) for a few weeks. Find a study group. Better grades are possible. 

Chapter 4: The Not-So-Omniscient Blogger

See now, that’s where you went wrong. Because as cool as we are, the TOADS do not know you, your school, or your individual situation. But you know who does? Your school’s pre-med advisor. Or your upperclassman mentor. Or your favorite professor. Or your academic advisor. These people already know your issues (or at least know you better than we gray-faces do). They understand the requirements at the schools you are interested in. When you ask us whether you should retake a class or change your major or whatever, we’re going on generalizations when we answer you. We can’t give you a tailored, personalized response like the advisors who know you can. So next time, read this post and then go ask them. 


Chapter 5: I Owe The Government My Left Kidney

Retaking classes can be good or bad. What matters is why you are retaking the class. If you did poorly in a class that you will need to really understand before proceeding forward, then by all means, you should probably retake it so you don’t bomb the next one too. But if you’re retaking based solely on the GPA numbers game, I think it’s kind of silly. Also, retaking 1, maybe 2 classes is ok, but if you’re getting into more than that, well… see Chapter 2. 

Chapter 6: Blame it On Milli Vanilli

Life can be hard. I know this. And difficult life circumstances can certainly lead to problematic grades. But this should not be the theme of your personal statement. Don’t go through 4 years of college with terrible grades and then ask an admission committee to look past them because you had some hard times in your life. Sure, it makes for a great story, but how do they know if you can handle the huge emotional/financial/intellectual challenge that is medical school? Instead, take some time off if you need to. Put school on hold, get your life together, and start fresh. Show the AdComs that you were strong enough to not only get through the hard times, but to thrive on the other side. 

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