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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Posts tagged "applications"
Asker quietbang Asks:
Hi- I'm currently in my third year of a 5 year program, and I'm getting ready to apply to med school. I'm a wheelchair user- I have an SCI and rheumatoid arthritis- and many people don't think that wheelchair users should be doctors. I want to be a doctor so I can be a positive influence in the lives of children with disabilities and their families-- should I say that in my app? Or should I give another reason that doesn't disclose my disability? They'll find out when they interview me anyway.
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Absolutely you should say that! 

As far as I know, schools cannot deny you admission on the basis of your disability. Unless it would completely prevent you from doing your duties as a med student or doctor. And your personal statement is all about YOUR personal experiences, so if your medical history has influenced your decision to pursue medicine, you should definitely talk about it! And who better to be an advocate for patients with disabilities than a doctor with a disability? 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi Wayfaring! I'm an American studying in a Euro med skl, &I start my final yr this Aug. So ultimately, I want to come back to the states for residency. One mistake I made was not taking my steps in time (step 1 way too late for that, but in all honesty it was due to circumstances beyond control. Step 2 could still be a work in progress) so since Im not getting into the 2015 match &will have to do internship &step1 in internship, would a gap yr now b4 I graduate to do steps b OK or frowned upon?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

You’re definitely going to need to take Step 1 (and probably Step 2) BEFORE applying to residency. You will be expected to take Step 3 during residency, which is tough, but Step 1 is definitely the hardest and you won’t be able to study for it in residency.

A big part of your residency placement is your Step 1 score, so without that, your chances of getting in—especially as an IMG—are slim. You basically have no choice but to take a gap year. So take Step 1 at the beginning of this year if possible, and try to get Step 2 in by the end of the year. It will still be too late to apply to residency this cycle, but at least you’ll have it done early in case you need to re-take something. Remember you can’t take Step 2 until you take Step 1. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Help! I know you only applied to one medical school, but I'm in the midst of my app cycle and swimming in secondaries. What are some rules of thumb for secondaries? What sort of turnaround time should I shoot for? Thank you so much; you are an incredible resource to all us lost premeds.
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Er uh, someone else wanna take a stab at this question? Like you said, I only applied to one school, and therefore only did one secondary app, so I really don’t know what’s the standard here. I would think you should try to get it back in ASAP, as the general rule of thumb is the earlier you apply, the greater your chances of getting accepted. 

Also, don’t write all the same stuff you wrote in your primary app. They sent you a secondary to learn more. Be creative. Write something totally different. 

when you apply for more than one specialty, do you need to write separate personal statements? and separate letters of recommendation? Thanks!
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

You don’t have to write separate personal statements, but it does help to tailor your personal statement to your specialty. I’ve read PS’s from people who clearly are applying to multiple specialties, and they sound pretty wishy-washy and non-committal when they go with a generic PS. The PS for residency should talk about why you are interested in that specialty and why it fits you, so it’s hard to make it sound good if it’s generic. 

It’s good to have some general LORs and some from docs in your chosen specialty (especially the department head at your school or hospital). So yeah, it does help to have both. But not a requirement. 

How important is playing a sport in high school to get into college/med school?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:


Asker Anonymous Asks:
Is running a Tumblr blog worth putting on your med school app?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Ooh, be careful with that. If there is even ONE post on there that may put you in a negative light to the school, it’s a bad idea. It also really depends on your subject matter. If you’re just reblogging a bunch of science posts from other people, what does that show to the application committee? But if you’re running an original content blog that is innovative or research-based, it may be appropriate. I would not put a blog like mine on an application (because I share patient stories and personal stuff), but ones that probably would look good to admissions committees are ones like thebiopsy, in-training, and thedifferentialdiagnosis. Also be careful to research the school’s social media policy before you disclose a blog to them. 

Asker sammbaamm Asks:
I feel like I have 1000 reasons why I want to be a doctor. How can I narrow this down to a good answer for my personal statement or for med school interviews??
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Well a thousand reasons is definitely a better position to be in than some of the folks who send me questions who clearly do to know why they want to be a doctor. To those people I say, 

First off, make a list of your top 10 or 20 reasons, if you really have that many. Then cross off all the ones that you’ve heard a hundred times before.

These are your “I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was 5” and “my mom/dad is a doctor” and “I wanna help people” and “my grandma was real sick one time” and “I wanna cure cancer” stories. You can mention some of these, but try your best to be unique.

After you’ve crossed off the common stuff, pick 3 reasons that are strong and that are distinctively you, and weave them together in a story or narrative. 

And if you have to use one of the reasons everyone else uses, at least make it creative and make it your own. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm a 911 Paramedic with aspirations to go onto NP school - is "Keep working in 911 until next time around" an acceptable 'Plan B'? I know that I love my work as it is and not being accepted on my first application wouldn't be as... shattering as it may be for some younger applicants. But with that said, I don't want the application board to think I'm just languishing and resting on my laurels.
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Absolutely! It’s a great job, you’re getting clinical experience, and you’ve got the chance to make some connections in that job to get some letters of rec or good shadowing opportunities. You should also work on improving your application in some way, too. Ask the schools you applied to which areas they felt were the weakest so you can work on building them up. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi there! Just wanted your opinion! How does working at a Pharmacy (as an Assistant) look when applying to med schools? I've been working there my entire undergrad (almost 4yrs now) and just wanted to know if it would even help my application at all?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

It certainly won’t hurt. I can’t really say how much it helps though. I feel like any job in a “healthcare” field probably gives a little application boost. It’s not going to make up for crappy grades, but it is a bit like sprinkles on top of ice cream. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
How important are extracurriculars and electives for residency applications?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

I thought I had beaten this topic to death, but apparently most of my posts only apply to med school applications. I do have one post from a while back on this topic for you, though, anon. If you check out the chart at the top, you’ll see that extras are pretty low on the totem pole. They do help show your interest in a given specialty, though.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi, do you have any tips for personal statements? Also, what do you think about mentioning your religious beliefs as a motivation too in the statement?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Check out my recently posted personal statement how-to’stravaganza for some tips.

As for mentioning your religious beliefs, it’s rocky. I definitely talked about mine in my personal statement for med school and residency, for several reasons: 1) it was why I feel called to be a doctor 2) I am aiming to do mission work, also directly tied to my beliefs 3) the school I was applying to had a history of being a religious-affiliated institution and supported medical missions and 4) the residency programs I was applying to were all supportive of medical missions, and several of them were Christian-affiliated.  

All that being said, it can be a gamble to mention your religious beliefs in your personal statement if you don’t know your audience. Technically a school can’t deny you because of your beliefs, but at the same time, writing things that are potentially divisive could decrease your chances of matching there. You never know what your AdCom members’ beliefs are and whether they can be objective enough to respect yours if they disagree with them. 

Use your best judgment. Research the schools or programs you are applying to well and get a feel for the culture there to better decide if mentioning your beliefs is appropriate. This issue can really go either way. Everyone is motivated by different things in life, so writing about what motivates you personally really shouldn’t offend anyone else. I’ve said this before, but when it comes to anything controversial, write about it if it was a major influence for you. If not, leave it out. 

What should you write / not write in your personal statement? How do you write something that will make you stand out?

If you stick to these guidelines, you will have personal statement that will stand out for sure. 


Tell a story. Use narrative. Stories are so much easier for your reader to pay attention to and remember. And if there’s one thing you want to come out of your personal statement, it’s for people to remember you. 


Use examples rather than blanket statements. Everyone knows you want to go into medicine to help people, but don’t just say that. Tell a story of a time you helped someone and relay how it affected you. 

Relate your outside interests to medicine. How has your love for sports/dance/music/mission work/travel/etc affected and strengthened your love for medicine? How will those interests make you a better doctor?


- Leave ‘em guessing. Don’t tell your whole life story, but tell enough about your life or interests to make the reader want to find out more. That’s the stuff that makes for a good interview. Believe me, interviewers don’t want to just ask you all the same stuff you’ve already written.

Brag on yourself a little. The AdCom is looking to be impressed. Ask your friends what your best qualities are, and talk those up in your personal statement. 


Talk about your personal experiences that have influenced you to go into medicine. But also be aware that everyone has a sick family member story, and that those stories are pretty common in personal statements. 

-  Give reasons why other careers are not for youSure, you love science. We get that. Go deeper. Why do you need to be a doctor of all things? Why is teaching chemistry not for you? Why didn’t you go to nursing school? 


Remember that you can tailor your personal statement to each program. If you’re applying to a program that has a very distinctive feature, you may want to talk about how that feature interests you. But don’t throw that same statement out to every school. 

Ask for help when you get stuck. Check out Roheet’s (theBiopsy) service called LeanOn that helps folks like you with personal statement writing. It’s worth the price for sure. 



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Asker diktionarie Asks:
have you ever been rejected from any school you applied to (undergrad or med school) ?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Nope, but I’m a really odd case.

I applied early decision to both my undergrad and my med school and got in both times, so I never had to apply elsewhere. That turned out to be really good because I’m not sure that I would have liked any of the other schools in my state.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Currently junior in undergrad. Where to start when you are ready to apply to med school? I feel so lost and stressed :(
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

How to apply to medical school:

  • Print out this timeline and keep it on your wall so you know what your next step will always be. Write all the big application deadlines in so you are sure to not miss them. 
  • Get organized. Make yourself a physical or digital file with all med-school related stuff in it so you don’t lose stuff. 
  • Find out if your school has a pre-med advisor and a pre-med committee to write you a letter of recommendation. If you don’t know how to find them, ask a biology professor. Guaranteed they know which way to point you. Set up an appointment with the advisor to figure out exactly where you are and what you need to do next. 
  • Finish all your pre-med classes
  • Study for and take the MCAT.
  • Research medical schools, starting with those in your state and moving outward. The MSAR can help you with the search. 
  • Fill out your giant AMCAS application (if in the US)
  • Pay AMCAS a squillion dollars to apply to however many schools you want
  • Submit your application.
  • Wait for secondary applications to come to you, and fill those out.
  • Wait for interview invites.
  • Interview.
  • Get in. 

The AAMC has some great factsheets for aspiring doctors, applicants, med students, and residents with frequently asked questions, so I encourage you to check those out. They pretty much lay out everything you need to do to apply. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
The question "why do you want to be a doctor?" is very hard to answer! I know it's the essential question in interviews and scholarships...I'm applying for a program in undergrad and it's hard to think of an answer. What do I do? (Saying I just do, won't suffice, I've done tons of scientific research and shadowing, I'm lost for an answer). I'm a sophomore in undergrad by the way.
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Since I can’t answer the “why medicine” question for you. Everyone has different reasons for pursuing a career in medicine. Here are some questions you can think about to help you put words to your feelings. 

Think about this, though: if you can’t explain why you want to be a doctor, do you really want to be a doctor? Or do you just like the idea of being a doctor? If you’re not able to give an AdCom a good reason (even if it’s the same reason 10,000 other applicants gave), they’re going to think you haven’t really thought through your decision to apply. Going into medicine isn’t the “next step” after doing research and shadowing. You need to have a really good reason to willingly go $250,000 in debt and spend the next 7-12 years of your life studying.