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.
Wayfaring MD followers
Recent Tweets @WayfaringMD
Who I Follow
Posts tagged "applications"

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. 



Read More

Asker waitwahttt 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.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
So one of my professors said she'd be very happy to write me a rec letter for med school but she wants me to draft it. As in she will revise it and make changes and all. How do i go about doing this? And not making it awkward by praising myself (however candidly)? I'd reeeeally appreciate any tips. Thanks!
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

It may feel awkward to praise yourself, but that’s what you should be doing in this letter of rec. I mean, if I’m on an AdCom and read a less-than-glowing letter of rec about an applicant, I would assume that the letter writer didn’t have much confidence in the person. 

In this post about personal statements, I recommended asking a good friend or family member (ok, not your mom, but like a cool uncle or something) why they think you’d be a good doctor. They will probably come up with reasons that never would have occurred to you. Ask them what qualities they look for in a good doctor, and then ask how you exhibit those qualities. 

When you write the letter, write it like you are literally bragging to someone about how great you are. Write using the first person. Then when you’re done you can change all the I’s/me’s to third person. Don’t worry about making it perfect. The professor will edit it how they want it. 

Asker eclipperton Asks:
Howdy Wayfaring! Your blog is awesome and super helpful. I'm particularly thankful for your pro-tips regarding yankee/southerner translations. My question is about a dual degree. The school I'm going to offers a master of public health concurrently with the MD. I'm interested in epidemiology but not sure what else I would get from an MPH. Would it be helpful for residency placement? Would it make things over-the-top stressful or only slightly more stressful? I appreciate any thoughts!
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

I certainly don’t think the MPH would hurt your residency prospects, but don’t overestimate its value either. 

Since I didn’t do a joint degree program, I can’t really say where on the stress scale it would hit, but I’d imagine a dual degree of any type would make med school more difficult and more expensive. Think about whether what you’re getting out of the program is worth the extra time and expense to you. 

Ultimately, if you are interested in epidemiology and think that you will use the degree, go for it. But don’t do an extra few years and tons more work just to make yourself look prettier to residency programs. There are lots of other (read: free) things you can do to make yourself a good residency applicant. Residency applications are a bit different than med school ones. Your Step 1 score and basic numerical stats get you an interview, but it’s really your personality that determines where you match.

Asker goku-s Asks:
Hey is it possible to apply for two specialities for residency applications? For example i'm interested in both general surgery and internal medicine? Do you write two separate personal statements? I'd appreciate any advice or information you can give me! thaanks :D
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Yes, you absolutely can apply to 2 specialties. It’s usually advised that you don’t tell one specialty that you’re applying for the other, because programs like applicants that are all in, so to speak. And yes, you should probably write 2 personal statements, each one specific to the specialty. I read a PS recently that was very generic and the writer just wrote about medicine in general rather than family med specifically. We all had doubts as to whether the applicant was 100% gung-ho family med after reading it. It’s a pain, but it will make your application stronger. Some people tweak their PS for certain programs, too. For example, when applying to an OB-heavy family med program, the applicant might emphasize their love for OB, and do the same for geriatrics in a geri heavy program. 

PMTHers, (Pamthers?) feel free to add your own questions to this list. We need to get cracking on recruitment for this year if we expect to get any good residents. 

  • If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you bring with you?
  • You can pick 1 word to be on your tombstone. What do you want it to say?
  • Star Wars or Star Trek?
  • Which type of donut is the best?
  • How big is your gif collection, and are you willing to share with Wayfaring?
  • Thai food or Indian food? 
  • What are your feelings about working with a fellow resident who is being treated for active pulmonary TB?
  • Which tv doctor do you most identify with?
  • If you could be a character on the Muppet show, who would you be?
  • What is the airspeed velocity of a coconut laden swallow? 
  • What position do you hope to play on the PMTH kickball team?
  • How do you plan to maintain blogger anonymity during your PMTH residency? 
  • Which superpower would be most useful as a doctor (xray vision excluded of course)?
  • Defend your position for or against pineapple as a pizza topping. 
  • How do you plan to survive the zombie apocalypse? And which medical specialty would you prefer to form an alliance with in case of zombie apocalypse?
  • Sherlock or Dr. Who?
  • How are your pen-dart to mouth-target skills? 
  • What Hogwarts house do you belong to?
  • It’s 3 am and you’re on call with Dr. Cranquis, who is particularly cranky and sleep deprived tonight. What food or beverage will you bring him to give him a boost?

Since it’s Med School and Residency Interview Season, I give you a lil something to help you prepare. 

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. What are your strengths (3)?
  3. What are your weaknesses (3)?
  4. What qualifications set you apart from other applicants?
  5. How have you done in medical school/undergrad?
  6. Explain your ranking in your third year.
  7. Which rotation gave you the most difficulty and why?
  8. What is the best experience you had in med school/undergrad?
  9. What is the worst experience you had in med school/undergrad?
  10. Describe a clinical situation you handled well.
  11. Describe a clinical situation which didn’t go as well as you would have liked.
  12. What error have you made in patient care?
  13. Why did you choose (specific specialty or medicine in general)?
  14. What are the negatives of (specialty)?
  15. What problems do you think the specialty/all of medicine faces currently and in the future?
  16. What do you consider important in a training program or medical school?
  17. Why have you applied to this program?
  18. What if you don’t match/ get accepted? What is your backup plan?
  19. What are your future plans (after residency; 10 years from now)?
  20. Do you have research interests?
  21. Will you pursue a fellowship?
  22. With what types of people do you have trouble working?
  23. With what types of patients do you have trouble dealing?
  24. What do you think a good doctor should be like?
  25. What do you think a good resident should be like?
  26. Why did you choose to go to [school X]?
  27. What programs are at the top of your list?
  28. How do you deal with stress?
  29. How do you handle heavy workloads?
  30. How do you deal with balancing multiple tasks?
  31. What are your hobbies?
Asker goku-s Asks:
Hey, I was wondering how do you format your resume for residency applications? Is there a specific template that you used? Thanks : )
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Wow, I just did this 2 years ago and it has almost completely left my memory.

What I remember is that you do your whole application online through ERAS (see their user guide here). They have their own forms for you to fill out. The only thing I remember using my CV for was to send to people I asked for letters of recommendation from so they knew my accomplishments. 

When it came to doing my CV, I just looked up templates online until I found one that looked clean and uncluttered. My goal was to keep my CV to 1 page, so as to avoid overwhelming people. I’ll post a template separately just to give you an idea. 

What do you consider a good/well-balanced application for med school?

I’ve had this question in my inbox for weeks now (sorry steffyluvsu…i luv u too?) because I thought I had already been through this in my Advice to Premeds series. I sort of have, but not in one post. 

So here goes:

  • grades & MCAT at or above the average for the schools you are applying to. In general a science GPA > 3.75 and MCAT >30 in addition to a well balanced application will get you into medical school somewhere if you apply widely enoughThat’s not to say you can’t get in with scores lower than these, but remember that a bunch of icing can’t support a crappy cake
  • major in what you find interesting. Find the major with the most classes that excite you and pick it. Of course, also keep in mind the usefulness of your major. What will you be able to do with it if you don’t get into med school?
  • shadowing or clinical experience is a must. How will you know you want to be a doctor if you’ve never hung out with doctors? Some schools will have an hour requirement, so make sure you at least meet those. Many PA schools require something like 1000 shadowing hours. Med schools require much less, but I think 150-200 is a good solid number to shoot for. 
  • volunteering can double as shadowing if you volunteer in a medical setting. It doesn’t really matter where you volunteer, though, as long as you are consistent with it. The whole point is to show that you are interested in helping and serving people. Show some dedication to a particular organization or cause. Most of mine was with campus religious organizations. 
  • research: do it, don’t do it, whatever. Schools like to see it, but it can be hard to come by sometimes. If you do it, be prepared to talk about your research and results in your interview.
  • varied interests: take some non-science classes that interest you. Remember, every applicant is interested in science. Interviewers get tired of talking about it after a while. Give them something else to ask you about. My interviewer and I talked about Southern Lit and Photography. 
  • good interviewing skills: if interviews make you nervous, do some practice ones. Most schools offer practice interviews in their career counseling or pre-med counseling departments. Don’t say what you think they want you to say. Be honest. 

I am currently in the application cycle for medical school, and my application to my dream school seems to be on a hold.. (I was complete 7/23, but people who applied before and after me both got interview invites, and rejections). I thought the only way I can have a chance was to send a follow-up letter of intent, but wasn’t sure what to include. What do you think? -mediclopedia


The first thing I’d do, mediclopedia, would be check with the school and make sure your application isn’t missing any pieces. That may be why you haven’t heard anything (good or bad) from them yet. That’s important. Also, if you haven’t gotten a secondary application, I’d probably consider that a rejection. Many schools don’t send out early rejection letters—they just don’t send secondary applications.


Next, I’d call the admissions office and just ask them if letters of intent actually carry any weight at the school you’re hoping for. If they don’t, ask if they accept additional letters of rec or something like that. 

Letters of intent can be very helpful, especially helping AdComs decide between you and another wait-listed applicant who hasn’t shown interest in their school. I googled "Letter of intent for med school example" and got several good examples on the first page of hits. They don’t need to be super lengthy (less than a page, definitely), but you can essentially use it a second personal statement. Use it to give more reasons why you’re an interesting applicant.


Also, address your letter to the Dean unless the admissions office tells you otherwise. It may still go to the AdCom, but hey, if the dean reads it first, that has to be helpful, right?


Finally, if you don’t get in on this cycle, seriously consider applying Early Decision if your school of choice has the option. It’s sort of like a legally-binding letter of intent. You can only submit ED applications to one school. You would potentially be interviewed in an earlier cycle (which is always good), and if not, you still roll over into the general pool. If they accept you, they got you, for better or worse. 

Good luck friend!


I’m currently a medical student applying to family medicine programs this year and reading your stories, I know you’ll be a great family doc and I hope to be like that some day. But, right now I’ve been writing and re-writing and editing my personal statement for residency programs and it isn’t that great. Do you have any suggestions or tips on what would help make it a good personal statement for family programs? -anon

Family med programs are looking for applicants who:

  • are fully committed to family medicine (a lot of people apply FM as a back up to their “first love” and FM programs would rather attract applicants who truly want to be there)
  • enjoy (and are good at) patient interactions
  • able to communicate easily with patients 
  • are flexible and enjoy treating a wide variety of conditions and patient demographics
  • advocate for primary care and for availability of primary care for all patients


So it helps to show that you have these qualities in your personal statement without listing them out like on your CV. You need to show how family medicine (and not some other specialty) fits your personality. 

Remember that your reader is probably a residency director who is tired of reading personal statements, so don’t write a research paper.


Weave stories and examples throughout your writing. Many people will also somewhat tailor their personal statement to the programs they apply to. For example, if you apply to a program that is geriatrics-heavy, you might want to mention your interest in geriatrics more in the PS you send to them. The same would go for OB or sports medicine or global health or any other side interest within family medicine. 

Ultimately, your goal in a personal statement is to make the reader want to know more about you—and therefore invite you for an interview. Leave some mystery in it, but give them a taste of how awesome you are ;). 


With solidarity, 


Asker Anonymous Asks:
What was your "Plan B" if you didn't get accepted into medical school? Did you ever have one? I've wanted to be a doctor since I was three years old and have never had any other life goals. Now I'm 24, still working on my bachelor's, and thinking maybe I've missed the med school boat. Should I start making other plans for myself?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

My plan B was to do a 1-2 year stint as a missionary so that I could decide if a career in missions was right for me, and to gain that ever-coveted “life experience” that med schools seem to look for. 

Since I only applied to one medical school, this was a pretty big plan B. I didn’t worry about whether or not I’d get in to medical school, because I knew I would enjoy plan B just as much as plan A. 

Not everyone can say the same about their Plan B, but it’s still a good idea to have one. Don’t give up on medical school because you no longer fit the “traditional” mold. Believe me, there are TONS of people your age (and *gasp* OLDER) who get into medical schools every year. But yeah, think of a back up plan just in case. There are not nearly as many med school slots (and residency slots, but that’s a different story) as there are qualified applicants.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm an undergrad senior with a cumulative GPA of 3.28, my science GPA is around 2.7. I did really poorly in my sophomore year, but last year I got straight A's with the exception of two B+'s. I intend to perform similarly this year. I'm planning on taking part in a post-bacc program, but I was just wondering, do you think realistically I would get into a medical school with these kinds of stats? I'm thinking of going the DO route, but sometimes I just lose confidence in myself :/.
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

I believe you’re looking for this post.

Realistically though? With these numbers? Probably not. A bad year or semester can be softened by having stellar grades the rest of your 4 years, but an overall low GPA isn’t going to be looked upon well.