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 "grades"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Ok I hate to ask the #s question but I have a degree in design/engineering. GPA is 3.2. Going to take a whole year to do science prerequisites. Not post bac, just taking them. I have 100 volunteer hours now and I expect to have at least 100 more before I apply. Do I have a chance if I get a really good science gpa and MCAT or is the 3.2 gonna kill my chances?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Funny, you hate asking the grades question and I hate answering the grades question, especially considering that I’ve answered it a hundred times before

If you’re not finished taking classes, then your GPA isn’t set in stone. Science GPA does weigh a bit heavier than overall GPA, but of course it can also make or break your overall GPA. If you apply widely enough, do well on the MCAT, and have good extras, anything is possible. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I just finished taking ORGO 1 for the second time. First time around I got a D, second time a C. This is literally the only class that is keeping me back, everything else I excel at. Do you you think I should retake it again or is that just going to look horrible to the admissions com? I'm currently going through the stereotypical pre-med panic phase where I am over thinking everything and I cannot hakuna my tatas for the life of me.
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Seriously, stop retaking and re-taking. Learn from your mistakes and move on. One retake is potentially okay, but two? The AdCom is going to wonder if you were just hell bent on repeating your same mistakes over and over again. Move on. Do what you need to do to get through Organic 2 next semester. Get extra help or tutoring or camp out at your professor’s office during office hours, but don’t let your stress of not doing well last semester screw up the future ones. Let it motivate you to prove that you ARE capable of getting through that stupid class!

Also, read this recent post from aspiringdoctors on pre-med bad grade panic

Hi I’m a freshman in High School and want to go into medicine. I’ve wanted to be a doctor forever because I’ve been around medicine forever since I have Crohn’s. So I started reading about med school acceptance, and the likes. I do fairly well in school B+/ A- range and my GPA is 3.8. BUT, I don’t know if I’m smart enough for med school, and I have begun considering going to Nursing school. Do you have any advice for self doubt or just in general?thx - seansha-fierce

Ok, whoa, freshman in high school? You have like 6 years before you really need to decide for or against medical school. There’s really very little to say that you would or wouldn’t make it in med school at this point. 

Your grades as a freshman in high school can’t really predict whether you’ll make it to med school or not. Good grades don’t make you a good doctor. I knew some super smart kids in high school who would have made terrible doctors, and I know a few who had “ok” grades in high school who are now doing very well for themselves as nurses, doctors, and PAs.

While I’m on the topic of grades, let me make this one thing clear: grades are a SMALL part of becoming a doctor. Also there is NO SUCH THING as “smart enough for med school.” You’re not sure if you’re smart enough for med school? Neither am I, and I’ve already been through it. You will never know if you’re “smart enough” for anything until you attempt it. You have SO much time still to figure out what you’re good at and what you love, so don’t worry about the grades for now.

Lastly, don’t go to nursing school because you don’t feel “smart enough” to be a doctor. Go to nursing school because you want to be a nurse. There are plenty of nurses out there who could make great doctors, but they became nurses because it’s what they wanted to do. There are tons of great reasons to be a doctor or a nurse (ask some medblrs), and your grades shouldn’t be the main factor in either decision. 

If your own experiences with illness have sparked your interest in healthcare, consider these questions: which of your caregivers have affected you the most? What qualities do you see in them that you admire and aspire to? Ask them about their jobs and why they enjoy them (and don’t enjoy them), and try to gain some understanding of what their day-to-day life is like at work. Put your grades in the back of your mind and give yourself some other reasons why being a nurse or doctor is right for you. 

Hi there. I’m a 3rd year university student and medicine has always been my dream route after graduating. However, last year I was going through a tough time and as a result my grades suffered. I still meet the minimum requirements for admission to most med schools but I lost my scholarship and it’s not likely I’ll get it back. My grades have improved but I’m scared I won’t get in to med. I’m worried that if I can’t substantially bring up my GPA, I’ll just get ignored in my application. I would consider myself to be well rounded but I don’t know if it’s enough. I just don’t know what I’d do if I don’t get into medicine. I used to have back up plans but I just don’t want to do them anymore. I am so set on med school. Any advice? :/


Part of wanting to go into medicine is being ok with not making it there in the “traditional” timeline. This whole thing is a gamble. Only a handful of people in my class in med school went straight in from undergrad. You could have a 100% perfect application and still not get in (don’t freak out!) because there simply aren’t enough spots for all the qualified applicants. 


What’s important is doing your best. If your grades, MCAT score, and extras represent your best effort, be proud of it, regardless of the outcome. If you don’t get in on the first time around, be persistent. It’s not the end of the world. Half of my class in med school had already applied once and were denied.  Find out what you can do to make your application even more desirable and work on that for the next year. 


Be careful not to idolize a career in medicine either. EVERYTHING, even the things you absolutely love, has a downside. Regardless of how much shadowing you’ve done, you can’t really know what medicine is like until you’ve “made it,” so to speak. If you hold medicine up on a pedestal, you are liable to be disappointed when you eventually do make it.  What if you work so hard to be a doctor, and when you finally get there, you hate it?


Also, don’t expect that fear of not making it to go away once you’ve secured an acceptance to medical school. Next you will fear dropping out, failing your classes, getting a bad score on Step 1, and looking stupid on clerkships. Then when you graduate you will fear looking dumb compared to your fellow residents, hurting a patient you have been trusted to care for, missing an important diagnosis, getting sued, and on and on and on. 


A little fear is healthy. It keeps you humble and keeps you learning. But too much fear, which I think you’re bordering on, friend, can hold you back from doing amazing things in life. What if you’re not meant to be a doctor? What if you’re meant to be an amazing biology teacher? Or a pharmaceutical researcher? Or a nurse? Or a PA? What if your insistence on being a doctor is preventing you from excelling in something else?  Just think on that. 

Hey wayfaringMD, I got C’s in gen chem, intro bio and the first half of orgo, I’ve yet to finish orgo 2. I just feel defeated by the intro sciences. I’m a bio minor and I’ve done well in other more advanced science classes but I’m worried I’ll crash and burn in med school, even if I want it badly. I’m feeling kinda lost, thoughts? -searchingforasofterworld

In all honesty, wanting something and doing something are two very different things. 


Examine the reasons why you did poorly in your premed classes. Was it poor effort? Ineffective study skills? Did the classes go too fast? Lack of interest in the subject? What can you change to make things better? 

Even though the subjects in med school are entirely different than pre-med subjects, you do need a firm foundation to build upon. If a school isn’t convinced you can handle the pre-med curriculum well, they will not be confident that you can handle medical school curriculum either. 


Also, the material is flung at you at 3x the speed it is in undergrad. If pace is already an issue, think about how you can correct the problem before it gets worse. If you have a weak study system now, it could be devastating in med school. A big part of making it once you’ve been accepted to med school is learning how to learn things on your own.


On the other hand, if you are already performing at your best, ask yourself if med school is really right for you. Do you want to be a doctor, or do you want to be in medicine? Because you can be in medicine in many different ways without going to medical school. Also, examine the reasons why you want to be a doctor. Do some shadowing. Figure out if you are cut out for medicine and learn whether your current idea of what life is like as a doctor is accurate. 


The best advice I can give you is what one of my professors told me as a freshman in college. Find the place where things you love to learn intersect with things you are good at. That’s what you should be doing with your life.Think about the classes you have done well in. What made you succeed in those classes that was different than in the ones you didn’t do so well in? Maybe a change of direction is what you need. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
1st year DO student, I think I may have failed anatomy. Is it all over or is it still possible to become a doctor? Is the probability of matching anywhere great enough to justify not dropping out and avoiding the 300k?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Ok, are you chilled yet? Calming thoughts…calming thoughts…calming thoughts…

Now. Do not freak out and let your medical career be over before it ever starts. You’re not even sure you’ve failed yet! Check with your school and find out what their policy is on failed classes. Most med schools have some sort of remediation program in place for when you fail a subject. Mine had a limit of how much you could fail before you were asked to repeat a year or leave the program, but one class is usually below that limit ;). Definitely DON’T drop out. 

Think about it this way: med schools weed people out pretty heavily during the admissions process, and when they accept you, they’re basically saying, “we’ll do what it takes to turn you into a doctor.” So more than likely they have a system in place to get you up to speed.

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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. 

Lately I have been feeling like medicine isn’t worth all the sacrifices in life and I have also lost a lot of confidence since I failed an exam for the first time. Any advice to someone who feels like they’ve lost hope? -anon

I’ve had this question sitting in my inbox for several weeks now. Sorry anon! I had a hard time coming up with a new answer to this question, which I seem to get a lot. TNQD wrote a post on this subject recently with some good questions to ask yourself to find out if the sacrifice really is worth it to you .

In short, I think that if you feel like medicine isn’t worth all the sacrifices, then don’t plunge into it yet. At least take some time and figure out your life.

You will regret jumping in to a pursuit you hate much more than delaying it for a semester or a few years. Plus there’s that whole med-school-is-disgustingly-expensive thing to take into account. I’m not sure why all the pre-meds have got it in their minds that if they take time off to figure out their interests, or if they pursue different paths for a little while, then they never can go back towards medicine. It’s just not true. 

Also, there are SO many options besides being a doctor that allow you to have a career in medicine. All career pursuits will require some sacrifice, so you need to figure out what’s acceptable to you and find the path that fits you best. Cranquis just shared why he might have considered a career as a PA instead of an MD if he had known about these options. 

Now if one failed test is your reason for giving up, that’s LAME. If I had quit after my first failed test, I never would have made it past organic chemistry. Bad grades happen. Learn from them and move on. You gotta put the past behind you. 

And as for losing hope, I have written a lot on how to cultivate motivation and avoid depression and burnout. Take a vacation. If you still feel hopeless at the end, you’re probably depressed. If you feel refreshed and ready to start anew at the end, you were probably just a little burned out. But beyond all encouragement I could give you, I think my best advice would be to just go slow. Don’t rush into medicine. Be absolutely sure it’s where you’re supposed to be. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm pre-med and I know we aren't supposed to freak but I got a C in calculus and this sociology professor who's on the pre-med advisory board told me no med school would accept me with a C in calculus. I have a 4.0 science GPA.
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

Chapter 1. There are no absolutes in the admissions process. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What are considered "good grades" in the pre-clinical years? All A's, A's and B's, or what?
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:


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. 

Asker goku-s Asks:
What goes on your medical school transcript? Do they include assignment marks as well as exam marks? is it in percentages or does it just show pass/fail/honours? how important are these marks!? thank u c:
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

I’m pretty sure it shows grades (honors, pass/fail) for each rotation (3rd and 4th year) and overall grades for each subject, not individual test grades. It’s like a college transcript. Just shows the grade for the overall class. My school was pass/fail but also gave numeric grades for ranking and transcript purposes. But for us all that mattered was 65, stay alive. 

any suggestions, advice, commentary for a first year med student who struggled/failed-to-adapt-quickly enough and made several C’s and is scared for the future! (in addition: want to do family med and try to do other things outside of school to spice up resume, was straight A till med school, etc.) - anon

I’ve written a whole bunch about what to do after getting bad grades. The big thing to do is figure out  your weak points, or figure out what modes of studying you were using that weren’t working, and try your best to correct them. Get outside help from a tutor, study group, an advisor, or even an upperclassman who can advise you. 

As for spicing up an application for family medicine: FM residencies love seeing commitment to community, so all community service looks great, especially projects involving public health or health education. Free clinics are excellent places to do some volunteering and spice up your CV. They often have patient education workshops, local research opportunities, and of course they serve underserved populations. Check the NAFC website to see if there are any near you. Also check the Society of Student Run Free Clinics website to learn how to start one in your community. Other good opportunities for community service include tutoring science or math at local schools or doing a big brother/big sister type program.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
how many B's did you get as a pre-med?? I'm freaking out over my first B+
wayfaringmd wayfaringmd Said:

ummm…. like a lot.

Believe it or not, you will forget about your undergrad grades, and it won’t take that long. I honestly don’t know exactly how many B’s I made. If I had to guess I’d say probably 6 or 7? And 3 C’s! I do remember my first B though. It was my first semester of freshman year in general chemistry. I was SUPER proud of that B+ because I worked my tail off for that 88. Same goes for one of the C’s. 

Don’t worry about the B+, anon. If you did your best, be proud. If not, figure out what changes you need to make to do better next time. 

Hey Doc! So I just took my pharm final today and I know I failed it and failed the class as well because I haven’t been doing well. Have you ever failed a class in med school? How did you deal with it? I feel so incompetent. I just need someone to tell me HOW TO STUDY and LEARN/RETAIN the material. I’m not stupid right? It will get better right? Am I going to kill my patients or be jobless.. I also feel like I forgot my anatomy and biochem…what am I doing in med school!? –Anon

The short answer to “has WayfaringMD ever failed a class” is yes. My school was weird and our subjects were taught longitudinally throughout the year rather than in semester blocks, so you were required to pass each subject for the year overall. If you failed, you had to remediate the subject. I ended up failing 2 subjects by a narrow margin and had to remediate them before I could take Step 1. 

How to deal with failing? Hakuna matata. The fail is already done. You can’t change it, so don’t get down about it or stress over it. Just focus on doing better on your second time around. Change your study habits and techniques. Try something different, because clearly what you did before wasn’t working. However, don’t fall into the trap of spending ALL your time on your “bad” subjects and neglecting your “good” subjects, because you will find your overall grades dropping. Just because you didn’t fully grasp pharmacology on your first go-round doesn’t mean you won’t get it eventually. Remember, medicine is a lifelong learning process. Keep working at it, and one by one the concepts will come to you. 

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