Dear Diary…: Advice for Third-Year Medical Students

What are you doing to prepare for the residency match? Chances are, you’re up to your eyeballs with rotations and exams and everything else that goes into finishing your medical degree. Chances are, you’re really not thinking much about your personal statement.

Not to sound like a Bowflex commercial, but what if I told you that spending just five minutes a night would take hours of stress and hassle out of the application process?
And what if I told you it would cost you nothing, other than those five minutes? And that this miraculous time-saving activity was the same way so many teenagers track their hopes and dreams – keeping a diary?
You might say that's impossible, but it’s true. Look at it this way: You’re in the midst of a rotation. Every day you see new cases, learn new things, watch attendings do amazing things that you dream of doing someday. Right now, it’s all fresh in your mind. If someone asks “what did you learn today?” you’d be able to give them an answer without hesitating.
Will you remember these specific experiences in six months when you sit down to write your personal statement? How many interesting and specific details can you remember from your rotation six months ago? How many attendings impressed you back then, and can you remember exactly what they did?
Time and again, when I begin working with a residency applicant, I watch them struggle to recall the insights they’ve gleaned over the past few months. More often than not, they end up scratching their heads and agonizing over their faulty memories until they can dredge up a compelling example or two.
So if I can give you one valuable piece of advice now, at this stage in your education, it’s to keep a diary. Or a journal, or a log, or whatever you’d like to call it. Each day, spend five minutes jotting down (or dictating to your smartphone or computer) the momentous events of that day. That’s all you need, just five minutes. Then when it comes time to write your personal statement, you’ll have a wealth of material to explore and will feel much better prepared to tackle this important part of your application.
Written by Cydney Foote / originally posted at