Become the Master Scheduler Looking back, I wasn’t a great student in high school or undergrad. I was Valedictorian of my high school and had excellent grades in many challenging courses at UGA, sure, but I wasn’t approaching any of it the right way. Studying marathons followed by a week or so of inactivity followed by marathon studying again. I took these habits with me to the first year of dental school and it finally caught up to me, mentally and physically. It took me about a year or so to develop a system that I could handle, and I decreased my stress significantly. I started preparing for exams weeks and weeks in advance. Whether a test was soon or weeks away, I was going to study around four to five hours every evening from Sunday to Thursday no matter what. I wasn’t going to study anything on Friday and Saturday, unless it was finals, but only then.
Don’t Talk About Dental School All The Time Every now and then, hang out with a group of friends that aren’t in dental school and couldn’t give a care about dental school. Talk about something besides dental school for a few hours. If you can’t find any of these people, just hang out with other dental students but make a rule that no one is going to talk about dental school. If someone breaks the rule, they’ve gotta pay for some food or something. When the family or significant other wants to talk, give dental school a rest some of the time. Don’t let it consume every ounce of your being, because it will if you don’t consciously prevent that from happening. You’ll actually feel quite refreshed to not talk about gross anatomy or histology or perio or biomaterials or endodontic lesions or other things that non-dentists don’t really want to talk about.
Don’t Ignore Physical and Creative Outlets When you’ve had your nose in a book or on a typodont or a cadaver or a microscope for a few months, you have a tendency to forget who the hell you are sometimes. You may have traveled far from home to go to dental school, and you might feel like all the people around you don’t even know “the real you”. You might even forget who “the real you” is anymore during the time of transition from a college student to a professional. There’s lots of changes going on. It’s like some kind of dental puberty or something. Anyway, don’t forget who you are. That’s gotta be the biggest cliche of all time, but here’s what I mean. If you play music, don’t completely ignore it. If you like to run or play tennis and you feel like that defines who you are to yourself, don’t neglect it. If you like to write or do photography, keep a journal or a blog of your experiences. There’s a lot of work and a lot to memorize, but there’s still plenty of room to be yourself.
Get Support Remember when I said don’t talk about dental school all the time? Don’t do the opposite either! Talk about what you’re going through with your peers, upperclassmen, your faculty, dentists you know. Develop a great support group around you to get through the challenges of dental school. Don’t isolate yourself on an island. Many have gone before you and faced the same challenges. Don’t do it alone!
Speaking of support, for all the students at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, I’m here for you. If you’ve got questions, send me a message. Better yet, contact me on my Google Community, Dental Students in Texas. If you want to shadow at my dental office some time during your third or fourth year (the most useful time, I think), hit me up and we can schedule something. If you’re a student at my alma mater, Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine, I’m here for you, too. If you’ve got questions, I’d love to help you out in any way I can.