This week I got the awesome opportunity to interview Sarah, a dental student who just completed her first year at The University of Pittsburgh. It was so incredibly helpful hearing what to expect during the first year, how to stay organized, how to make friends, and how to stay sane! With just a few weeks until I start dental school myself, my imagination has been running wild with what dental school will be like, so hearing from someone who just finished their first year was just what I (and hopefully you!) needed! Be sure to follow Sarah on Instagram @dmdtobe for more!
What are some things that caught you by surprise when you first started dental school?
I was most surprised at just how fast paced the classes are. I think our first quiz was on like day three. No syllabus week here! I was also surprised at how quickly you manage to adjust to a new demanding schedule. I took a gap year, so I was very out of practice with the whole school thing and was VERY nervous that I would struggle to acclimate to the demands of dental school. Somehow though, everyone manages to get through it!
Any tips on orientation? I know this may sound a little middle school but I’m excited and kinda sorta really nervous!
Try to relax and know that everyone else is probably just as nervous as you are! Also, try to take this time to get to know your classmates. This is the time that everyone is super open to making new connections and doing fun social things together because once things get busier, it gets a bit harder to find the time!
In what ways is dental school similar to undergrad? In what ways is it different?
This might depend on where you went to school and what kind of major you had in undergrad, but in my experience, dental school and undergrad are pretty similar in the level of difficulty of the classes. In fact, some of my undergrad science classes (biochem, micro) went even further in depth than their dental school counterparts.
I think the biggest difference from undergrad to dental school is the sheer number of classes you take. The most credits I ever took in one semester of undergrad was 18. This last semester of dental school was a hefty 27. It’s doable, but you definitely have to stay on top of things!
Another difference is the amount of time you spend in class. Unlike undergrad where you might have a few hours of class a couple days per week, dental school is more like a regular 9-5 job where you come home and continue to work.
Do you suggest becoming a morning bird or a night owl? Or is there a third option we should consider (a caffeinated flamingo? a freaked out ostrich?)?
You really have to find what best works for you and take advantage of whatever hours you’re most productive. I legit cannot stay awake past 10 pm to save my life. But I have no problem waking up at 4 or 5 am to get a little studying in. I have friends who would rather stay up until 3 in the morning studying than wake up before the sun rises. It’s all personal preference! The most important thing is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Dental school is truly a marathon and if you’re consistently exhausted, it’s going to take a toll of your mental and physical health.
What was it like setting up an apartment? What are some things you suggest we should get for an apartment and what should we totally skip?
Every location is going to be a little different as far as when to start looking for an apartment. You might not have to start looking until a month before school starts, or you may end up living in an area like mine, where apartments get snatched up 6 months in advance! I would suggest trying to connect with upperclassmen or your student affairs office to get more information on when and where to look.
As far as furnishing apartments, you really can’t go wrong with whatever makes you comfortable. When I moved into my new place, I prioritized creating a study space that I knew I’d be happy spending hours on end in. For me that meant splurging a bit on a big desk to sprawl out on, a decent office chair, and a fully stocked Keurig. I found IKEA was great for affordable furniture (though be prepared to lose your mind putting it together) as well as Target and Walmart.
Do most people take notes on paper or on laptops during class?
The majority of my class takes notes on laptops. In undergrad, I preferred to handwrite all my notes, but upon entering dental school, I found it difficult to keep up with the volume of material. For me, typing up word docs is much quicker and I find it’s easier to stay organized when everything can just be filed away on my computer.
Any tips on how to manage time in dental school?
Good question! Still trying to figure this one out myself. I’d say staying organized is very important. I consult my calendar and to-do list religiously to help me prioritize assignments, studying for exams, and other responsibilities. There’s not always enough time in the day to do everything I want to do, but the most important things get done.
What are weekends like as a D1?
Most of my weekends are spent catching up on studying and household things like cleaning and laundry, but I’ve also been able to go out with friends and get away to visit family! Dental school is busy, but fortunately you really can still have a life!
What’s it like making friends in dental school?
Dental school has a way of bringing people together because you’re all going through the same ups and downs together, which is really nice. You also get to know your classmates pretty well pretty quickly when you’re spending all day with them in class! Still I suggest, taking advantage of events put on by the school or by student orgs like ASDA so you can interact with your classmates outside of school and have more exciting things to talk about than biochem.
Do you suggest joining a dental fraternity?
Dental Fraternities provide a great way to connect with upperclassmen and alumni as well as participate in fun social events and volunteer work. It never hurts to try one out to see how you like it! However, dues can be relatively expensive on a tight dental school budget. If you opt out, know that there are usually plenty of other student organizations available to get involved with and make similar connections in.
Thank you so much Sarah!
If you’re a dental school student, someone out of dental school, or someone working in the dental field and are interested in sharing your perspective, I’d LOVE to hear from you! I’m hoping to share a Wisdom Tooth Weekend every couple of weeks!