February 03, 2023
Like professions such as architecture, law, and medicine, dentistry is one of those fields for which a particular educational path is required. For this reason, it's important that you do well in dentistry school and learn as much as possible. Success in the four-year program that follows your bachelor's degree will set you up well for success in your career. But what can you do to ensure that you make the most of your studies? The tips below can help.
Before You Begin
Of course, your first step should be getting a bachelor's degree. There is not a major that you are required to have, but for admittance to most programs, you will probably need certain prerequisites. Dentistry programs are competitive, and most will expect you to have taken such courses as organic chemistry, anatomy, and biology as well as math classes. You'll need to get a high GPA in those courses as well. Good recommendations and extracurricular activities will also help make you a more attractive candidate for admission committees. Make sure that the schools you apply to are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, also known as CODA.
If you can do something such as shadow a dentist or work in a dental clinic as an undergraduate, it will give you the opportunity to learn more about the profession and get a better idea of whether this is what you want to do with your life. This is a profession that requires you to have good fine motor skills. There are several different activities you can engage in to help you develop these skills. These include everything from drawing or playing a musical instrument to woodworking, knitting, and video games. There are those who consider this field as much art as science, so finding other ways to express your creativity will enhance that side of your practice. A bonus is that these are hobbies that can help you deal with stress when it ratchets up during your studies.
Get Your Finances Organized
You don't want to fret about your finances instead of focusing on academics, so it's a good idea to get them squared away before school starts. There are a few different aspects of this. First, you need to make a budget. Although you may have a general idea of your spending based on your undergraduate years, if you're moving somewhere new, you may have to make cost of living adjustments. Find out what you can from the school and online to make these adjustments.
Of course, you'll also need to include the cost of your education. You may be paying for it from a few different funding sources, including loans, scholarships, and grants. Although you might not be required to pay off existing student loans while you're still in school, you may want to consider doing so. You may want to consider refinancing those loans either after you graduate with your undergraduate degree or after you finish your professional program. If you refinance student loans with Earnest, this may substantially reduce your payments.
You're in for an intense several years, and time management skills are critical to making the most of those years and performing at your best. You may or may not have developed some of these skills as an undergraduate, but even if you did, chances are you will now need to up your game. Academics are important, but you'll also need to find a balance. You need to make sure that you're getting enough sleep and some down time to just relax. If you have a family, you'll need to spend some time with them as well.
It can be easy to fall behind and then spend weeks scrambling to catch up; the best strategy to deal with this is not to fall behind in the first place. Having a place where you can study undisturbed will help with this. Studying with your classmates can be helpful as well. You may be able to learn some great strategies from them too. The key to all of this is being well organized. If you coasted through your bachelor's with poor organizational skills, it's time to improve on those. See if there's a program for students to help in developing these or consider time with a coach if there are no campus services available and you're really struggling. It can pay off in the long run.
There are many different advantages to getting involved in your classes and in campus life in general. Joining student organizations can help you develop your leadership skills. Speaking up in class and forming relationships with your fellow students and professors can make you more memorable and can help when you're looking for recommendations or just advice later. Another good reason to be involved is because you can get and offer support. While your friends and family can be supportive as well, there's nothing quite like being able to commiserate with others who are in the same situation as you.
Consider Your Future
Before and during your formal education, learn as much as you can about the field and think about your career plans. Do you want to go into general dentistry, or do you want to specialize in a particular area? If you want to specialize, you might need additional education. Examples of specializations include pediatrics, anesthesiology, creating prosthetics, oral surgery, periodontics, endodontics, and public health.
Another thing to consider is the environment you'd like to work in and the population you'd like to work with. You might want to work in an exclusive high-end practice, or you might want to work in a prison. Of course, there are plenty of options between these two as well. Alternately, you may ultimately decide to pursue research or training others. Where do you want to live? Your work and life could be very different based on whether you choose a rural, suburban, or urban area. Make sure that you understand the licensing requirements in the state where you want to practice.