Health Professions Scholarship Program

Alright, so here is the big news of the semester…I found out shortly after Thanksgiving that I was accepted to the 3 year Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program! For those of you who don’t know, the HPSP is a deal where I will get the next three years of dental school paid for (tuition and fees) and I will be given a generous living stipend in exchange for serving as a dentist in the Air Force for three years after graduating. I will also be able to apply to stay for a fourth year and have 72% of my first year paid back. I couldn’t believe it when I found out. I’ve always wanted to join the military and now I’m getting the chance.

There was a slight problem, though. Originally when I was applying for the scholarship, I was under the impression that I would not hear about a selection until around January or February. I was over the weight requirement at the beginning of the school year (a lot of sitting around and studying can do that) and I had made a plan to get in shape based on January being the deadline. After hearing that I was accepted and would need to pass the physical in December, my diet was accelerated more than I would have liked. Some days consisted of around 900 calories and an hour on a bike at the gym. Not fun during finals week, let me tell you. Well, all in all, I lost 38 pounds, quite a bit of that in the past two months, and easily passed my physical. According to my recruiter, I will be sworn in sometime in the next few weeks and become a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. I won’t have much for duties throughout the rest of my time at dental school. After graduating I will go to Commissioned Officer Training in Alabama for five weeks, then I will be promoted to Captain and then stationed on a base to serve as a dentist to military members and their families.

Thanks for reading and happy studying!



One Semester Down, Seven to Go

Hey everyone. Sorry for the long absence. Dental school is just as busy as everyone tells you. I have probably had opportunities to write through the semester but I have been a little lazy in my free time. After so much studying, when I get a break I kind of check out.

Ok…where do I even begin? I made it through my first semester of dental school unscathed. I ended up getting mostly A’s and a couple B’s. I’m perfectly ok with that. I don’t want to specialize and those are respectable grades anyway. The study schedule I wrote about kind of went out the window early on first semester. It was a great plan overall, but like I said earlier, I’m kind of lazy sometimes so I eased into a slightly more lax study routine. Once we got into the swing of classes, we had a few tests or quizzes most weeks. Studying ahead as I had previously planned became difficult and I just studied for the tests as they came. It worked well for me.

Dental school is definitely hard and a lot of work. Before I started, I was told the worst kind of horror stories about it like, “you better get used to not seeing your wife” or “I hope you enjoyed sleeping in undergrad because you won’t for the next four years.” Obviously those warnings were exaggerated. I kind of let them get to me though. I thought these would be the worst four years of my life and I would regret every minute of it. Since I started school thinking like this, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of free time I have. It isn’t much most of the time, and nowhere near the amount of free time I had in undergrad but it is more than I was expecting. I have time every night to spend with my wife, watch a little TV or do something not related to school. There were two, maybe three days this semester where I literally had no free time because I was nervous about a test the next day. I think I have test anxiety sometimes and I thought that these might be the tests that I bomb and prove that I don’t belong in dental school. That was a slight overreaction. They went fine. I usually only study until around 10pm but I studied until around 11:30 those days. Usually the night before the test I study until 10, go to bed around 11:15 and then I wake up at 6am, take the 6:40 bus to school and study until the test, which last semester was almost always in the morning. That is what worked for me.

As for classes, we recently started operative dentistry in the simulation clinic after dental anatomy ended, which is great. That is where we practice restorations on fake and pulled teeth. It’s nice having a class that is so focused on dentistry unlike the basic sciences that are just a repeat of undergrad. Using the handpiece and burs is pretty fun. I’ve always really been into art so it just feels like an art class to me.

I’ve officially taken my last physiology and biochem classes, which is a great feeling. We are moving on to anatomy and histology this January. We will be working with cadavers, which I did in undergrad so nothing new there. In undergrad though we kept the face covered. This time, we focus on the head and neck. I’m not looking forward to that part. I’ve never had histology but it shouldn’t be too bad. We start two or three other classes throughout the semester but I haven’t looked for enough ahead to know what those are.

That is all I have for now. Thanks for reading! Hopefully many of you got acceptances in December! If not, there is still plenty of time. Good luck to those getting ready to take the DAT!



The iPad App I Cannot Live Without

The app that I cannot live without is Goodnotes. I would recommend everyone who has an iPad and is in school use this app. I use it for literally everything. My school has all of the lecture slides, our full class schedule, and other important information posted online as PDFs. I store all of this in my Goodnotes app. I also scanned my dental anatomy book, all my syllabi, and multiple information packets into the app to stay organized. You can create multiple folders to keep everything separated. In these folders you can have different notebooks for different units or however you want to separate things.

One of the greatest things about this app is being able to write with a stylus. It has a close up writing box with auto advance feature that is just great for writing. The writing is fluid and natural, and can either be a ball point or fountain pen. There is a section below the close up box that doesn’t recognize your hand so it is more comfortable than most handwriting apps. You can change colors and sizes of pens, and highlighters. There is also a lasso tool to circle what you wrote/drew and move or resize it, a great great great feature.

The PDFs are also searchable which is awesome for studying. (My physiology notes packet is 900 full pages long. Searching is much better than scrolling.)

Goodnotes also can automatically sync with Skydrive or Google Drive. Whenever you update a notebook, it syncs to one of these platforms above saving everything in case your iPad crashes.

There is also WiFi transfer. The app gives you a web address to go to and upload the document you want. You can then access it from your Goodnotes app and download it. I downloaded a 300 page book yesterday in about 5 seconds. It is very fast.

If you don’t believe me, there is a light version of this app available for free. Try it and you will see how great it is. The full version is $4.99 I believe, but it is worth every penny. I could not be happier with this app.

Just so everyone knows, I am not affiliated with this app or being compensated for this review.

As a sidenote, I really like the stylus I use. Here is a link. They are sold on amazon and work great. I used several styluses with the rubber tips but they always wear out really quickly. Rubber tipped styluses don’t slide easily on the screen after they get a little worn. The stylus I use now has a metal-like mesh over the rubber tip. It slides soooo easily on the screen! I have used these for about 6 months and they still have not worn down. I would highly recommend them.

Good luck!

Orientation, First Few Weeks and My Daily Schedule

Well, I have officially completed week three of dental school. Sorry it has been so long since my last update, I have been busier than I was expecting.

Four weeks ago, we had orientation. It was Tuesday through Friday, 7:30am to around 6:00pm. Yep, that is quite a long day to be sitting in the same room. We also had building tours, get-to-know-you lunches and other things like that. The most helpful activity was the current student panel. The D2’s told us all about our professors, how to handle some differently than others and what books to buy (basically none of them so we saved a lot of money) and other info you can’t get from faculty. It was really helpful.

Even after almost a full week of orientation, a lot of introduction activities needed to be included in the first week of classes. That made days drag on a little bit. But, we are through it and officially in a routine which I am happy about.

Here is what my daily schedule looks like:

I get up either at 5:30 or 6:15am depending on the day. Tuesday and Thursday I work out from 5:30 to 6:30. After that, and every other morning, I take the bus to school at 7:15 and arrive at 7:30 then study the notes for that day as a kind of preview. Class normally starts at 8:30 with biochem on and then physiology. In the afternoon we have dental anatomy Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 1 to 4:30 which consists of quizzes Monday and Friday as well as practice waxing teeth in the simulation clinic for competencies. The rest of our schedules vary from day to day. We have Problem Based Learning where we analyze the handling of a case and research relevant topics. We also have ethics where we look at different scenarios and decide the best course of action. I normally get home around 5:00pm, sometimes earlier because they are starting us out slow and adding classes as we go through the semester.

Studying has also been quite a transition. In high school and undergrad, I did not study much. I got in the bad habit of studying for o-chem and biochem the day before the test. It wasn’t until the DAT that I really buckled down and studied ahead of time. That’s not going to fly in dental school. So far, I have studied anywhere from 2 to 5 hours after class. I fell a little behind in keeping up with physiology and biochem notes but I spent 6 hours yesterday (Saturday) catching up in phys. We have our first phys test this coming Friday so I wanted to be up to date.

In case any of you pre-dents are wondering what I do to study, this is my strategy:

I read an article about a Harvard study that showed that writing out notes after class by hand as you say them out loud can result in over 90% retention due to the use of multiple senses at once. If participants either wrote out their notes or read them out loud, but not both, it resulted in a huge decrease in retention. So that is what I have been doing. I look over lectures in the morning before class, take notes in class and then write out those notes while reading them out loud to myself at home that night. This much repetition in one day as well as using so many senses at once is actually giving me great retention of material. I wish I had done this through all of undergrad.

Well, I think that is all I have for this post. I will put up another soon about the iPad app that I cannot live without.

Good luck!

Taking the First (Baby) Step

This summer I am getting my first taste of dental school. I applied for a summer program geared toward people with a GPA or DAT score lower than the average accepted into last year’s class or who are at all nervous about beginning dental school. I wasn’t accepted. But anyway…

Since I was not one of the student accepted to the summer program, my school generously offered me the opportunity to audit a physiology course for PA and nurse anesthetist students over the summer since I would be in town anyway. The class is the same general physiology course that I will be taking first semester this coming year with my dental school classmates as well as M1s at the medical school. Same material and same tag-team of professors teaching it. I know many current dental students would advocate taking the summer off and relaxing before the school year begins. But, to be honest, I am a little nervous about starting dental school. The amount and difficulty of the material is intimidating. High school and undergrad didn’t involve excessive amounts of studying so I would rather get the chance to start myself off slow and get ahead for the first semester. I accepted the offer and am into my third week of physiology.

So far it’s pretty manageable; a lot of review from undergrad; physiology mixed with biochem and immunology. We have covered ion channels, action potentials, muscle physiology, and pain perception just to name a few.

I was surprised by the amount of material in the class. The individual classes don’t give too much information to handle, but the outlined notes available for the class is 900 pages long! One single class! Not 900 powerpoint slides, 900 full sheets of computer paper. You can either get a free electronic version (which is what I did) or pay for a printed version which is just short of a full ream of paper printed front and back! It cost $70 just for the ink! That surprised me. I’m sure there are current dental students or medical students who would read this and laugh at how naive my reaction to this was. That’s ok. Now I have a better idea of what to expect from a graduate level course.

So far, I’m really happy with my decision to audit the class. It’s giving me a chance to perfect my study strategies without any real pressure. I can’t take any of the tests because I will be taking this same class in the fall. Right now, I am trying to preview each lecture ahead of time learning what I can on my own, either the day before or the morning of, and then using lecture as more of a “study time” rather than a “learning time.” Later that day I write out my own condensed notes of each lecture from the notes I took on the outline during class; I try to keep this to five pages or less. With this strategy, I am covering the material two or three times in a single day depending on when I do my preview. Will I be able to keep this plan up in dental school? I have no idea. Maybe I will be too busy to devote that much time to each subject. But it is working well right now so I will stick with it.

That’s all I have for right now.

Thanks for reading!

Dental Admission Test …Take 2

The summer before my senior year of college was by far the busiest summer of my life. Not only was I studying to retake the DAT on August 8, I was also working 40 hours a week as a research assistant with my chemistry professor AND planning a wedding for July 21, 2012. Talk about busy.

Lets dive into my study strategy for the DAT round 2. A strict schedule was absolutely necessary to make everything fit into the day. I did research at my school from around 8am to 4:30pm. I went home, ate supper and was back up to our campus student center within an hour. I would study for two and a half to three ours and then hang out with my fiancée who had just gotten off work. It was a long day sometimes but it wasn’t too bad.

So what materials did I use?

First and foremost, as I mentioned in my previous post, Chad’s Videos were my number one go to resource for general chemistry and organic chemistry. Chad was pretty much my best friend for a good three months. He is a fantastic teacher and knows exactly what to focus on so you don’t get bogged down by unnecessary detail. Just to give you further proof of his magical powers, I used his videos for my first DAT attempt but did not focus or take studying very seriously so it’s basically like I didn’t use them. I scored a 16…yes a 16 on organic chemistry. Round 2, I buckled down and took full advantage of his videos, the review questions he gives and the concise notes he makes available to users. On my second attempt, I scored a 22 on organic chemistry. I’m not saying this to brag. Chad’s videos are just such an amazing resource, I don’t want anyone to miss out on them when studying for the DAT. It was the only resource I used for chemistry so my improvement can only be attributed to these videos.

I also used Chad’s math videos as well which are good place to start so you know what kind of questions are focused on. More practice is probably necessary beyond his videos for math, though. I didn’t get anymore practice and it showed in my math score.

As for biology, I used an AP study guide from a Campbell biology textbook. It was a general overview of everything that would be on the test. Campbell’s text is actually one used as a reference to make the DAT, can’t go wrong there. I have been looking for that specific review book online but haven’t found it to post a link. If I do, I will link it later. I have read a lot of good things about Cliff’s AP biology, I’m sure it is mostly the same material. I majored in biology for undergrad so I just read through that short review book once and called it good for that section. Chad’s Videos were in the process of posting biology videos which could be a good resource now that they are complete. Chad also works with a current dental student named Alan. Alan came out with Alan’s Notes which are a complete list of biology terms and their definitions. They are a great resource.

On the perceptual ability section, I was already pretty confident. I like those kind of puzzles and am pretty good at them. I ordered Crack the DAT PAT and did two of the ten or so practice tests.

The reading section I didn’t study for at all. I like reading and have good comprehension. I would recommend reading news articles on the computer to get used to reading long documents on a computer screen, although most of you are probably used to that already. Science articles that aren’t too dense would be good practice as well since the articles on the DAT are science oriented. My articles were not like research articles, though. They just talked about a science topic.

I studied every night except Sunday which I took off so I could have a break before starting the week again. I studied each section one at a time; I liked building on what I learned the previous day. Some people I know liked to bounce around, a couple days on bio then a few on gen chem. That’s not my style, but if that works for you, go for it.

I stuck to my routine all summer except for the week I took off for my wedding and honeymoon. We had a strict rule of no studying for that week which I was more than happy to comply with.

I had two weeks after my honeymoon before my test. I used the first to finish up some material I hadn’t covered yet and then reviewed everything on the last week. I also took old DAT tests released by the ADA. One is free the other costs $27. Click the “old DAT tests” link and scroll half way down the page to find these tests.

The day of the test, I felt prepared and ready to go, but still slightly nervous. After buckling down for the whole summer and treating Chad’s Videos as if it were a college course taking detailed notes and periodically reviewing them, I felt really confident coming out of the science section. That confidence more than likely helped on the rest of the test. I ended up with a 21 and was beyond ecstatic. It was a nice improvement from the 18 I got on my first try. If you want to know specifics about my scores in each section, message me and I will let you know.

I hope this break down gives you some ideas about resources! Remember to find what works for you and stick with it.

Good luck studying!

Dental Admission Test …Take 1

As most pre-dental students know, the Dental Admission Test (DAT) is one of the first big hurdles that needs to be crossed before entering dental school. It’s a daunting test. Just about anything science related that we could have ever learned in our lives is fair game. Some study for several weeks, others study for several months. I ended up joining the latter but it was not by choice.

I decided to forgo classes during J-term of my junior year of college in 2012. J-term wasn’t required for upperclassmen. I didn’t need to work, I had enough money saved up for second semester tuition, so I could hide away in the basement of the campus library and pound the information in my head. Good plan, right?

Nope. Not for me anyway.

Through undergrad, I never really developed a specific studying “style” that I could rely on. I did something different for almost every test that I took, so I didn’t know how to handle the large amount of information covered on the DAT. For this test I decided to become a scribe for a month. I took a Kaplan prep book and basically retyped the entire biology section in the first couple weeks. Since it was such a daunting task, my focus turned from absorbing the information to getting a certain amount typed by the end of the day. It was a big waste of time. The fact that I didn’t like the Kaplan prep book in the slightest didn’t help anything either. It was filled with minutia that was unnecessary to learn and it didn’t give any guidance as to what areas were more important than others. You can’t learn everything and some subjects have historically been given more attention on the DAT than others. There were also several mistakes in the book. Some people liked it as a study tool but I don’t recommend it.

From here I turned to chemistry. I used the Kaplan book for about a day and realized that I needed to find a different way. It had been long enough since my last general chemistry class that I needed a better resource that could hold my attention. I turned to the life saving Student Doctor Network (SDN) for help. I found several references to something called Chad’s Videos on This may very well have been the discovery that saved my future career as a dentist. I would recommend this site to anyone taking the DAT. I will discuss it more in later post.

Through second semester of my junior year, I watched all of Chad’s videos on gen chem, o-chem, and math. I took thorough notes but did not focus as much as I probably should have. I mistakenly stuck with the Kaplan review for biology. I have good reading comprehension and perceptual ability skills so I didn’t study for those sections. During this time, I had a full course load including o-chem 2, comparative vertebrate anatomy, microbology among others so I was kept pretty busy.

I took the test on April 21 and was scared to death for the entire hour long drive to the testing center. I felt ok after finishing the science, perceptual ability, and reading…then I came to math. I have always hated math and, after that test, it seemed as though the feeling was mutual. I completely froze. I was not used to using the on screen calculator you are given and that tripped me up causing me to waste time. It is similar to the normal Microsoft calculator on a computer but I didn’t practice with it. I started freaking out about running out of time. The realization that I was minutes away from seeing my scores didn’t help things. Needless to say, I didn’t feel ok after that section.

In the end, I scored fairly well on the first sections and would have gotten a 19, a respectable score and the average accepted at most dental schools. Then I saw the math score. It was dismal. Lower than the cutoff for most schools. (Many schools have certain scores that you cannot score below in any section or you are automatically out of the running for acceptance)

Obviously, a retake was necessary. Unfortunately, ADA rules say that you have to wait 90 days from your test date before you can retake the exam. I wanted to retake the test as soon as possible. The applications opened in early June and the earlier you get all of your materials in, the better your chances are in the rolling admission. As it turned out, 90 days from my first test date landed on July 20, the day before my wedding. That was a problem. My then fiancée probably wouldn’t have appreciated me studying all day long in the weeks leading up to the wedding and then being out of town during our rehearsal.

As you can probably tell by the fact that I was admitted to dental school, I did retake the test and fortunately redeemed myself. The details on that little adventure which added to the busiest summer of my life will have to wait for my next post.

Thanks for reading.