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!