DS1 Study Habits

First of all, I apologize in advance to blog followers (my predentals!) that I’ve been so MIA. I took NBDE Part I on July 1st and since then, have been chugging away at my operative amalgam restorations and ISTR gold crown preps. It’s been a tough few weeks without time for blogging. Not only that, the Colorado ASDA Predental* Academy started a couple weeks ago! Getting to meet some of you in person makes me smile 🙂

*I’ve been asked to begin stylizing “pre-dental” as “predental.” Consistency is key and from here on out, will be dropping the dash. Weird, but it was a request.

Recently, I’ve partnered up with Dr. Rabe, a CU microbiologist and immunologist that just happens to teach both of those subjects in the CU DS1 curriculum AND is a CC grad. In the wise words of Dr. Rabe, “NEATO!” I met Dr. Rabe about midway through my first semester at CU, though I wish I’d met her even earlier. She has a PhD in education and a knack for helping students determine the best way of note-taking and studying for them. Thankfully, she will be delivering her magical presentation to the first years in the class of 2021 in only a few short weeks when orientation begins.

This year, I will be Dr. Rabe’s tutor and a teaching assistant of some sort for her immunology and microbiology classes, credit-hour heavy courses in the DS1 curriculum – they’re worth 1.9 and 3.1 credits, respectively. This year, immunology will be taught during the fall semester, instead of the spring, though.

I have been asked to write a blog detailing my personal study habits and tips from my DS1 year – that being said, it’s pretty key to note that what works best for me may not (read *probably*) won’t be best for you. Study habits are so unique to each individual, and Dr. Rabe has collected anecdotes of several of my classmates as well to account for such differences. They’ll be delivered during orientation week, which I sadly (lol no I’m going to COSTA RICA!) cannot attend.

The vast majority of lectures given at CU involve a Powerpoint presentation. Most of the time, professors and guest lecturers upload files to the class Canvas page and students have access to the Powerpoint ahead of time. This is key. I always download my Powerpoint lectures in advance and save them to pre-made folders on my laptop. It saves quite a bit of time and prevents any sort of last minute scrambling before the lecture actually begins.

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I take all of my lecture notes on my computer, annotating directly on the Powerpoint slides with red text. This helps me to highlight key concepts and statements. Rarely will I type, word-for-word what the lecturer is saying, I find it to be too dense to parse through at the end. I know some of my classmates type directly into the Powerpoint “Click for notes” box at the bottom of every slide. However, I personally dislike the relative inaccessibility to those notes compared to having them placed where they are relevant on the slide itself.

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Often times, the lecturer will include a list of learning objectives in either the syllabus or preceding the Powerpoint. Most of the time, I will complete these learning objectives right after the lecture is delivered, or that night. If not, I complete them before I begin studying for the exams. I’ve found that learning objectives underscore the most crucial parts of the lecture and explicitly enumerate what I actually need to know vs. the fluff included in the lecture that may not be relevant. Ideally, in a world where dental students have unlimited time, it’d be nice to read the learning objectives ahead of time to better hone your ears for important points during lecture, but time is simply of the essence in dental school.

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When I begin studying for an exam, I’ll print off my extensive pages of learning objectives (you’ll quickly learn that dental school exams span weeks of material and borderline insane amounts of content) and annotate by hand. It’s a well-known fact that the muscle memory gained from hand-writing notes is immensely helpful for brain memory and information retention. I’ll go back to Powerpoint lectures and parse through my notes, underlining and rewriting on my learning objective pages where I see fit. Many times, professors will hold reviews before exams to refresh your memory and often, feed you the most important information to know for exams. Always go.

Last word: Many students in my class love Panopto, a recording software we use in class to record all of our lectures, if the professor deems it appropriate. Personally, I rarely use Panopto and try to save it for instances that I completely zone out and fail to hear something important (which unfortunately tends to happen during pre-test reviews). Why? It takes a lot of time. Yes, you can watch the lecture at 2x speed and sometimes it’s funny listening to Alvin the Chipmunk give you a lecture on the kidney, but I’ve found that re-watching a lecture does not aid in information retention for me.

Still looking for additional study tips? One of my classmates, Seth, put together a YouTube playlist of videos that he swears by. Upon watching a few of them, they offer a pretty good study primer for DS1 and beyond. Check the playlist here.

*Also, don’t you just love the featured image? It’s one week in from the CU fall 2016 schedule. Ok yes it is the comprehensive schedule for all students here (DS1-4, ISP1-2), but it does look rather intimidating, no?

~ Colleen

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Pre-Dental FAQ

I’m taking a break from writing on the AADSAS to write an FAQ for pre-dentals. It can be rather confusing to parse through so many pages of information, especially reading my lengthy writing #sorrynotsorry. Anyways, I’m really enjoying writing these and based on the blog stats, people around the country are actually reading them! I had phenomenal advisors and mentors through my pre-dental years and I can only hope to give back just a little to that community! So here’s your FAQ and I’ll try to make it short-ish:

What in the world do dentists do?
From the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools: “A dentist is a scientist and clinician dedicated to the highest standards of health through prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral diseases and conditions.”

Easy enough. A general dentist can pick and choose which procedures they do, specifically focusing on operative and restorative dentistry – this can manifest itself as fillings (composite and restorations), dentures, minor orthodontic work (i.e. Invisalign), implants, straightforward root canal treatments, and so much more that I don’t even know about since I’m still learning too. See below for info about dental specialties.

Ew mouths are gross. Why be a dentist?
I’ll insert my own quip here but after this I’ll shut up – I was asked this question all the time in college. Someone even went as far as to say, “You probably want to be a dentist because you know you’ll never get into medical school.” I have professors and maybe future employers reading this blog so I can’t really say what my response was.

Anyways, again, here is the ADEA guide’s response: “Dentistry is a dynamic health profession. Dentists are financially successful health professionals and highly respected members of their communities. The demand for dental care will continue to be strong in the future, ensuring the stability and security of the profession.”

In my words: Dentistry is chill because you’re always doing something different. It’s no desk job and the cubicle is obsolete in this field. You’re always doing something with your hands, interacting with patients, and using unique skills to alleviate patients’ pain and also prevent future health problems, both oral and systemic. Dentists make good money with a great lifestyle to boot and you have many options when it comes to work – corporate, private practice, etc. You own yourself. Lastly, as long as people have mouths (and last time I checked, the world isn’t selecting for the mouthless), dentists will be needed – job security is omnipresent. That was long but I hope I’ve convinced you!

Sold! Wow! How cool! How do I become a dentist?
In most cases, you’ll need a BA or a BS to matriculate to dental school, but your major doesn’t matter. I studied both biology and classics and though the latter is relatively useless in what I’m currently doing in SIM clinic, I still liked doing it in college. You’ll need to complete a series of prerequisite classes that varies from school to school, but generally is 8 hours of biology (with lab), 8 hours inorganic chemistry (with lab), 8 hours organic chemistry (with lab), 8 hours physics, 8 hours English, DAT scores, and experience with dentistry by means of shadowing or volunteering.

Note, though, dental school is, by no means, easier to get into than medical school. This is absolute fiction and dentists are real doctors as well.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 8.48.38 PM.pngYou do NOT have to major in biology or the natural sciences to become a dentist or even apply to dental school. Plenty of people do just fine with majors external to STEM. Major in whatever you want – liberal arts for all!

Oh no, I have an X GPA and a Y DAT score, I don’t think I’m going to get into dental school. What do I do?
Well, you never know unless you try. The average DAT score of a matriculating dental student is 18 and the average GPA is around a 3.6* (these numbers held true for when I applied to dental school, however, I can no longer find a reliable source for either of these two numbers, will update when I can). Keep in mind that these are averages, and therefore there are accepted students that deviate beyond these numbers, but on the upper and lower limits of the DAT and GPA scales. It’s just an average, but realistically, your DAT and GPA are the two biggest things on your application that you are in total control in. Aim to do as well as you can in college and study as hard for the DAT, both will result in habits that will benefit you well in dental school.

In the instance you are rejected and must take a gap year, consider changing up your application – do you need to retake the DAT? Do you need to retake classes? Diversity your portfolio of extracurriculars? Rewrite your personal statement? All or only some of the aforementioned might be pertinent to you, but to put things plainly, never submit the same application as the previous one that got you rejected. The sheer definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. Don’t do it. Ultimately, it’s up to you to channel that sadness, anger, etc. and use it in your best interest, revamping your application and making yourself a better applicant the second time around. (Make sure your prerequisites and DAT score will still be valid when you apply the following year, each school is different and some will only accept prerequisites taken within X years of applying, as with DAT scores. For DAT scores, they typically expire after three years, but again, you must check with each school).

If you want to be a dentist badly enough, you will eventually get in.

How do I become a compelling applicant?
Dentistry should be your passion, and your application should exude that, inside and out. Your extracurriculars and school activities should focus on things that give a window to the world on who you are – dental admission committees are pretty good at discerning fact from fiction and one’s true passions and intentions. Coming from someone who used to serve in an office of admission at a selective liberal arts school, I can absolutely assure you that it is relatively easy to see through an applicant that looks impeccably perfect – real patients are treated by real doctors, who are real people.

Great candidates for dental school are those that have done their research and confirmed that dental school is the path they want to take to arrive at their lifelong career. High GPAs, stellar DAT scores, dental experience, excellent letters of recommendation can demonstrate to admission committees your commitment to dental medicine. However, it is crucial to note that there is no single “perfect” applicant, hence I used the terminology “compelling.” Dental schools could fill their entire classes with boring, type-A students (not knocking type As) with near perfect GPAs and DAT scores – again, real people make real doctors that treat real patients. Demonstrate that your skills and life experiences are unmatched and unlike those of any applicant with your personal statement and extracurricular activities.

Finally, certain schools look for certain traits in applicants. Again, this comes down to researching your designated dental schools. Some schools are heavily research-based and expect publications from their dental students during their tenure at the school. Other schools are clinic-heavy, wanting to produce practitioners with the best hand skills required to do all types of dentistry. Other curriculums may have an inclination toward community service. Consider which schools and their corresponding philosophies might best fit your lifestyle and personal beliefs.

I’m an older student (>25 years old), what advice do you have for me?
If you are applying later in life than most applicants (traditional applicants applying during their junior year of college or during their gap year), I frankly think you have an advantage. You have far greater life experience that has molded and imparted you wisdom beyond that of a regular college graduate. Use the personal statement and your extracurriculars to talk about those experiences and the lessons learned from your prior careers, travels, or family life. If you can demonstrate your maturity and expansive skill set, you too can stand out amongst the sea of recent graduates.

Dental school sounds hard. How long is it? What type of tests do you take during it?
You’re darn right that dental school is hard! But it’s also so much fun. Dental school is a four year program, with the exception of University of the Pacific in California, which awards a DDS degree in only three years instead of four. What’s the difference between the DDS and a DMD? Absolutely nothing. Doesn’t mean a thing, other than people now address you by “Dr.”

During dental school, you will take three board exams – the first two, NBDE Part I and II are multiple choice, computer-based exams at Prometric centers just like the DAT. Dat computer-based standardized testing never ends! NBDE Part I focuses on didactic material you learn during your first year or two of school (so things like anatomy, physiology, dental morphology, occlusion, etc.) and the NBDE Part II focuses more on dental-related things (i.e. the length of a 329 vs. a 330 bur, case studies, etc.). However, I have been told that beginning with the class of 2021, some dental schools will be rolling out a new, comprehensive NBDE exam to be taken during the fourth year. This will whittle the number of high-stakes exams down from three to two, but caveats include combining all of that material, accumulated over the course of four years as opposed to 1-2 per NBDE exam. More information to come as I pick administrative minds about the new NBDE.

Finally, during your fourth year, you will take a clinical exam (NERB, WREB)  or an alternative exam (the OSCE, portfolio, etc.) to become a licensed dentist in the region in which you will practice.

What’s the day in the life of a dental student?
Great question. It changes every day, just like the life of any normal, practicing dentist. Generally, your first two years of dental school will focus on didactic and preclinical work (on SIM clinic mannequins) and your final two years will involve you treating patients in the school’s dental clinics or even traveling for rotations and outreach in underserved populations. Some schools have block schedules for their classes (i.e. a certain blocked-off timeframe to complete one class, then you move on to another block to complete the next class, and so on), but each dental school is unique in its own scheduling model. For blog posts on my own everyday experiences as a dental student, go over to the right navigation bar and click “D School.”

What can I do after dental school?
Dental medicine is great because you are not required to enter into a residency or fellowship upon completion of your four years at an accredited dental school. That means you have the option to participate in MATCH or attempt to specialize beyond general dentistry or you may dive into the workforce and begin your attempt at chipping away from your massive pile of student loans.

Dental residencies include a General Practice Residency/Advanced Education in General Dentistry (12 months; technically not a specialty residency, but considered advanced education), Public Health (1-2 years), Endodontics (2-3 years), Oral Surgery (4-6 years), Orthodontics (2-3 years), Pediatrics (2-3 years), Periodontics (3 years), Prosthodontics (1-3 years), Oral Medicine, or Radiology (I am unsure of residency lengths for the final two). There will be a separate post detailing each residency.

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

~ Colleen

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Welcome to Carpe Dentum!

Welcome to the Carpe Dentum blog! My name is Colleen and I am a current DS1 student at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (class of 2020) in Aurora, CO. I am a recent Colorado College graduate (class of 2016) where I studied biology, chemistry, and classics. I was a Kappa Kappa Gamma at CC and served in the Office of Admission as an Admission Fellow.

I like eating carbs, buying things I can’t afford, succulents, and anything Chrissy Teigen-related. I also like yoga, skiing, and ballet barre. Sadly, I doubt I will achieve a Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop-level of fame (um I’m okay with that), but follow my journey through D school and everything in between.

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Fall 2016 was largely spent adjusting to my new school, city, and way of life – I had the Block Plan to fall back on no more. Right this second I am supposed to be studying for NBDE Part I, but why not find just one more thing to aid in procrastination? This blog will detail my studies in dental medicine from SIM lab to Tech lab to my first patient experiences. In addition to all things dental-related, I also love good food, good fashion, and good people and might include snippets of all those good things here too. I will be hosting guest bloggers on Carpe Dentum, many of them my fellow dental school classmates and Denver-based CC alums.

Though I wish I would’ve started this blog at the very beginning of my dental school/post-grad experience, hindsight is always 20/20 (especially when it’s the year you’ll finally graduate from school). As the Pre-Dental Associate Chair for the Colorado American Student Dental Association, I am also committed to pre-dental advising whenever I can. This blog will also include posts on getting into dental school and navigating the pre-dental college experience.

Again, welcome to Carpe Dentum, seize the teeth!

~ Colleen

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