How I chose Which Dental School to Attend

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If accepted into multiple dental schools, choosing which dental school to attend can be an incredibly tough process. Many things can come into play, such as tuition and cost of living, program values, clinical experience, research, location, etc.; since programs can vary vastly, it is really up to you to decide what you want to gain from your educational experience.

Choosing the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health (ASDOH) as the next chapter of my life was surprisingly incredibly easy. First and foremost, not only is ASDOH everything I could have wished for in a dental school and more, but Phoenix itself is absolutely beautiful as well. But what exactly pulled me all the way to the southwest corner of the United States from up in the northeast?! Here are my top reasons:

My innate adventurous personality: those who know me, know very well that I am a nomadic person at heart. I love finding a sense of home in my travels, adventuring deeply, trying new and weird foods, really experiencing different cultures and traditions, and taking in everything this world has to offer. So when I applied to dental school, it was no surprise that I applied to schools all across the United States with nothing holding me back.

The Unique Dental Program at ASDOH: When I first researched ASDOH, and then saw the school with my own eyes, I was basically knocked off of my feet. Choosing a dental school (if you are fortunate enough to get into multiple) is extremely important. Each dental school might have a similar structure, but what I have come to realize is that they are all vastly different in what they offer, how they offer it, and for what price you pay for it (monetary, and personal). I feel that ASDOH was built to create the exact doctor I wish to become – a stellar clinician, a humanitarian, kind, someone with integrity, a leader in my field and community, etc. (adjectives to name a few); these are some of the unique features that made this the program that I had my eyes set on:

  • Modular Curriculum: ASDOH has a very unique curriculum in that it is modular. This means that you take one class at a time (rather than 5-6 classes at a time), but the one class is extremely fast paced and you finish it in a matter of 1-3 weeks. You have tests back to back, and class is from 8-5 every single day. Although this seems gruesome, studying only one subject at a time is very suitable to my learning style and efficiency of absorbing and retaining material. In the long run, I believe this curriculum will demanding and require lots of organization, but it will help me succeed.
  • Taking NBDE Part I after D1 instead of D2: most dental schools take the first board exam (NBDE Part I) after their second year, but at ASDOH you take it after your first. I have a friend in Dental School at UMD who also took his boards after D1 and highly recommended a program that did that; it leaves more room for building clinical experience (which is what we are going to school for – to become great clinicians), and you just get the darn thing over with. Talking to current ASDOH students at my interview, they felt extremely well prepared for the board examination after their first year and said that the school has near perfect pass rates year after year. This to me is proof that the curriculum is high quality and tailored to help students succeed.
  • All graduates obtain a certificate in public health that can be rolled into an MPH: ASDOH’s core principles and mission is built on community service: “The mission of the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health is to educate caring, technologically adept dentists who become community and educational leaders serving those in need”. In the curriculum is 5 Public Health courses which count towards a required Certificate of Public Health – which can be turned into a Master’s of Public Health if you would like to continue to take the few extra courses on your time and dime. So, in 4 years, one WILL graduate with a DMD and Certificate in Public Health, but CAN graduate with a dual DMD,MPH. This is something extra special to me because I do care about public health issues in dentistry and oral health throughout the United States and on a global level as well. As a graduate looking to apply to specialty programs, I believe this will also give me an extra edge.
  • External Rotation Sites in D4: My favorite part of this program is that during the 4th year, dental students go on rotations for a couple of months to work in several different community health centers under adjunct faculty. These sites are located all throughout the country! Some locations include: Colorado, Montana, Seattle, Alaska, Arizona, California, Wisconsin… you name it! Not only is this a chance to explore, but we will get to see around 6-10 patients a day, rather than the usual 1-2 at most dental schools. This will build my clinical experience and speed tremendously, I will get to help those that can’t afford dental care at community health sites, and get to explore the USA! WIN-WIN-WIN.
  • No internal specialty residency programs (besides orthodontics): With no specialty programs, ASDOH dental students get to handle the harder cases, rather than them being whisked off to the specialty residents. Just when you thought the clinical experience couldn’t get any better…
  • A special needs rotation: …andddd it gets better. This was one of the only schools that I heard of, that had a specific designed clinical rotation to teach us how to treat those with special needs. ASDOH’s initiative to explicitly teach this is so incredibly kind; it just goes to show the giant hearts of the people who built and now run this program.
  • Involvement in ASDA: I really value marketing, especially when thinking about making connections to land future jobs. Knowing that ASDOH has a huge involvement in ASDA, sends students to conferences and to talk to legislators, and encourages us to network with other dental students and colleagues… all of this to me was a great plus.
  • Technology: Since I am a “tech-y” person and am highly aware that technology is and forever will be evolving, it was imperative for me to go to a school with up to date and advanced technology. ASDOH is known for being one of the most technologically adept school clinics in the country – not just because it is a “newer” school (debatable, its been opened for nearly 15 years now 🙂 ), but because the principles of ASDOH stand on forward thinking. I mean, we can do restorations with lasers! How cool is that?!
  • Specialty Match Rate: What I liked about ASDOH is that even though the program values community service (which some may say gears towards producing highly adept general dentists), it has a great student match rate to specialty programs as well. Therefore, my opportunities are truly limitless.

To learn more about ASDOH, watch my favorite video below!

Phoenix, AZ: When choosing a dental school, I had the option of choosing a school in New York City (NYU), Minneapolis (U of Minn), Los Angeles (WesternU), and Phoenix! Each of these programs I was accepted into were so different, and all located in different regions of the United States.

One reason I chose ASDOH was because I fell in love with Phoenix! Yes, I know it gets HOT. My parents’ friends for 25+ years settled down there and told them that if you don’t mind a summer dry heat of over 100 degrees and being in the AC all day because going going outside in that kind of heat is really rough, then you’ll love it. Acclimation comes quickly and you can always drive up an hour or two to the mountains where the temps are 20 degrees+ lower! Right now in Buffalo, NY, 9 out of the 12 months of the year are cold and gloomy. In Phoenix, 9 out of the 12 months are BEAUTIFUL! I am trading way up (although all my potential locations outside of Buffalo were an up-trade, but this was my favorite).

Not only is the warm weather year round going to be awesome, but I am really outdoorsy. I can’t wait to do insanely beautiful mountain hikes right in my backyard, swim in my pool (yes, I have a pool!), and take weekend road trips to nearby towns like Sedona, the Grand Canyon, San Diego, LA, and Puerto Penasco! The mountainous scenery around the city is gorgeous, it is very clean, no gridlock traffic like LA and NYC, has a lower crime rate, and I still get a big city feel as Phoenix is the 6th largest city in the USA and home to big national sports teams. Lastly, and most importantly, cost of living is insanely cheap and quality for your buck is insanely high. For being the 6th largest city in the USA, and such a huge tourist and retirement town, cost of living is less than what I paid in Pittsburgh, PA, and even less than what my parents pay in Buffalo, NY (taxes wise).

The overflowing support from family: my family and my S.O have been my rock and my wings in this whole process; I am so thankful for their emotional and financial support, encouragement, motivation, and excitement. They make me feel fearless, strong, capable, and overwhelmingly loved. Deciding to move across the country was easy, because of who they are and the way they lift me up from the bottom of their hearts, and always will. I will miss you all every single day and forever thank you for giving me, what feels like the world.

Anyone here reading from Arizona who has tips on what it’s like?! Please leave me a comment! This move will be a HUGE change and I would love to hear from you!


9 thoughts on “How I chose Which Dental School to Attend

  1. Lynn says:

    Good luck with your move! I remember when my sister was trying to choose which dental school she would attend. She loved the school she went to and made the best decision. Good for you!


    • Navi says:

      Hi Katie! Good question. If you missed it above, I mention that I got into NYU, Western University in Los Angeles, and the University of Minnesota. After I picked ASDOH, I withdrew from my pending interviews from other schools.


  2. klaunder4817 says:

    You really did your research!! I lived in the Phoenix area for 4 years and miss it SO much! I do disagree about the traffic though, it’s pretty bad compared to what I’m used to 🙂 Best of luck in everything you do!!


    • Navi says:

      Thank you so much!! I have heard the traffic is not pleasant in Phoenix, but better than cities like NY and LA! Where I live now (Buffalo, NY) the traffic is bearable since it’s a small city, so I am sure Phoenix will be worse since it’s so much bigger. I am glad to hear that you loved living there, though! Makes me excited for the move 🙂 Thanks again!


      • klaunder4817 says:

        I didn’t realize you weren’t there yet! I just moved from there in June so if you have any questions let me know 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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