Celebrating the small victories: finishing the first ten weeks of D1 year!
Here is what life has been like in Dental School thus far:
At ASDOH we are on a modular schedule (described below). So since we are normally taking exams every 24 hours, in my mind, a day is either “test day” or “not a test day”. Here is what a typical test day schedule looks like (MWF):
4 AM: Wake up, do 15-20 minutes of self-practice yoga in my room/apartment, get ready, pack lunch and snacks if I haven’t the night before, make coffee and eat breakfast.
5 AM: Studying at Starbucks/local coffee shop
7-7:50 AM: Make it to school to study lightly and listen to my pump-up pre-exam music (Game of Thrones, usually).
8 AM-9:30 AM: EXAM
Post exam to (latest) 5PM: After our exams we may have a little bit of lecture, an our of lunch between 12-1 where I stay at school or go to a “lunch and learn” (club meetings, presentations, etc.) and then class after 1 PM to (latest) 5 PM, although we sometimes get out early!
Study: depending on my mood and the amount I have to do, I will head to the library, a coffee shop, or home to get some studying in! I probably average around 5 hours of quality studying (no phone/distractions) after class everyday (give or take).
Dinner: the time always varies & I meal prep my leftovers for tomorrow.
Shower, sometimes watch one episode of the TV show I am watching at the moment.
~11:00 PM: BED
(Yes, I average about 4.5-5 hours of sleep most nights, a bit more before non-test days and a bit less before test-days. This is NOT a must to survive dental school so do not freak out! I have plenty of friends who get a good 7-8 hours of sleep at night who are really doing awesome in Dental School. This is my personal choice, and I usually have about 1-2 coffees a day for those who are wondering.)
Being on a “modular schedule” is when you take one class at a time, but the class is fast paced and intense. For example, the first class we took was Craniofacial Embryology. A semester worth’s course material, at graduate school level, is condensed into only one week. We have class Monday and Tuesday, then first exam Wednesday morning. Then we have class the rest of Wednesday and Thursday, and then our second exam Friday morning. We end with class on Friday, and have our final exam Monday. After the final on Monday, we start the next class with a new professor – and we cycle through the week again. Most classes work like this (a weekly basis) except those that are worth more credits, such as Metabolism (biochemistry) and Head and Neck Anatomy; these classes are longer because they are tested more extensively on the NBDE Part 1 (Boards).
So far we have taken:
Cardiopulmonary (my personal favorite!)
Pro’s: I personally love the modular schedule. Believe it or not, I am (so far) less stressed than I was in undergrad! Focusing on one class at a time really works with how I study, and once I got used to the fast pace, it became second nature. It is not easy, and burn out can hit you quick if you don’t find balance and time for yourself to just relax, but as dental students we all should have that drive and motivation which gets us here in the first place. Its something new, and it just takes getting used to. We also have upperclassman mentors who share advice, study habits, notes (if you are struggling)… etc… so PLENTY of help is available if you need it!
I also do not feel like I’m constantly cramming (something I am not good at), which is something I was worried about with this schedule. I feel like I need time to learn and absorb things – I am not one of those people who can look at something for 30 minutes and have it memorized and feel ready to go. I might not have time to put things on the back burner, procrastinate, or take a few days off, but I do feel that I have plenty of time to adequately learn material to perform well on exams (and even have time for myself!).
Con’s: You don’t really get a break. Since we have a test every Monday, weekends aren’t really “free”. You can’t make long weekend trips since exams are on Fridays and Mondays, and the thought of that final exam is always looming in your brain. You also have to get used to different professor’s teaching style and examination testing style pretty quickly.
Each class is different, but I have a pretty standard routine that I tweak with each class. This includes waking up early to study, going to class to do most of my learning (taking notes, listening closely, not being on my phone or Facebook even though I know how tempting it can be), and asking questions when I have them.
I like to study a chunk of material, then try to white board it out or write out what I just learned on a piece of blank white paper without looking at my notes (with colored pens, of course). I don’t spend any time re-writing stuff that I already know or that I can easily memorize – this is a waste of time that I don’t have. Then, I go back to my notes/whiteboard and fill in the gaps with another color.
If I have any questions I usually have one or two close friends that I text and we work through it together! Having good study buddies is a must.
Lastly, if practice questions are available I will always do them at least twice.
ALSO: I am not a flashcard person at all – that is just my personal learning preference.
I will do a separate post on different study habits!
Some have asked whether or not it is easy to join clubs and extracurriculars, and I have never found it difficult. Not only do we have convenient “lunch-and-learns” where club meetings are held during our lunch hours, but all the clubs and activities I’ve joined are things I am really interested in and be a part of them doesn’t feel like I’m losing time. Even if you feel like you can’t join clubs, that is okay. You have 4 years to get involved, and D1 year the best thing to focus on is you and your grades.
Any DMD / DDS program will be tough. You will experience stress, burnout, and want to curl up into a little ball (I know I have!). Here is how I manage stress and take strides to make self-wellness as a priority:
Fitness: I love doing yoga, either at home or going to a weekly class, or hitting the gym at my apartment. Sometimes when life gets crazy I’ll skip the intense workouts, but I really do consciously try not to. It makes me feel both mentally and physically great.
Do what you love: whether it is making time to read books, watch Netflix, blog, cook, meditate, go to the movies, hike, go to museums, eat at different restaurants, etc. … please don’t stop doing what you love! You CAN. All you need is a little time management skills and the faith in yourself that an hour of your day taken away from the books won’t kill you. The endorphins and time for yourself will help you in ways you can’t imagine. I’ve been told dental school is like a long marathon, not a sprint, and this taking time for yourself is like rehydrating along the way so you don’t burn out.
Time with friends: I am so lucky to have such a wonderful group of classmates that do nothing but life each other up. I don’t know how I would survive dental school without them! We take at least one night a week to go out, do something fun, and de-stress. Recently a few of us went hiking in Phoenix:
Weekend trips: take time to go home for the weekend, visit loved ones, go on weekend adventures (I recently went to Las Vegas!), or do a staycation.
Onward and upward! ❤