Congratulations! You made it to dental school. We know you’ve worked really hard to get here, but the hard work has just begun. No matter what stage you’re at in your dental education, developing a plan can help you navigate dental school and achieve your goal of becoming a dentist.
- Put in the Work: Unfortunately, going to school does require studying! The good news is that the classes you’re taking now directly relate to your future profession, unlike some of the general courses you were required to take in undergrad. Putting in the work can sometimes feel less daunting if you know what you’re working towards. Take time to write down your goals (yes, you should literally write them) and post them in a place that you’ll see them every day. Seeing your goals on a daily basis and checking off the ones you’ve accomplished is a sure way to help you stay on track.
- Build Your Network: One crucial way to build your network is by finding a mentor. Throughout your entire life, mentors will be a valuable resource to you. A mentor can offer guidance on a variety of things – from study tips to career advice and even just someone to talk to. You can also build your network by getting to know the other students in your classes. And we’re not just talking about building your social network. When you find a group you mesh well with, form a study group or attend campus events together. Attending campus event will expose you to different areas of dentistry you may not know about. (Also, there’s probably free food and goodies too.)
- Share Your Skills: Throughout dental school, your skills and knowledge will begin to develop. You can use your talent to give back. If you enjoy getting involved in your community, call your local health center and see if there are opportunities to participate. You might even call your local dentist and see if he or she is hosting any events you could volunteer at. You could also partner with local schools and give a presentation on the importance of oral health care. Mission trips are also a great way to give back, and are a productive way to occupy your summer. Besides a simple Google search, ask around to see if one of your peers can suggest any opportunities to you.
- It’s All About Balance: Life is all about balance! Even in dental school, it’s okay to take a break from your workload and have some fun. Perhaps you take an hour each day to attend a yoga class or go for a run. Maybe it’s as simple as stepping outside for a breath of fresh air. When you really need to unwind, plan a night out with your friends or binge watch your favorite Netflix series. Our favorite way to master work-life balance? Sleep.
- Give Yourself Some Credit: There will be times you feel like giving up, and we’re here to tell you that you’ve already made it! If you feel discouraged celebrate the small wins, even if that just means putting on your white coat. Sometimes simply going to class is the most productive thing you’ll do all day. Stay motivated by looking at the goals you set for yourself and knowing that you’re on your way to achieving them. And if you’re really feeling overwhelmed, call your mom or other biggest support system.
- Consider What’s Next: You’ve been through steps 1-5, now what? It’s never too early to start considering where life takes you after dental school. The three main options are private practice, residency or joining a dental support organization. Do your research on each option before making a final decision. You may be surprised which one ends up being the perfect fit for you!