Hello, My name is Tyler Stidham, I am currently a D2 at A.T. Stills University Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health. I grew up in Wheelersburg, Ohio, and attended Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. During my time in college, I spent some time at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. I’m writing this blog post because I would like to share my story of resilience through one of the hardest times, yet one of the most rewarding times of my life. In my opinion, applying to dental school is much harder than actually attending dental school.
Don't Be Square
I am not a competitive person naturally; I work hard and do the best I can for myself. I think that this is one of the reasons that I got into dental school. Too many pre-dental students try too hard and burn themselves out before they get to dental school. Trust me, dental school has plenty of challenges and plenty of opportunities to change the world. With this being said, it is important to set yourself apart from every other person with the same stats as you. Find a hobby that interests you, find a hobby that helps with manual dexterity, and find a hobby that relaxes you. Yes, research and working in a lab is a great CV builder but most applicants have those qualities. I fly airplanes, I woodwork, and I like to read, those are the three hobbies that fall into the previous subsections I mention. Atop these hobbies, I also conducted research and worked in the microbiology lab at my school. Dental schools are looking for a well-rounded candidate, they want someone who stands out. Personally, my scores (GPA+DAT) were not great by any stretch of the imagination. I sort of knew this would be the case early on, thus I found other ways to improve my application. Remember, dentists have to be personable and be well-rounded so we can make our patients feel comfortable. Don’t be square.
The application process to dental school is very strange, to say the least. Just speak to any other profession and you will soon find that our application process is nothing like theirs. We constantly live in this state of limbo if we are waitlisted on the first day the cycle allows acceptances. We see all of our friends getting into their dream schools and just wishing that would be us. My advice is to wait and be patient, do not rush to conclusions if you do not get accepted in December. My experience was very similar to this, I only had one or two interviews pre-December and both waitlisted me in December. After December, I received 3 or 4 more interviews and was then accepted to most of the schools I interviewed at. I know of some people during my cycle that did not get accepted to dental school until the day before class started. Please, have patients and do not sweat the little stuff. If you truly want to go to dental school, have resilience, patients, and with a little luck, I’m sure that you’ll succeed.
Find Ways to Relax
As I spoke before, you need a hobby that allows you to relax and unwind. Dental students tend to stress very easily yet we can handle it. You will not find a single successful dental student who doesn’t have something that relaxes them. I love to travel, even in dental school, I still find time to travel. My tip to you is, once in dental school, find time to attend dental conferences. Schools will be more than happy to let you out of school to attend a dental conference in another city. I will be attending my first one here soon and I scheduled myself to leave a day early so I can explore the town. For pre-dental students, do something you enjoy. Don’t attend dental conferences yet, you’ll be learning enough about teeth soon enough. Find what brings you balance in life, be it, gardening, reading, traveling, boating, literally anything.
Overall, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you take anything from my ramblings, let it be to relax and enjoy this process. While it is a difficult and confusing time in your life, you will soon be in dental school and you’ll be worried about something else. The constant worries and hardships do not go away once school starts, but a change will happen in you, that change will be resilience and patients. Please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @Tyler_stidham96 if you have any questions, I’d love to help. Stay the course.