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Be Strong, Be Confident, but Most Importantly, Be Yourself

Always be the Best Version of Yourself

Hey guys! My name is Sidhant Athilat. I am a D2 at New York University College of Dentistry. I was born and raised in Westborough, Massachusetts, and I attended the University of Connecticut where I pursued my undergraduate studies as a Biomedical Engineering major with a minor in Materials Science and Engineering. My reason for writing this blog is that I would like to share with all prospective dental students my journey on how I got into dental school and what I have learned thus far throughout this journey. The moral of my story that I would like for everyone to carry with them upon reading this is “Always show the best version of yourself to the people around you. Even when you are feeling down, there comes much joy and satisfaction when you know you have made someone’s day.”

Why Dentistry?

This is may seem like a question with an obvious answer. In a way, however, this question can be tailored to “Why did you choose Dentistry over Medicine?” Many individuals give the cliché response “I want to be able to help people and make people smile.” However, this does not tell me exactly why you chose dentistry over medicine since both fields involve helping patients and making them smile (figuratively or literally). It is important when thinking about this question that you really dive deep into your thoughts and determine what is it about dentistry that persuaded you to apply. My reason for choosing dentistry was through my personal experiences as a patient in the office of an orthodontist as well as the office of an Oral Surgeon. I loved the personal communication that was facilitated between myself and my doctors who ensured that I was feeling comfortable and who also took the time to explain to me exactly what they would be doing for my treatment. Many doctors in medicine are constantly rushing from one patient to the next, thus they may not get the time to have such detailed conversations with their patients. These experiences alongside the manual dexterity skills I obtained as a Biomedical Engineer and as a musician are what inspired me to go into dentistry. Thus, when filling out your application, remember to really think to yourself “What is it about Dentistry that entices you to pursue it rather than Medicine?”

How the Ace the Interview

Now that you have figured out why you want to pursue Dentistry, it is time to prepare for the interview. As I was preparing for my interviews, I continuously asked myself “What sets me apart from the thousands of other applicants within the U.S who are also applying to dental school this cycle?” “How am I unique?” The purpose of the interview is for the interviewers to see the person you are outside of school. They can already tell from your transcripts who you are as a student so there is no need to boast about that. Instead, what you should boast about are the activities, hobbies, and talents that make up your persona outside of school. I speak five languages, play four instruments, do martial arts, and play tennis and basketball. On top of this, you want to ensure that during your interview, not only are you well-dressed but you are also engaged with the interview. It should feel more like a natural conversation and less of a question & answer session. Think of it this way, when you are with your patients, you want them to feel comfortable around you. It does not matter if you graduated from dental school at the top of your class. Many patients struggle with dental anxiety and if you cannot do your part in ensuring their comfort, you will lose them. These interviewers know that so they want to see if you, as a prospective dentist, are capable of doing just that.

Don't Wait to Get Help!

Some individuals are born talented, others have to cultivate that talent during their lifetime. This was one of my biggest realizations while I was a D1. As accomplished as I was in my didactics, I struggled very much in my hands-on skills in my bench lab course. This struggle started very early on and I knew it was only going to get even more difficult as the weeks went by. I decided to take action immediately. I reached out to other students in my year and asked them if they knew of anybody who would be able to help me. One of my close friends referred me to her D2 friend who made a point to meet with me four days every week to practice for my practical exams. It is because of him I was able to pass all of them, but at the same time, I knew if I had not initially spoken up about my struggle, I would not have gotten to where I am today. In dental school, professors are not going to come to you asking if you need help. You need to be willing to express that you are not satisfied with your performance, whether it is in didactics or in the lab, and search for ways to improve yourself. The help I received from this upperclassman has now inspired me to do the same, as a peer mentor for the prospective D1 students in my school.

Developing Relationships & Mental Health

As you are plowing away at your assignments and exams, it will get very overwhelming. Thus, it is important to spend time with friends and family. This may seem blatantly obvious, but trust me, cultivating relationships while in dental school is one of the key factors to your success as a student. When I was an undergrad, I did not make much time for friendships and I was able to get away with it. As a D1 in Dental School, I would constantly feel overwhelmed with the never-ending assignments/exams I had coming up, and sometimes, I just needed a break from all of it. Whether it be going out in the city, taking a walk, or finding someone to vent out to, I found these breaks from studying to be very therapeutic. It made me realize that I was not alone. Other students, like myself, were also struggling with the same stress and anxiety that has accumulated from the course load. Unlike undergrad, persevering through dental school is a collaborative effort, and having a solid support system backing you up will relieve you of much stress and simultaneously make your educational experience much more enjoyable!

What did you learn from Sidhant's experiences? Have you ever experienced anything like this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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