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Effective Study Habits for Pre-Dental Students: Tips from a Dental Student

Hey future dentists!


My name is Janu Bhakta, and I am currently a D1 student at one of the youngest dental schools in the United States; California Northstate University, College of Dental Medicine.

Before I talk about my current studying habits in dental school, I want to mention a few important things that I wish someone had told me years ago.


What I Wish I Knew as a Pre-Dent

I am the first person in my family to go to dental school, so that can be scary! However, with the right mentors and an overall good support system, I knew that I would be able to overcome any challenges and pursue my dreams. There will always be bumps on the road, but, at the same time, you will find ways to succeed.


Pre-Dental Study Habits

Female student graduating from the University of Houston

My studying habits in undergraduate school would never allow me to retain information in dental school!


How does Undergrad Differ from Dental School?

Whenever my mentees from undergrad would ask me to compare undergrad and dental school, I always say this: undergrad is like riding a bicycle, and dental school is flying a rocketship, two widely different things!


The information in dental school is enormous and sometimes can be overwhelming. Often while studying, I wonder how I can learn this information. The truth of the matter is, that just like with undergraduate studies, you adjust yourself and find ways to retain information in the most effective way possible.


The Need to Change

I relatively had an easier class load during my last semester at my undergraduate institution, the University of Houston (Go Coogs!) Then, after graduation, I had a few months to decompress, spend time with loved ones, and travel to different places before dental school would start.


I am extremely grateful for this period in my life, and would not trade it for anything. I felt motivated more than ever entering dental school and was ready to begin the first part of my career. However, I quickly realized that the studying habits that I developed in undergraduate school were not going to be effective for me in dental school.


Starting Dental School

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I constantly felt behind my peers, despite my program being pass/fail. Initially, I thought handwriting all my notes would be an effective means to retain information, but this was not the case at all. I felt drained constantly, especially with the additional time needed to be spent in the sim lab. This was not how I imagined my first trimester of dental school would be.


I took time to reevaluate myself and the way I retained information. I listened to the advice of my professors and my peers. Then, I tried something different.


Flashcards

Flashcards allowed me to actively recall material from my courses. This method has allowed me to enjoy my journey in dental school and retain the information I learn. This method may not work for everyone, but it worked for me.


Now, I am not saying that everyone entering dental school needs to start using flashcards. The main lesson that I want people to understand is that it is okay to change your methods of studying.


Take the Time to Re-evaluate Your Study Habits

Female dental student in her dental white coat

If you find yourself struggling, then pull back and think about what you can do to improve your pre-dental study habits. Learn from others. A part of developing your character is learning from others and seeing what they do to help them. Then, see if that method works for you. If not, step back, and think again. Eventually, you will find a solution that works for you.


To all of the pre-dental students, you are stronger than you know. Keep on dreaming, and keep on working hard. You will reach your goals with hard work, determination, and willpower.


~Janu IG: @janubhakta_16

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