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It’s All about the Journey and the Destination

Updated: Aug 6, 2022

What is Your Dream?

Hi guys my name is Dr. Jennifer Knowlton, I graduated from NSU in May 2020 and started working in summer 2020 in Orlando, FL. My story of getting into dental school is not the conventional one, it’s one of heartbreak, patience, and determination. For this reason, my advice for pre-dental students is: if this is your dream, what you really want to do, give it everything you have. There are hundreds of people trying to take YOUR spot in dental school, so casually studying or making grades that are “good enough” isn’t going to give you the advantage. You won’t live with regret if you know you gave it all.

The Preparation

During undergrad I worked a part-time job and was very active in clubs (both as a member and holding officer positions), I also volunteered as much as I could but I let my grades slip and when graduation came my GPA was not very high and my advisors said I probably wouldn’t get in anywhere. I studied for my DAT on the weekends, but my casual study habits did not get me a competitive score and I was so depressed about how/if I was ever going to get the chance to become a dentist. I played with the idea of doing dental hygiene and started dental assisting full time for 3 years until I hit a breaking point and knew this was not what I wanted. I was 27 at the time, much older than most people attempting to apply, but I didn’t let that stop me, I moved to Miami for a master's program and studying became my full-time job. I gave the DAT all I had: I practiced old tests, did prep courses (online and in-person), lots of youtube videos, and made friends to study with. I was able to bring up my GPA and get a competitive DAT score. I gathered letters of recommendation from the doctors I worked with as an assistant and took my shot at applying. Then came the worst part… waiting to hear back from schools for interviews.


I was very fortunate to have 4 interviews, each one very different. I truly enjoy doing interviews but I know this can be very hard for some people so please practice! You might think you have an amazing answer to a question but hearing it out loud and letting someone else hear it as well can make a big difference. Look up common questions and find unique ways to put your own spin on an answer, remember the interviewer sits all day listening to people talk so try and have one thing/story that will make you memorable. Do your research about the school before going and have some questions ready for the interviewer about the school and program.

During Dental School

Once you have been accepted the hard part really starts. The first two years of dental school can include four tests a week plus, sim labs, wax-ups, practicals, and no time for sleep. It’s crucial you learn to make connections with your classmates. Remember you are all going through the same things with different perspectives which can be very helpful. Don’t think that you can do it alone, this can cause a lot of mental stress that could lead to bigger issues. Make sure you always give yourself a break, you could go out to eat, watch an episode of a show or even take a nap (my favorite). Take time to make sure your ok, because burnout is very real. You CAN do this. Good luck!

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