Your D1 Survival Guide: Part 1--Note Taking and Adjusting to Dental School

Posted by Abby Halpern on Sat, Jan 30, 2016 @ 12:16 PM

Meet AbbyStarting dental school can be challenging for some first-year students, as you are faced with new terminology and a wealth information right out of the gate. You have to get acclimated to having endless hours of lectures each day, you don’t yet know how to succeed in the sim lab, and clinic is off in the distance. Well, I’m here to help.

As a D2 at the Dental College of Georgia, I’ve had some of those same questions. But with a little perseverance and helpful hints from more experienced students, I was able to get my footing. In this series, I’m going to tackle a few important issues and share some insight to help YOU through the process, too.

Q: What is the most effective way to take notes?

A: Dental students have various methods for studying and retaining information, and the key is to determine what regimen works best for you. As a second-year student, I’ve tried a whole bunch of methods and I tend to have particular methods for particular classes. For example, in my anatomy courses, I like to condense PowerPoint presentations by handwriting (in the tiniest of print) and drawing pictures that fill up a single page of computer paper per lecture. In these types of courses, understanding the relationship between things and visualizing the constituent parts is what I needed to focus on.

Recently, I started using an iPad to take notes during lectures using the Notability app. I’ve loved the organization this allows me, and I honestly think I’m more focused in class because of it. I’m more apt to flip through slides when the interface is so convenient. Other apps beneficial to my classmates include Evernote and GoogleDocs, and I’d encourage you to experiment with one or two others to see how they handle images, revisions, and your particular learning style.

Additionally, my classmates and I will often re-listen to lectures through software that our school provides. This method allows us to solidify information or ensure that we haven’t missed any key points during a fast-paced lecture. It’s also well suited for auditory learners.

Speaking of speed, you can also fast forward these lectures and get through material in half of the time if you need a refresher session. Do not get bogged down in wondering you if you are taking notes and studying the “right” way because there is no single correct way to accomplish this. My suggestion would be to attempt a method you think will be advantageous and to stick with what provides you with the greatest success.

Q: “How does dental school compare to undergrad?”

A: This is a great question because we, as dental students, are the type of people that want to know exactly what we are getting ourselves into. It’s a lot like that forever comparison, or lack thereof, between apples and oranges: for sure, they are both fruits and they have seeds, but beyond those aspects, they are totally different entities.
To be honest, and this may disappoint some of you, I do not think that your undergraduate degree is the most important factor in preparing you for dental school. The experiences you have inside the dental office and outside its confines give you a better understanding of the practitioner you want to be and thus the dedication and motivation you will adhere to during dental school in order to achieve these goals…but I could probably write a whole separate article on that topic.

I will say that your peers in dental school are so much more than just classmates. The bonds you make, the conversations you enjoy, and the realizations you have that these will be your future colleagues are all amazing experiences.

In opposition, the workload is no pleasant surprise. The hours of studying, preparing, and lab work are as rough as you’ve heard. So many people told me of the long hours; I reasoned with myself that I wouldn’t have the same exhaustive days. I’ve never been so quick to eat my words before. Most school days begin at 8am and end at 5pm. It can be difficult to stay focused for so many hours of lectures, especially at the beginning when your brain is used to maybe 3 to 4 hours of PowerPoint presentations per day as an undergrad. This rigor takes some getting used to, but your passion for this profession, along with those new relationships, help you push through. Dental school is incredibly different from your undergraduate education, and while this may seem daunting and scary at times, these differences are what make dental school such an impactful experience—the experience that will prepare you for the rest of you professional life.

I hope this helped give you an idea of what dental school really is like. In Part 2 of the series, we will cover how to keep your motivation and stamina over the four years of dental school as well as what to expect in your first patient experience. Stay tuned, and I welcome any questions you have!


Need more help acclimating to your first year in dental school? THE NEXTDDS has a host of instructional resources and step-by-step technique guides available to support you. Enroll today--it's FREE!

Tags: education, dental education, student, dental, studying, D1

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