Learn how real students navigate their way through the graduate school admissions process and grad school itself with our What Is Medical School Really Like? series.
Kristina, a dental student at NYU College of Dentistry, shares how planning and determination helped her reach her goals!
Kristina, thank you for sharing your story with us!
We’d like to get to know you. Can you please share three surprising things about yourself?
- I am very into spirituality, I love astrology, numerology, and crystals.
- I was in an episode of Impractical Jokers.
- I was born in Moscow, Russia and immigrated to America when I was 3.
I understand you hold an M.A. in biochemistry and molecular biology. Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree before beginning dental school?
Kristina: There are many routes people can take when applying to dental school. After graduating college my GPA was not at the level that it should have been in order to be considered a competitive applicant. However, I was determined to be admitted so I did my research and spoke to others who had been accepted to dental school and were previously in the same situation as me. A master’s was a great choice to show that you are capable of taking upper-level courses and excelling in them. The master’s program that I attended was two years long, but I doubled up on the coursework and finished in one. After my master’s I retook my DAT, applied, and got accepted! Doing a master’s is a great way to show schools how serious you are about attending.
How did you study for the DAT?
Kristina: I attended Dr. Romano’s Orgoman courses in Staten Island. His courses involved going through different sections of the DAT and learning the information, followed by doing practice problems with the class in order to put the information into context. I found this course to be very helpful and I definitely recommend it to anyone who is applying. However, because the courses are group-based you do not get the one-on-one help that you would get if you were studying with a private tutor. I have always struggled in math, and because of that I took private classes with a tutor just for that section, on top of taking the group courses. For the perceptual analysis section of the DAT, I found that Orgoman’s DAT bootcamp was very useful. I made sure that I practiced at least an hour a day, seven days a week using the online simulator. I found that it was very similar to the actual exam and it was very helpful. DAT bootcamp was also good for familiarizing you or refreshing your knowledge of topics you are not 100% comfortable with. Studying for the DAT is very different from studying for an exam in school. You have to absorb years’ worth of information in various subjects, so your previous ways of studying may not be successful. You have to have patience and use trial and error to find what works best for you.
At the time you applied to dental school, had you had dental-related work experience? Is it typical for dental school applicants to work in the field prior to applying to dental school?
Kristina: I worked in an orthodontic office for two years as a dental assistant prior to applying to dental school. It is definitely typical for dental school applicants to have worked or at least shadowed in the field before applying. Working in the field allows you to understand what being a dentist is all about and whether this career is right for you. My work experience is the reason why I was set on becoming a dentist.
What do you wish you’d known in the past about the dental school application process, that you know now?
Kristina: I wish that I had known how proactive you have to be with your application after applying. After finishing my application, I waited for acceptances without bothering to check in with the schools and see whether or not they had received my applications. I believed that they would reach out to me and all I had to do was wait. I ended up waiting a month with no acceptances and I finally decided to check in with the schools only to find out none of them had received my application! I called ASDA and they told me they were waiting for my “Brooklyn College” undergraduate transcript and they had not sent out my application due to that. I had not attended Brooklyn College; I was a student at Pace University. It turned out to have been a computer error on their part and due to that my applications ended up being sent out late. I also missed the deadline for multiple schools because I had to wait a few weeks for them to sort out what had happened, and by the time they did it was too late to send it to some of the schools I had chosen. My biggest recommendation when applying is to stay on top of your application. Call the schools and call ASDA regularly to make sure your process is going smoothly!
Your Instagram page has some great advice for managing time efficiently. What’s your best trick for time management as a dental student?
Kristina: My best advice for time management has to be to keep track of all your assignment deadlines, practicals, and exam schedules. Often in dental school you have an exam every week and sometimes more than one exam a week followed by a practical. It is very important to make sure you prioritize which exams require more study time and which require less. I would say keeping a planner with a calendar is very important because that way you can write down all of your exam dates and due dates. You should also make sure to write in time to practice your hand skills before practicals. It is really easy to become overwhelmed in dental school but if you have a sense of organization, you won’t fall behind. It takes a little time to figure out what kind of study schedule correlates best with your life but, with time, you begin to learn what works best for you.
Can you share your top study tips? What strategies do you use to learn large amounts of information quickly?
Kristina: When studying large amounts of information, I love making stories with the information I am learning, as well as making my own notes with pictures for visuals. When you have a huge amount of information to learn it is good to organize the information in a way that makes sense to you. Then using that order you can create a fun story which would help you remember the information. It is easier to think back on a story rather than trying to draw facts from your brain. I used this method a lot during head and neck anatomy when we had to learn neural pathways and it really helped me to excel. Also, I would recommend making your own notes and using pictures and diagrams to make sense of the information you are being taught. During an exam I often think back to my notes and, even if I did not remember the specific fact that the question is asking, I would remember where in my notes I had written that out and it would help me answer the question. I also believe using a lot of color in your notes and correlating images to the information you are learning helps a lot in memory retention.
How has COVID affected your year?
Kristina: COVID has been both a blessing and a curse in terms of my school year. I’ve had a lot more time to focus on my didactic courses because I was no longer taking time to commute to school and practicing for practicals. My grades have definitely improved because time management has become a lot easier; however, the drawback has been the limited lab time we have been able to have. My school has 380 students in my year alone, so scheduling students for labs has been very difficult for the school due to limited space. When COVID began we completely stopped having lab and did not have a chance to finish our practicals. Now that vaccines have come out the school has allowed us to go back to lab, but our lab time is very minimal. We have lab once or twice every other week. Compared to the four days a week, every week, that we used to have, it is not a lot of time at all. The school supplied us with electronic handpieces that we can use at home to practice our crown preps, but it is not the same as the in-school lab experience. You no longer have somebody standing there and telling you what you did right or what you did wrong; you have to use your notes and YouTube for reference. With the current circumstances, although it has been difficult, I am very grateful for the handpieces we have been given because at least we are able to have some sort of practice since our lab time is so minimal.
Looking ahead, what options exist for new dental grads? Do all dentists complete residencies?
Kristina: Dental residencies vary by state. Some states do not require a dental school graduate to complete a residency and they can begin practicing as soon as they graduate. New York is one of the states that requires students to complete a one-year GPR (general practice residency), post-graduation. There are also specialty programs students can apply to during their D4 year. Students can choose to apply for oral surgery residency, pediatric residency, prosthodontic residency, periodontal residency, endodontic residency, orthodontic residency, and many others. These residencies range from two to six years and they give a student the opportunity to become a specialist in these fields. Some of these specialty programs, such as oral surgery and orthodontics, require you to take an exam prior to applying. The programs are very competitive and if you are interested in pursuing a specialty you have to make sure you form good relationships with your clinic faculty, and also maintain a competitive GPA.
Do you have questions for Kristina? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next “What Is Medical School Really Like?” post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
You can learn more about Kristina by following her on Instagram.
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