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THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador Blogs

Third Year Thirteen: 13 Tips for Thriving in Your Third Year

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13 Tips for Thriving in Your Third Year


It's been said that the first two years of dental school are about learning how to stay in successfully, and the last two years are about learning how to get out successfully. Starting the third year of dental school is a huge transition for many, as students realize that a bulk of their didactic coursework is completed, the National Boards Part I is in the books, and now they are scheduling patients full time and applying their skills and classroom knowledge in a clinical setting. It is important to keep these thirteen tips in mind to make the most of your remaining time in school:


Get involved in interesting clubs.

As an active member of many organizations and clubs, I have acquired so much valuable information from upperclassmen and peers in different organizations, which opened so many doors for me. Some clubs open their lunch and learn events, tutorials, socials, and other events to non-members as well, so it’s worthwhile to get involved, meet new people, and learn new things.

Become a member of an organization.

In dental school, you’ll meet so many professionals, including practicing dentists, former dentists, researchers, and potential employers. It is important to establish professional connections, which may help in the future. Organizations such as ASDA, ADEA, and various fraternities—such as THE NEXTDDS—invite speakers to inform students of the many opportunities after graduation. These events teach students about understanding the current job market and what offers are available upon entering the workforce, as well as how to strengthen one’s CV and build his or her own practice.

Keep your CV/resume updated.

During my first year, an upperclassman was asked to offer new students one piece of advice, and he immediately responded with, “Log everything you were involved in, including clubs and organizations, volunteer work, shadowing, awards, etc.” Many students become busy with schoolwork and extracurricular activities during their time in dental school. Once it comes time to apply for residency and specialty programs, many forget which events they took part in and with which organizations they have membership, leaving out many achievements from their CVs. In addition, students should update their resume before submitting them to faculty members in order to take part in research or externships.

Review a procedure before the patient arrives.

This helps the student gain comfort and confidence before beginning a clinical procedure. For example, many schools require that students practice a crown preparation on a typodont and a patient’s cast before starting on a patient. This practice helps both the student-provider and patient feel more comfortable, as the provider is less nervous and has developed a systematic approach to the procedure that allows for a seamless transition from one step to another.

Establish a work-life balance.

It is important to establish a balance between professional life and personal life by making time for friends and family alongside completion of dental school requirements. It is imperative to maintain a balance of mental and physical health. I find that maintaining a planner is a good way to keep track of scheduling and to-do lists so that nothing is missed or overlooked, and I can plan the best time to take care of school-related responsibilities. I can enjoy my free time without worrying about missing important tasks!

Take advantage of your time in clinic.

At this point, many students develop tunnel vision, only looking to get requirements out of the way and work towards graduation. Many overlook the resources available and tend to refrain from getting advice or guidance from faculty while they still can. Or, they refrain from asking questions about procedures they have already completed, and often forget that it is better to learn as much as possible while faculty members are readily available. A student’s third year is the best time to learn more from faculty, gain a better understanding, get requirements out of the way, and make their fourth year less stressful.

Take advantage of your time out of clinic.

Many organizations sponsor social events that can help students unwind, network, and explore local areas. These events are not only helpful for building professional connections, but also for allowing students to take mental health breaks. It is important to take advantage of time off to catch up on sleep, be with family and friends, take part in volunteer opportunities, and make contributions to the field and to underserved communities.

Take care of your health.

Under the constant stress of exams and clinic, it’s easy to neglect one’s personal health. It is important to set aside time to go for walks or go to the gym to maintain physical health, maintain a healthy diet, and visit the doctor when necessary. Just as physical health is important, taking breaks to unwind and maintain mental health is another consideration. When stress piles up, remember that a lot of people are going through different hardships and many have trouble managing stress. Find someone to confide in and voice concerns. Many schools offer complementary confidential therapy sessions to help students cope with both school and life stresses, promoting student wellness.

Go to conferences.

Attending conferences can help students make professional connections while learning more about current events and innovations in the field. By attending association and research conferences, students can learn more about the profession and explore the field to learn more about their particular interest in dentistry and how they can contribute in the future.

 Get involved in research.

By becoming involved in research, students can contribute to advances in their own field with novel technologies and materials that can help make dentistry more efficient and beneficial for patients. Through research, we can discover new ways to solve oral health issues and help patients prevent future issues through evidence-based research and oral hygiene techniques.

Make professional connections.

Dental school is a great place to meet professionals, and after graduation, professors become colleagues, and classmates can become partners. It is important to talk to practicing clinicians and former clinicians to get a better idea of what to expect as a licensed dentist in the working world. The more students speak with experienced professionals, the more prepared they become for future success. Professors, guest speakers, and other leaders in the professional world can offer invaluable advice that can be very difficult to obtain without experience. Making professional connections can help in the future when one is in need of advice, or looking to expand business prospects.

Get enough sleep.

A majority of students do not get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, studies show that people in their 20s need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. During my first two years in dental school, my peers and I would get an average of about six hours of sleep per night We generally compensated for lack of sleep with coffee to maintain our attention for early classes, or stay awake to study late at night. Sleep deprivation has devastating effects on the body, and long-term caffeine abuse is detrimental to the body as well. Get enough sleep to maintain focus in class and perform better on exams.

Have fun!

Make the most of your time in dental school. As tough as it is to get through the journey, it can pass in the blink of an eye. With more than half of a doctoral degree completed, it’s easy to forget that many peers and classmates may move to other locations to begin their professional career alongside family, or wherever their path takes them. “Match” programs are difficult to predict as well, so make the most of your time with classmates and peers, explore dentistry, travel, and make the most of your time in dental school!