Crafting your journey to dental school

Growing up, my dream profession stemmed from watching “Grey’s Anatomy.” I thought I wanted to explore a career in medicine, yet when I got to college, I started to rethink this. My father is a dentist, and I would visit his practice when I was younger, which gave me a sense of what this profession was like. The opportunity to impact people’s lives in a profound way and still enjoy a lifestyle that permitted individual growth appealed to me. To get to dental school, though, I had to evaluate my academic status and shift my focus from, “Am I interested in dental school?” to “How will I get accepted?”

Before going to college, I envisioned football games and parties when I thought about the quintessential college experience. I later found out that wouldn’t help me get into dental school. I enrolled at Tulane University in New Orleans, where I lived the college experience I envisioned. However, my grades greatly suffered. After one semester, I transferred to Southern Methodist University in my home state of Texas. It was no French Quarter, but the social atmosphere was similar to Tulane, leading to another semester of poor grades.

During my first semester of sophomore year, I visited the career counseling office. I was looking for words of inspiration like, “Don’t worry about your grades — you still have a chance,” but that was far from what I received. The counselor examined my transcript and told me not everyone was cut out for a health care career, and I should seek other options. She compared my dream of becoming a dentist to a fish climbing a tree. Luckily, I didn’t take anything she said to heart. That motivated me to refocus and spend time working toward my goal. I learned to never let anyone who doesn’t know you tell you what you should strive for.

I realized, though, that I couldn’t balance a social life with my academic obligations well like others could. If I wanted to get into dental school, I needed to improve my GPA by studying day and night, even on the weekends. It wasn’t until second semester of sophomore year that I started achieving academic success, at the cost of socializing and friendships. This was definitely a sacrifice that was not always pleasant, but I sought out classmates who studied as much as I did and that made studying in the library on a Saturday night more bearable. I also regularly spent time in the gym to ease the stress of it all.

I also knew that since my college grades weren’t going to be as strong as many other candidates, I needed a way to stand out. I got involved on campus by becoming the treasurer of three organizations my senior year. I attended multiple dental service events and those experiences fueled my desire to be a dentist even more.

I missed many football games and nights out with friends, but when I got my first interview, I was ecstatic. When I was accepted into more than one dental school, I felt as if my wildest dreams had come true.

Everyone’s study habits and learning styles differ. What works for your friend may not work for you. By studying hard and not giving up on my dreams, I was able to make my dreams a reality.

~Viviana Stellenwerf, Texas A&M ’21


Viviana Stellenwerf

Viviana Stellenwerf is a current third-year dental student at Texas A&M College of Dentistry. She serves as an editor for her ASDA chapter.

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