Remember your ‘why’

When I was applying to dental school, I was full of hope, dreams and aspirations. My personal statement was chock-full of determination, resilience and steadfastness. Absolutely nothing was going to stop me from accomplishing my dream of getting into dental school.

In 2015, I was applying to the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University as a re-applicant, and I was determined to show the admissions committee that I was worth the risk. I wanted to show them I offered more than what my application said about me.

During my first application cycle, the rejection letters had become my norm. My hope had reached an ultimate low. But the moment I received that acceptance phone call, I was completely full of joy. I didn’t care if I was the first person in my class or the last to be accepted. All that mattered was that I was in. It meant that one day, I was going to be a dentist. A dream come true, right?

Within the first few months of school, I quickly learned that dental school is a stressful environment. I was surrounded by brilliant minds and talented hands. Every single one of my classmates was gifted and hardworking. The course load, the environment and the expectations were completely new. I easily forgot the passion I had while trying to get into school. Now that I was in school, I wanted more. Residencies, awards, scholarships and class rank were constantly swirling in my mind. Comparison became my best friend. With each test, practical and assignment, I compared my performance with the people around me. Being gifted, brilliant and skillful was the new average. The bar had been raised, and I did everything in my power to surpass it. The idea that each critique and failure helped me to become a better dentist became a foreign concept. No matter how well I did, it was never enough. I was in a constant cycle of disappointing myself.

Two years into dental school, while staring NBDE Part I in the face, I learned a hard lesson. Comparisons are the thief of joy. At the end of the day, if I do my best, I will become a dentist.

I implore each of you to remember that grades do not define you. Remember that when you were applying to dental school, it was a triumph just to be accepted. Be proud of your accomplishments thus far, and do not put your worth in your school successes. You are more than a grade. Through failure, we get stronger. A lesson easily forgotten, but one we must remember during school.

These challenging years can easily be filled with jealousy and disappointment. Surround yourself with friends who are encouraging, inspiring and bring joy to your day. Take nights off, spend time with classmates without talking about school, and binge on Netflix every now and then. Dental school is an experience, but it is you who decides what type. Most importantly, remember why you chose this field. Remember why you are working so hard. Remember why you are making sacrifices. It probably is not because you love a perfect PFM margin or dropping a Class II box. On the hard days and the easy days, remember why, just as I will be doing up until the day I walk across that stage.

~Kristen Grisham, Georgia ’19

Kristen Grisham

I am a D3 at the Dental College of Georgia where I serve as ASDA merchandise chair and Operation Smile Fundraising Chair. Other than procrastinating studying, I love Jesus, being a wife, being a fur mom, owning a small business, serving in Haiti, binge watching tv shows, and spending time with family.

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