Why “Y” matters: 4.000 – X = Y

If 4.000 – X = Y, and X = your GPA, then solve for Y.

I know. I’m throwing two tantalizing topics your way: your GPA and performing math. However, please stow away your cringing and crying for a moment, because there’s a method to my madness.

I want you to subtract your current GPA from 4.000 and determine the number that stands between you and what academic institutions quantify as “perfection.” If you’re like me, that difference is certainly not a zero. In fact, when I solve for “Y,” it’s larger than I would like.

But, I’d like to reel in your future-specialist-type-A anxiety and offer you a different perspective to consider for 2016. I pose to you the following questions: what does your “Y” truly represent, and why does “Y” matter?

Dental school is a consuming journey. No one can deny that. It is full of laughter, stress, celebration, commiseration, cheer, exasperation, learning and growth. The challenge that we are faced with through this sojourn is a trial of attitude and our daily ideologies surrounding definitions of “successes” and “failures”—whether we allow ourselves to be consumed by the number that is our “Y” or by the greater symbol that our “Y” comes to represent.

So, I ask you again: what does your “Y” mean to you? What went into it?

I’ll start off by telling you about my “Y.” It represents days and nights that I’ve spent creating friendships and memories. It represents the ways in which I pushed myself beyond my comfort zones. It represents my visits and Facetime calls with my out-of-town siblings. It represents the positive energy that I’ve invested into Student Government and ASDA. It represents the vacations with my family that I would never skip for the world. It represents my time on the tennis court or on the ski slopes. It represents when I took some much-needed time to simply rest and relax. It represents the moments that I learned from my shortcomings. It represents my very personal experiences beyond the doors of the classroom this year.

My “Y”, quite frankly, means far more to me than that time I missed ten questions on a final exam or received a B in a course. It took some self-convincing, of course, for me to start thinking this way. It’s still a work in progress. After all, we are all dental students—“academic apex predators,” if you will. As we go through school, there exists an inevitable reality of being assessed and judged by our performance on exams and an invisible tattooing of a GPA across our foreheads for college administration to read.

Sure, in hindsight we could all have studied a little bit more to bridge the GPA gap of quantifiable size “Y”. But, the real peace lies in not regretting that gap but rather, appreciating what filled it. What went into your “Y” this past year? Did you attend your best friend’s wedding, or get married yourself? Did you check off a trip from your bucketlist? Did you take a spontaneous road trip? Did you step out as a student leader on campus? Did you adopt your first dog? Did you have an unforgettable New Year’s Eve with your friends?

As I bring this post to a close, I want you to consciously appreciate balance in your life, whether you are a 4.000 student or someone like me with a “Y” of my own. I’m starting to realize that my dental school story is writing itself faster than I anticipated. For you first-years, your journey has just begun. And for you fourth-years, the curtain call is just around the corner. Wherever you are in the marathon, I hope that your “Y” does not subsist as a source of stress or penitence. I want it to pulse as a focal point of your positive reflection in times when you feel burdened—something more prolific than a manifestation of your incorrect answers or lesser grades. After all, “Y” not? This place is a trifecta of educational experience, self-learning and opportunity to see your successes and failures through a different lens.

Comment on this thread with your favorite “Y” moment of dental school! Cheers to calculating your “Y” and to a very Happy New Year. Take care, everyone.

~Tyler Fix, Midwestern-Arizona ’17

Tyler Fix

Tyler is an avid tennis player, skier, and University of Arizona sports fan (Bear Down!) Out in the "Wild West" of Midwestern University-AZ. He enjoys being an active student on campus, carrying roles as ASDA Chapter Vice President, ASDA District 10 Fundraising Co-Chair, and Class of 2017 Council President.

You may also like ...


  1. Becky Warnken says:

    This is a fantastic post, Tyler! What an amazing way of looking at balance, and such an important concept to grasp in dental school and beyond. Thank you, for writing this, and Thank you ASDA for such a great post!

    1. Agreed! Thanks for reading Dr. Warnken 🙂

  2. Nichole Cumming says:

    I love this post! This is such an inspiring, uplifting, and encouraging post! We, as people, spend so much time critiquing ourselves, and most of the time our focus is on our shortcomings. It seems that the more desirable certain goals become, the harder we judge ourselves when we fall short of our own expectations. I appreciate your positive definition, and explanation, of what “Y” means to you! Your post really resonated with me. I will, forever, view my “Y” differently! Thank you for writing this, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! By the way, this would make a perfect personal statement topic.

  3. RJ Gonzalez says:

    This was an amazing post and I really enjoyed reading it! I am a pre-dental student and just got in to dental school and I will definitely be sharing this with my pre-dental classmates because this is an excellent way to look at things even before dental school when filling out the application and writing your personal statement. Thank you for sharing this!

  4. Shruti Mantravadi says:

    AMAZING is the word!!! Great work Tyler.

  5. Sirisha Mahesh says:

    I absolutely loved it. It was wonderful to read. What a great way of looking at things, at the end everything really is about perspective!

  6. Anthony Burgois says:

    Beautifully said – what an incredibly thoughtful article. The best part of my “Y” is the incredible experiences I’ve had as an NCAA athlete thus far: competing at the national level, making life-long friends, and traveling all over my region to compete for a chance to represent my institution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.