Staying on top

Fresher’s week is over. You’ve made new friends, settled into your new home and slowly getting used to fending for yourself. Now comes the biggest challenge of all – tackling your new workload.

The first year of dental school is designed to get everyone’s biology and chemistry knowledge up to speed. This is to give everyone the same foundations on which to build the dental course around.

Although it is necessary to create this level playing field, it can make aspects of the first year frustrating. Frequent cries of, ‘When does the dentistry start?’ and ‘Why do we need to know about genetics and metabolism?’ are commonplace.

The teaching methods employed at dental schools are different to those used in conventional schools and for many it will be their first time in a lecture environment. Therefore, it is important to develop vital skills, such as note taking, as soon as possible.

Other learning methods often used include cadaver dissection during anatomy classes, practical laboratory sessions used as adjuncts to theoretical work and the use of teaching aids. For instance, the use of tooth boxes to assist in tooth morphology studies.

Your first few weeks as a fresher will be manic, but once things start to settle down the best way to tackle your workload is by keeping up to date. Make sure you have all the information you need from the sessions and regularly read over your work to prevent it building up. At dental school, nobody is forcing you to work so it’s up to you to keep on top of things.

Much to everyone else’s annoyance, there will be students who get by despite doing little or no work, and no doubt will take great pleasure in announcing this. Remember everyone is different and works at their own pace and in their own way. Some people work best by reading through notes or textbooks, others need to write everything out. It’s all a case of finding out what works best for you.

On the other hand, there are students who will go to the other extreme by working too hard and sometimes people can get overly competitive over grades. This isn’t necessary. Everyone on the course is in it together and by working together you can help each other out when problems arise.

Your student colleagues aren’t the only ones you can go to if you have a problem, as everyone has their own tutor to discuss personal matters with. Additionally, older students are always happy to listen and are great sources of advice as they have often been through similar situations themselves.

When exams and deadlines approach, the dental school environment can become stressful. It’s important during these times to look after yourself and not burn the candle at both ends.

Make sure you eat and sleep well and if you’ve worked sensibly all year you should be fine. It’s common to hear of students pulling ‘all-nighters’ in order to meet deadlines. This is a quick-fix solution and no way to get through the course in the long term.

Studying is obviously important, but try not to get too caught up in the academic side of dental school, and it’s always worth remembering – everyone needs a bit of time off.

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