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How to survive your first year of dental school

10 June 2022

Dian Kenny, third year student at University of Western Cape's Faculty of Dentistry shares his top tips for surviving your first year of dental school.

dian kenny   

Find your support network

Get to know your peers and make friends with them, as they will be the people you are in constant contact with until graduation. Life is easier having a supportive system and having people to rely on for extra help!

Use your time well

Time management! This is extremely important as dentistry requires a lot of your precious time. Make sure you divide your time for all the tasks that you are required to do in dental school as well as your daily life.

Have a life 

Make sure you make time to do the things you love (other than dentistry), if you only spend time studying and doing nothing else, you will most definitely burn out. Taking breaks, spending time with loved ones, exercising and participating in your hobbies is critical as you will feel fresh & recharged and ready to jump into studying again! 

Learn the basics quickly

First year is an extremely important year to build your base for the following years to come. Know your anatomy & basic dental terminology. You will deal with this on a daily basis and clinical work will be much easier if you have a strong foundation that you build. 

Be organised 

Being organised really helps to cope with stress and the mountains of work you are given. Make sure to write down all the key dates such as assignments, homework and group presentations on your calendar and set reminders for these so you know they’re coming up soon. This will prevent any last-minute rushing & stress to get things done. 

Speak out

Ask for help if you are struggling, it is common for first years to struggle with settling in and getting used to a new environment and course. There really is a lot of people willing to help you if you struggle, don’t go through it on your own. The university usually have a support system for first year students such as your year ups, lectures, and fellow peers. 

Go your own way

Find your personal studying technique quickly! The saying “study smart, not hard” really applies here. You will feel overwhelmed with all the new anatomy and terminology and finding the right strategy to study these concepts will make your life a lot easier.

Soak it all up

Lastly, enjoy every moment! From the stress of the first day until the stress of end year exams. It goes by quickly and wishing the time away will leave you with a lot of regrets. It is the beginning of a wonderful career and study field; you have an opportunity most don’t.

Staying well is important for both you and your patients, so it’s really important to get into good habits while you’re at dental school. Read more about how to look after yourself during dental school.