First Semester D1 Recap

First semester of D1 year is a real challenge! Brian Garner and Tenzin Sengye, D1 students at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, provide an inside look into what to expect during your first semester. It’s been a pleasure to follow Brian and Tenzin’s journey into dental school. Read their First Semester D1 Recap below!

1. Overall, how was your first semester of dental school?

B: The first semester was definitely challenging, but also not as hard as I expected. It is certainly do-able, and you can sleep if you schedule well. It felt very fulfilling to finally be learning my profession.

T: First semester was better than what I expected in terms of course work. UMBSOD did a good job of easing us into the rigors of dental school. So overall, first semester wasn’t too bad.

2. What was the easiest class/hardest class? What was the easiest/hardest lab?

B: Easiest: History of Dentistry; Hardest: Dental Anatomy, because it’s the first uniquely dental class I took and the waxing lab is challenging.

T: Most of the courses were basic science courses taken in undergrad or review from DAT. So the material wasn’t too bad. The only lab we had first semester was waxing lab (Dental Anatomy). For waxing, following the directions that were provided was useful but working with other classmates helped me a lot more because I learned different ways and techniques. At the start of waxing lab, I’d suggest that you follow the instruction that is provided. Afterwards, don’t be afraid to play around and try new ways. Ask upperclassman and fellow classmates their techniques. By the end, you’ll have your own way! 

3. What study habits helped you the most?

B: Revisiting things multiple times on different days helps solidify memory, and discussing with classmates is helpful to get through challenging concepts.

T: When it comes to studying habits, figure out what time of day you’re most alert. Make that your regular study time. For me, this is between 7-11am so I set that block for classes that required a lot of mental effort. In the evenings, when I’m usually exhausted, I focused on less mentally demanding classes like waxing. I found this to be the most efficient way to study.

4. What challenges did you face this semester?

B: The biggest challenge was establishing routines and finding free time for taking care of yourself while still keeping up with classes.

T: Because classes were online, it was very easy to put things off. Do NOT do this! It always seemed like I was playing catch-up, and this definitely was a major contributor to my burnouts. 

5. How did you make friends with classmates?

B: I made a lot of friends through mutual interest discovered in the class groupchat. We all share study materials a lot; shoutout to Brent for the bomb quizlets. 

T: Some of us got together outside of lab to work on waxing. This was a great opportunity to get to know some my classmates. We also formed a group chat with classmates living in the same neighborhood. 

6. What was your “lowest” point this semester? How did you get overcome it?

B: My lowest point was doing poorly on an exam in dental anatomy. I recovered by changing up my study strategy and focusing on that class a little more each day. It is important to keep in mind that you will fail some exams and life will go on.

7. What was your greatest achievement this semester?

B: My greatest achievement(s) were good scores on waxing practicals; it felt very natural. I accomplished it by simply trial and error and developing my own slightly different techniques.

8. What advice do you have for pre-dents?

B: Take anatomy and physiology even if it is not a pre-requisite and study up on some stuff you see while shadowing/working, it will help when you start operative.

T: A lot of pre-dents shadow just to get the shadowing hours for their application. Shadowing is your best opportunity to see what it’s really like to be a dentist so don’t take it lightly. Dental school is a big investment. The last thing you want to do in dental school is drop out because it isn’t right for you. So shadow as many dentists as you can, ask them questions and if you have the time work as a dental assistant. Talk to your professors and get to know them early on because they will be writing your letters of recommendations. Apply to all in-state public schools

9. What advice do you have for incoming D1’s?

B: Get in shape! You should have a strong back and core to make sure your body is healthy enough to have a long career. Healthy body = healthy mind.

T: The classes you’ll be taking first semester are not much more difficult than undergraduate classes. What made first semester difficult was just the sheer number of classes. So organization is key. When you’re planning on studying a lecture, always expect for it to take twice as long (because it will!) If you are on your summer break right now, relax and have fun! 

10. What are you looking forward to next semester? Next year? 

B: Biomaterials because I am a nerd about materials engineering. Next year, I am excited for the heavy focus on dentistry, rather than broad topics. 

T: Next semester, I am looking forward to Operative lab.

Any additional thoughts/advice?

B: Have a cheap hobby that can keep you focused and that makes you feel accomplished/lets you have a sense of community. This is very important for mental grounding and having something to come back to after long study sessions.

What advice do you have for surviving First Semester of D1 year? Comment below!


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