What to Expect During D1 Year

You’ve been accepted to dental school! That’s no easy feat…congrats! Now, you may be wondering what to expect during your first (D1) year. See below for a sample course list and interview of Daniel, a dental student who just completed his D1 year! He shares some great advice to ensure early success in your dental school career.

Sample Course List

Was D1 what you expected?

D1 year was as expected, in some facets. The presentations provided by faculty were very informative in terms of what resources were available, including technology such as Blackboard and Mediasite. Our professors always made their expectations known. My school-assigned D2 “big” was also very helpful in terms of how to approach classes, how to learn information, and manage teacher personalities. This especially applied to didactic classes, that had significant variability. 

There were some surprises in lab. Lab projects/assignments did not always match the lab schedule, due to materials not being available, shipment issues, etc. Something to remember: when treating patients, there’s always a chance that the purpose of their visit could change at a moment’s notice, so expecting the unexpected is important. I’ve learned to be flexible.

As far as course load goes, although we had been informed of the amount of material and how difficult it would be, I still had difficulty dealing with this immense amount of information. As a non-traditional student, with a wife and child, I spent a lot of my time studying in the library until close, or staying in the Dental School building after hours to prepare for exams and complete assignments. The time needed to be successful in dental school is unreal.

What did a typical day look like during the Fall Semester?

In the Fall, I arrived to school at 6:30 AM and reviewed material in preparation for the day until class at 8 AM. Class would last until 12 PM, resume at 1 PM, and end at 4 PM. I would go to the gym from 4:30 PM to about 6:30 PM, and then spend the remainder of my day studying until about 10-11 PM. 

What did a typical day look like during the Spring Semester?

In the Spring, labs became more prominent in our schedule, so weekends included visits to the anatomy lab or simulation lab. During heavy exam weeks, I did not physically attend non-mandatory classes, and changed what classes I studied based on which exams were coming up. 

Time management is a requirement, and one thing I would have done over is consider the weight of each class credits and adjusted my time of studying to match. [NOTE: This is great advice! For more details, see How to Boost your Class Rank.]

What can an incoming D1 do to be successful?

I recommend joining social media groups (groupme, messenger, etc.) to communicate with classmates and receive information regarding assignments and exams. Also, communicate with upperclassmen. Learning from your “big” and knowing the resources available to you, including professors, will help in maximizing time and efficiency.

[NOTE: I will add my two cents here! One of the more clinically relevant courses you will take during D1 year is Dental Anatomy. Each lecture focuses on a tooth type: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. I recommend bringing study models with you to lecture. This way, you can identify anatomic features on the model as you listen to lecture. PowerPoints and technology are great, but it’s nice to have a tangible model to examine. Below, is the study model that my school provided. If your school does not provide one, you can purchase a similar study model on Amazon.]

What can an incoming D1 do to set themselves apart from their classmates?

Community service, leadership positions, and organization participation. Everyone will do the best they can academically, but being recognized for your community service and willingness to volunteer will make you stand out.

[NOTE: Agreed! I would also add that acing Gross Anatomy will significantly benefit your GPA and class ranking. Not only is Gross Anatomy a challenging course, but it’s a heavy hitter, assigned 7 credits over the course of the year.]

Looking back on your year, is there anything that you would have done differently?

Instead of studying for all classes equally, I would have started with understanding the weight of each class based on the amount of credits it was assigned. I also would have spent more time reading ahead, as I found it helpful when I had the chance to do it from home.

Do you have any additional advice for D1’s?

Read ahead, don’t hesitate to ask questions, and build relationships with as many people as possible in your class. Everyone has a different approach and different resources; isolating yourself from them is harmful to your learning experience.

Dr. Amaro’s D1 year:

What do you remember about your D1 year? What advice do you having for rising D1’s? Comment below!


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