Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why I took a gap year from dental school

I decided to attend dental school somewhat late in the game. My original plan was to get a PhD in genetics and go into academia. After a quarter-life crisis I decided that I wanted to switch routes and go to dental school. This was September of my senior year.

As soon as I found out that dental schools use rolling admission, I panicked. I still had to take the DAT, shadow a dentist, gather up letters of reference and put together my application. Some people have an entire lifetime's desire to become a dentist. I would have to convey this overnight. Every minute I was having this debate in my head, dental applications were being submitted and read. I thought about applying to graduate schools or even taking a fifth year. This is how much I wanted to avoid having an "empty" year.

Taking a gap year is not an easy decision since a year off does not guarantee anything. A "gap year" may not turn out to be a gap year if it marks the beginning of your adult life. You might not get in. Or you may change your mind. Or you may enjoy making money too much to go back to being a student.

I decided to take that gap year. It was the hardest decision I'd made, but one that I made for myself.

The rest of my senior year I shadowed a dentist weekly. I studied for the DAT and took it over winter break. I took time off to think about my career plans. I attended senior events and made memories with my friends. I gathered some important advice on making this decision and what to do during such a gap year. I still had some moments of panic in my suite (three of us were taking a gap year), but cupcakes and frozen yogurt saved us many times.

And by the time May rolled around, I was ready to apply bright and early.


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