You got accepted, HELLS YEAH. And you’re about to start your first semester of dental hygiene school. OH. EM. GEE. You’re probably feeling super overwhelmed, but it’s okay, every one else is too! You may have heard that dental hygiene school is super hard..it is. But, it’s training you to be the best health professional you can be, so take that challenge and run with it. After all, we who survive dental hygiene school are the best of the best..so let’s get YOU started.
DISCLAIMER: if you’ve heard the term 'syllabus week,' where the first week of school is supposed to be really easy...dental hygiene school doesn’t have that. You jump right into learning on the first day with a test probably in the first week. But it’s okay! Just make sure you go in with a positive attitude and expect learning to occur (even if you’re still in summer brain mode).
So let's get to it, fast forward to when you're sitting in class and your professor is going over what is expected. If they stress reading your text book right before class...then READ YOUR TEXT BOOK BEFORE CLASS. Even if you don't have to for your regular re-reqs and even if you're a smarty pants, YOU NEED TO READ THAT BOOK....because when it comes time to take notes, you basically are studying what you already read. Now you only have to take notes on 'what’s important,' so be sure you're not highlighting the whole page (but let’s be honest, we all do that sometimes). Bringing a laptop to class was my best friend (if your school allows you). It helped me to better organize my notes for studying.
Speaking of studying, let's move on to your first test. DON’T FREAK OUT. But I will warn you… hygiene tests are not regular multiple choice questions that your chem 102 class had last year. It’s going to give you choices like:
- Could be the right answer
- Probably the right answer
- May be the right answer
- 100% the right answer
It’s definitely weird to get used to, but trust me, it trains you to be the best. You can’t give your patient the “may be the right answer” treatment, can you? HELL NO. So be mad at your professors all you want, but they’re doing it for your own good. *Again, cue in the positive attitude and you can do anything.* Don’t study to memorize, study to understand. You can spend hours and hours memorizing your text book, but that won’t help you on the test. You will fail, fail, fail, and fail again. You have to ask yourself questions how, why, when, where, and what. You have to actively read and not passively read. Read until it “clicks” or don’t move on. Hygiene test questions are not black and white answers, so you have to be ready to recall many avenues of information to come to one answer...aka, you need to problem solve.
For tests that ARE moreso memorization, like memorizing anatomy for example, notecards will be your best friend. Flash those things while your peeing, while you’re on the bus, while you’re waiting in line at Starbucks, while you’re brushing your teeth in the morning (because you know we brush for more than 2 minutes) and really at any moment to train your brain and make it second nature. Studying IS workout...but it’s all about putting in the time. You can be the smartest person alive and still not pass if you don’t put in the time. Hygiene school is all about self discipline and time management. If you can do both, you’re going to be just fine!
Speaking of time management, this is big one -- you’re probably going to have multiple tests on the same day, don’t be alarmed. When this happens, you shouldn't cram studying for BOTH exams in one day...you WILL go crazy and you will probably fail. No one’s brain is equipped to retain THAT much information in a matter of 6 hours.
Oh and PSA when finals come around, other majors will freak out when they have 3 finals and here you are juggling 6. Again, cue in the positive attitude and you will get through it. In the end, those other majors probably don’t floss and they’re stuck in cubicles all day.
OK deep breaths, I'll leave you with one final thing and it's something that sticks out most from my first years of dental hygiene school. Exploring -- both literally and figuratively. Exploring new things, especially an extremely niche major, is foreign and may feel uncomfortable at first. Now USING your explorer, that's WEIRD. It’s going to feel like the hardest thing in the world and you’re going to be thinking silly thoughts like, this isn’t for me, what am I doing, this is garbage. Just remember…we all went through it too, so don’t think you’re the only one that’s staring at your explorer wondering what the hell that thing does. You’ll look back and say to your dental bestie remember when exploring was hard? And on that day you will laugh at yourself and it is the greatest feeling in the world. Practice really does make perfect. Your room mates will probably think you’re crazy for fake scaling your dentoform on the couch..but hey, we gotta do what we gotta do! No one is born being a dental hygienist, we all got through it and it’s SOOOOOO worth it. Believe in yourself, you got this, dental babe.
*PS - finding random teeth in your book bag is totally normal… just accept it and move on*
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