The "Long Way" In

by Joonho Phiyo, c/o 2021

During my undergraduate career, I wasn’t very focused and did not have a well-defined goal. This all changed after my exposure to dentistry. Unfortunately, this realization happened a little too late, and I was already at the tail end of my undergraduate career. Because of this, I needed to take a non-traditional path into dentistry. As some of you already know, one of the common ways to become a competitive applicant as a non-traditional student is by completing a post-baccalaureate program, and I did just that at Mississippi College. I emailed several schools, but fortunately maintained a line of communication to LSU through Dr. Cheramie. He was the one that recommended that I attend Mississippi College and graduate with a 4.0. In addition to that, he also gave me advice for the DAT, and what my application lacked so that I could address those weaknesses in preparation for the application process. Keeping the school updated on what I was doing via email and phone let them know that I was proactive in my attempts to improve my application.

After getting accepted into MC’s program, I then went online to see what else I could find out about the school. I didn’t want to waste any time, so I took as many classes as I possibly could so that I could graduate in one year.  I asked LSUSD alumni about difficult classes in the first and second year of dental school, and then chose as many classes that were relevant.  The major classes that I ended up taking were Medical Physiology 1 / 2, Pharmacology 1 /2, and Gross Anatomy.  Overall, having a heavy workload forced me to develop time management skills. Taking Medical Physiology helped me learn how to study for classes that weren’t necessarily heavy in volume, but difficult in understanding concepts. Gross Anatomy was difficult due to the sheer volume of rote memorization I had to do.  Pharmacology was an amalgamation of rote memorization and conceptual information. Taking these major classes improved my studying efficiency, and sufficiently prepared me for the rigors of dental school. Doing well gave me the added bonus of having my professors at MC to write me letters of recommendation for the upcoming application cycle.

Most people take the DAT during their undergraduate career, but I chose to hold off on that simply because I felt that I was not prepared for it.After I graduated MC, I felt that I was mentally prepared to study for the DAT. Despite not having studied the information tested on the DAT, after several attempts, I finally got the score I needed to get.

Although my application was significantly better than it had been previously, I still felt the need to put myself in even more advantageous positions to improve my chances of getting accepted. By the time the application cycle opened, I had already prepared everything in advanced. Doing this allowed to me finish sending in my application before 2 hours had even passed since the opening of the cycle. I believe that having everything ready, and sending in everything early allowed me to have an early interview in August.

Having a strong support system helps, but even more-so as a non-traditional student. My parents supported me financially to allow me to focus solely on my classes. Being older than the average student, sometimes I was discouraged and even questioned if I was getting into dentistry too late, but my family, significant other, and Dr. Cheramie kept me positive during those times. Despite the feeling of being late, you cannot let it overwhelm you or affect your performance. Everybody’s situation is different, and you shouldn’t get stuck comparing yourself to others. Cast your net wide, and don’t give up!