Best Ways To Take Notes In Dental School

A lot of students struggle when it comes to figuring out a way to take notes in class. I am no exception to the norm. Everyone has different a little different “style” when it comes to taking notes and studying. Most of us want to know, what works best? I am going to rank the top ways to take notes in class! Don’t like the rankings? Tell us about it in the comments section!


1. Microsoft One Note

The is the clear winner in my book! If you have not played around with Microsoft One Note then you need to do so now. One Note allows you to “print” the Power Points to folders which can be organized by course, classes, and sections. After the Power Points are “printed” to the folder you can type notes or write notes (If you have a tablet) anywhere on the document. This program allows  you to view your documents with virtually NO load time and search key terms throughout your folders.

It may take slightly longer to get started because you have to have the PowerPoint loaded so you can “print” it to One Note but it makes studying a breeze. Forget something from last semester’s class? Search the term or browse through your old lectures! No need to load 15 Power Points just to see if that is where the correct slide is located.

Now that I have used this for about a year (my first year in dental school) I have found some small disadvantages. I like to make outlines and copy/paste photos from the lectures into the outline. One note will allow you to do so, however, it seems easier to do so from PowerPoint since I can use the crop option which is not present in One Note. Instead, the entire slide is pasted into Word and then the cropping is done from there. Not a big deal but just a small downside. Another downside is if the professor does not post the PowerPoint before the lecture. This can be slightly annoying and happens only every once in a while.

2. Don’t Take Notes at all!

This may sound crazy but not taking notes at all is one of the best ways of taking notes! What did I just say? I am pretty sure that I just said not taking notes is one of the best ways of taking notes! Yep, that’s what I said. How could this be? Easy, when I am frantically typing outlines, things the teacher is saying, or personal revelation about the lecture, I am missing the general picture of the lecture along with some key details for understanding the material.

Not taking notes on paper/computer does not mean that you are not doing anything. It means that your mind is actively engaged in the lecture (sometimes difficult with super boring professors). I dare you to try this! Put your laptops in your bag and paper and pen in the garbage and then just sit there. If there is a small list that seems important (example: Layers of the GI tract) then try to memorize them quickly. Inevitably the professor is going to talk about each point (layer). Do your best to remember some of the major details about each but keep your focus on the big picture by simply remembering the layers. By keeping engaged in the lecture studying/creating effective outlines will be much much much easier!

What about all the details that you miss out on? For many schools (if not all?) they do what are called verbatims and podcasts. Verbatims is where someone (usually hired by the class) writes word for word what the professor says for each slide. This allows the students to go back and read/listen to exactly what the professor said. This means you won’t be missing out on anything!

I will continue to add to the list of BEST WAYS TO TAKE NOTES as time permits. Let me know what you think the ideas and feel free to share your secrets with the rest of us!

Studying With Music


Many of us enjoy studying while listening to music. I do not want to say that there is a right or wrong type of music to listen to while studying but there is definitely a more effective music to listen to. Yes, I turn on my favorite tunes in the car or while at home relaxing. However, I usually (like most of you) use music to take my mind off of school, work, and the other cares of the world. Frankly, if I am going to be spending my time studying I want my focus to be on what I am studying not my music.


Generally, I only put my headphones on when I am not in a quiet study area. This includes my apartment (especially when my kids are running around), the library (when people are talking, eating, or making annoying repetitive sounds such as typing or tapping a pen), or any other public location.


I have a few simple guidelines when it comes to choosing study music that I try to follow at all times. It does not matter how much studying I want to get done, if I listen to music without following these guidelines I will not get any studying done. Check them out:


1. No Lyrics: Music with lyrics distract from what you are studying. Often times one will find themselves thinking more about the lyrics they are listening to instead of what they are studying!


2. Avoid Loud Music: Many of us like bands with jamming guitars and fast beating drums. The noise created by this music can be just as distracting as someone eating a bag of potato chips next to you in the library. It will often times break your focus and put you in an anxious mood.


3.  Low Tempo: The tempo of the music can also play a big role in how one studies. I like to be relaxed (not sleeping!) while studying. Fast paced music sometimes interrupts ones ability to slow down and think deeply about what they are studying. Why do you think Hollister and all those other clothing companies play the fast beat music? Simple, if you feel like you are in a hurry you might make the rash decision of over paying for a shirt that you otherwise may not have purchased! May not make sense to you but it sure makes sense to me. Tricking myself into thinking I understand something is pretty easy when I am anxious or in a hurry.


The guidelines are simple and have definitely helped me choose effective study music. Below is one of my study playlists. This list may not be for everyone but be creative and find music that HELPS you and does not hinder your studying. You are not limited to classical music by any means. There is plenty of suitable music that involves pianos, guitars, brass instruments, and whatever else you can think of.

Feel free to post songs that you like to study to in the comment section!

Swagger: My Story Of A “Have To” Attitude

victory-in-dental-school-processI have had a few requests to share the story of how I got into dental school. I hope those of you who are struggling with your grades are inspired by this post. For those of you with decent grades, I hope this inspires you to keep up the hard work.

Ever since I could remember, I wanted to be a dentist. When I was six or seven years old people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would answer sternly, “a dentist”. Often times they would be caught off guard and say “oh, that’s nice”. My desire to become a dentist stemmed from my uncle. He was one of the only family members (mom has 5 siblings and dad has7 siblings) that I knew of that went to college, let alone professional school. By the time I was in middle school I would write papers about controversial issues such as fluoridation or amalgam fillings. In fact, every time I was given the opportunity to write about something of my choice that’s what I would write about. I did this all the way through high school. I was confident that is what I wanted to do. If I had to shadow, I would shadow a dentist. I racked up a lot of shadowing hours at the local dental office throughout high school. I would ask a lot of questions like “what does it take to get into dental school?” The reply was always to get good grades and do extracurricular activities. My high school grades were decent but I was more into wrestling, water skiing, and motocross than anything else. By the time I was a senior I had taken AP classes, not because I was smart but because I wanted to be smart. I started taking classes at the community college, thinking I was getting a jump start on being a dentist. I chose classes like general biology, general chemistry, physics, history, and English. The system was quarters (3 quarters = 2 semesters of credits). By the time I graduated high school I had a handful of credits. Yes, I pulled off an A- in history and a B- in English. The science classes is where I struggled. I didn’t understand the concept of studying or going to class. Because I was taking classes at high school and driving 25 minutes to a class or two, I would often just skip thinking that an hour worth of driving isn’t worth an hour of class. Being a foolish highschooler, I assumed once you go to college you choose if you want to go to class. Not the case in my physics class. I was marked down 15% on my final grade for not attending. Despite getting a 92% grade on the tests and labs. This was the beginning of my C grades.

The following year (my first full year of college) I took classes, worked, and road dirt bikes. You can guess which one I spent most of my time doing. Yes, you got it! I road dirt bikes. In fact, while in my plant biology class we had a test coming up. I saved the day before the test for studying but an unexpected call came. I received a phone call from a guy that I had wanted to ride with for a long time. He wanted to go the afternoon before my test. You can only guess what I did. No, I did not study. I went riding. A lame attempt at studying included a short break in the woods looking at plants and jokingly naming different terms that applied to the test. Needless to say, I did not do well in the course. I received a B- in one of the three general biology courses and a C in the other two. At the same time, I was getting Cs in biology, I was getting Cs and Bs in Chemistry. I can’t forget to mention the F that I received in an online psychology course. Namely, due to the fact that I did not realize I was enrolled in it. At the end of the year, I had a little over 35 credits under my belt and a 2.9 GPA. Keep in mind that is my overall GPA, not my science which was much lower(science classes was what brought my GPA down).

Friends and family would occasionally ask me if I still planned on becoming a dentist. I would still answer with confidence and say “of course!”. But deep down I knew the path I was taking would not lead me to dentistry. I took a two-year break, which was spent in the Philippines. During this time I not only got a break from school but I was able to grow and contemplate my future plans. I knew that when I returned that I had no room for error.

I never was a straight A student. In fact, throughout elementary and middle school I took special learning classes. I was always a “wanna be” smart kid. When I returned it went from a “wanna be” to a “have to be” smart kid. My first semester back I chose non-science courses that I thought I could get As in. Sure enough, I put a lot of hard work into studying which resulted in straight As! This was the first time in my entire life I had ever gotten straight As.

The following semester I took Math, English, Statistics, and a few other smaller courses. With the same determination, as the semester before I received straight As. I was getting pumped! Taking a break from school did not make me any smarter. In fact, taking a break from school did not make want to be there more, it made me want to be there less. So what changed? It was my attitude! I went from casually going through school thinking that it would all magically come together one day, to realizing that my LIFE depended upon it. I still to this day believe this 100%. Without that attitude, one will be tossed to and fro and will end up where ever the current takes them. I was not that person that would be taken with the current. I had a destination and I knew that I had to reach it. I changed my attitude to a “have to” attitude.

With my new “have to” attitude on, I knew I was ready to tackle some of the upper-level biology courses. Yes, it had been 2-3 years since my last biology course but those were already done and I was ready to get on with my education. I began with a physiology course, histology, psychology, and a few filler courses. The physiology course was the one that was stand alone from anatomy. In fact, it was one of the most demanding classes at the school. Each test I “had to” get as many points as possible. There was no “oh well, I can get a few points back next time.” I spent 4 hours outside of class every day studying for this. We got to muscle physiology and the talked about an action potential. “Whats an action potential”, I asked myself. I did not know anything but I managed to score top 10 overall in the class on the tests, which was no easy feat. I “had to”. It was my only option. I tried just as hard in my other classes. I came out with all As and a B+. The B+ was physiology and was due to the lab portion of the class. I fell short of my goal, but in hindsight, it was a victory. That class prepared me to succeed in all other classes.

I knew that if I could get a B+ in one of the hardest courses at the school, then I could get in A in any other class that I take. And that was the truth! I took a long list of upper division courses including but not limited to; physiology, anatomy, histology, neurobiology, pharmacology, biochemistry, molecular cell biology, genetics, evolution, and I am sure more.

I excelled at biochemistry. By the time I took this, I was no longer at the “have to” stage, although I still felt the need to do well, but at the want to stage. I wanted to learn the material. At this point, the grades came easier. Finished at the top (top 3 or 4) of the biochemistry classes for that semester. I was hired as the one and only tutor at our school. The next semester I took a load of 17 credits and tutored on average 18 hours a week. I enjoyed just about every minute of it. Along with getting feedback such as “He is the best tutor at this school”, I was able to accomplish straight As. Note that by this time I was married and had a baby girl at the beginning of the semester.

That is a huge change from being single, taking 10-11 credits per semester, and receiving some Cs and an F. My GPA improved from the 2.9 to a 3.61 GPA. My overall science GPA ended up at a 3.42. My GPA at the four-year university was a 3.93 (in that ballpark). What changed? My attitude changed, and yours can too! There is nothing stopping you from getting the grades you need. Yes, we may have kids or unnecessary distractions but do you have the “have to” attitude? I have it and now I am in dental school!

Good luck to all of you who are still on your way to becoming dental students and dentists! I do realize everyone has different experiences in life, some more difficult than others but it is ultimately up to you what you make of it and what you want in life.



***I did not proof read this at this point. I will do so and make additions or subtractions as needed. Hope you enjoy!***