James is a 4th Year dental student studying at Cardiff University. In this case study he talks about why he chose to follow the Dentistry career path, and how he prepared for university.
During school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study at university and I wasn’t passionate enough about any of the subjects I was taking to study them further at an undergraduate level. This was when I started looking at vocational courses and completed some work experience in Dentistry. I was sold by the combination of academics, practical skills, patient interaction, and the idea of running your own business.
After deciding on Dentistry, what steps did you take next?
Once I’d decided to study dentistry I completed further work experience in as many different aspects of dentistry as I could: NHS practice, private practice, dental hospital, an orthodontist, as well as spending some time at a dental laboratory. I was lucky that my local dentist was extremely useful and gave me lots of help and advice in preparing for my application.
Why did you choose the schools you applied for?
I didn’t receive any dentistry offers whilst applying during my final year of school. Therefore I took a year out to strengthen my application by working as a Lifeguard at my local swimming pool, completing a conservation volunteering program in Indonesia, and continuing work experience at my local dental practice.
Second-time round, I applied to Cardiff, Sheffield, Newcastle and Birmingham. I’d carried out a lot of research into the entry requirements, teaching style and student experience. These places seemed to tick all the right boxes for me. I was lucky enough to receive all 4 offers but chose Cardiff based on the strong reputation of the dental school and the great things I’d heard about the city itself. This goes to show that if you are unsuccessful in an application first time don’t give up hope! Use your time out as an opportunity to improve your application. Plus, definitely go travelling to gain invaluable personal and practical skills. Starting undergraduate studies a year or two later seems insignificant in comparison to the length of a 40 year career.
How has Dentistry matched your expectations?
I’m currently in 4th Year at Cardiff University, and I’d say it has exceeded my expectations. It can be quite stressful at times but it’s also very rewarding. So far I’ve particularly enjoyed the practical aspects of the course, and Cardiff is a fantastic city to be a student in.
Dentistry is different to most other undergraduate courses as you have many more contact hours, shorter holidays as well as professional responsibilities. As long as you are ok with this, you’ll have no regrets choosing dentistry!
What about the future?
At the moment I am focusing of passing my rapidly approaching finals and vivas (an oral – as in spoken – exam, much like an interview), but one day I would like to specialise in either Oral Maxillofacial surgery or orthodontics. Those are the two areas that I’ve found particularly interesting so far. The scope of career options is large and I plan to keep an open mind and follow what I’m enjoying at the time!