Life as a Dental Hygiene Student: Part 2- Finals Week

* NOTE: Looking back on this, the same rules apply when it comes to studying and taking Board exams. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF during this time…you won’t regret it!

On Monday and Tuesday of this past week, I had to take my 6 finals to end my 3rd semester of dental hygiene school at Utah College of Dental Hygiene.  Yes…you read that right.  I took 6 finals in 2 days.  Let me tell you something that really isn’t a secret: finals week is the worst week of my life.  I am probably a terrible wife during finals week because we eat frozen pizza for dinner, there is no such thing as breakfast, the apartment is a mess and dishes are the last thing on my mind.  I am also grumpy, moody, and am quite self-centered because I think about myself and my grades rather than my family and friends.

For those who have read my post Life as a Dental Hygiene Student (which, by the way, has been the most viewed post on my blog, probably because of my impeccable insight…kidding) you know that dental hygiene school is SO fun, but SO HARD.  Here’s a little something to describe what life is like the week before leading up to finals, and finals week.
The weekend before the weekend before your finals (confusing, I know): It’s your last weekend as a free man (or woman…actually, most likely woman, but you could be a man too).  So you go out with friends, leaving the books under the bed so you don’t have to think about studying until you really have to.  You go out to dinner, go shopping, stay up late, catch up on all the TV shows you’ve been so far behind on, etc.  It’s the best weekend of the semester, really.  You don’t have a care in the world, because you don’t really have to care about anything because finals are at least 10 days away.
The week before finals: You have your study plan, but you don’t listen to it because you’re still on an all-time high from the past weekend.  You had so much fun not thinking about school that you choose to still not think about school.  You may get through a couple powerpoints, or maybe even read a chapter or two of you Dental Materials book (haha that’s definitely a joke.  I didn’t pick that book up all semester).  But at least the Monday-Wednesday of this week, you really don’t stress too much about finals.  But then Thursday comes.  You say in your head, “Oh my gooooooosh I have 3 finals on Monday and I haven’t really started studying.  I’m gonna die.  I’m going to fail.”  Then you actually start studying…maybe.  You’re so overwhelmed from the thought of studying that you just need a break, so you go hang out with friends and drown your sorrows in ice cream (not that I know from previous experience or anything…).
The weekend before finals: aka Cram Time.  You stay up so late, possibly even pulling all nighters, just so you can catch up on all the studying that you didn’t do when you are supposed to.  This is the point where you also take many Facebook breaks, pin things on Pinterest, and think it’s a good idea for you to watch TV and study at the same time.  Let’s face it, you still aren’t being productive, but that’s all relative.  You still have your moments when you buckle down and really work hard.  Good for you!
First day of finals:  It’s a Monday, and you have 3 finals.  You plan out how long it will take you to finish each test, figure out the order of your tests, and then plan how you’re going to cram in the rest of your studying.  This is really vital time.  I swear, sometimes I learn more within this time than I do after a few days of studying.  This is a good time to study with friends and see whether they covered something you didn’t.  It’s also a great time to talk out loud, read the slides, and then practice reciting the things you learn.  Reading it, saying it, repeating it, and hearing other people say it is really helpful.
By the end of the day, YOU. ARE. EXHAUSTED. But wait! You can’t take a nap because you need to brush up on the material that are on tomorrows 3 finals.  It seems like a never ending cycle.  Now you don’t know what to do.  Do you stay up late and study? Do you go to bed early?  Do you even study at all?
Second day of Finals:  This is my roughest day, by far.  Let me describe how my day went.  I wake up, later than I planned, but still before the crack of dawn because I need to do a liiiiittle more studying.  I study as much as I can until I have to get ready.  Then, the biggest question of them all comes to your head: “What do I wear?!”  Finals week is a week where we don’t have to wear scrubs.  It’s so nice to wear street clothes during these days.  I feel like a normal human being.  But unfortunately, you really don’t look or feel all that great.  I decide to wear a beanie on the second day of finals.  No, not because it’s cold or because it’s cute; it’s because I haven’t washed my hair in 5 days, and I used dry shampoo the past 2.  So on with the hat.  I feel gross because I’m wearing yesterday’s eyeliner and I have dark circles under my eyes, which  I can’t tell whether it’s because I’m tired, or my eyeliner and mascara gave me racoon eyes.  All hopes of looking cute on the last day of school goes out the window.  I get to school and repeat what I did on Day 1.  Then, all of the sudden, it’s all over.  I’M DONE! I go home, see my husband, and I’m so tired that I can’t even cry with joy or cry because I feel so overwhelmed because my finals seemed impossible.  So I [finally] go and take a shower and just lay on the bed or the couch the rest of the night, bumming it, eating all the Christmas cookies I can get away with.
Christmas Break: I am so excited to be done with school!  I finally can eat 3 meals a day, sleep in, and catch up on TV shows, see my friends, and spend time with my husband without being cranky.  This is the time where I finally get to go and see my family, and relax.  Kurt is taking some time off of work so we can be together, and I am so grateful for that.  I am so happy to get a break from school and recharge my battery.  Dental hygiene school is a physically, emotionally, and mentally draining experience.  A 2 1/2 week break is much needed by my classmates and me (and probably for our roommates, friends, and husbands too because they’re tired of hearing us whine and complain).  Kurt and I will be spending Christmas with my family.  We are so happy to be able to see them.
If you’re looking to go into Dental Hygiene, or you’re already admitted, or you’re prepping for your own finals week, or you just really need some help, here are a few things I have learned during my 3 5 finals weeks I’ve experienced while in school.
Tips For Finals Week
– Dress Comfortably: At BYU, I always would try to dress cute.  My motto was, “Well, if I fail, at least I looked good doing it.” False. Don’t do that.  I would spend an hour curling my hair instead of studying (aka I wasted time).  Now I don’t mean to be hating on people who actually put a lot of effort into what they wear during finals week.  But I realized that I’m sitting in a chair for several hours being tested on the most important things I need to know, and the last thing I want to worry about is that a curl is out of place, that my shoes hurt my feet, and that I should’ve worn a more comfortable pair of jeans.  Dress comfortably, but don’t look like a bum.
– Eat Right:  Eat breakfast during finals week.  You’ll have more energy.  Plus, don’t bring snacks that don’t do anything to fill you up or give you energy.  You’re brain needs more fuel, so give it fuel! The bag of Doritos probably isn’t the greatest choice.  If it’s all you have though, by all means go for it.  Something is better than nothing.  For lunch during finals week, Kurt & his cousin, KA, made me salads.  Best. Lunches. Ever.  When you eat right, you feel good.  When you feel good, you do well.  When you do well, you’re happy.  To me, it’s a no brainer.  Also, bring snacks.  Snacking on veggies and fruits was a lifesaver this semester and during finals week.
– SLEEP: Pulling all-nighters is seriously the most absurd thing I have ever heard of.  I’ve never heard of someone doing better by cramming with an all-nighter (unless they really hadn’t done ANY studying before hand and you never went to class or read your book or did any homework…again, something is better than nothing).  But I HIGHLY discourage all-nighters.  To me, sleep is extremely valuable and a rare commodity during dental hygiene school.  Any sleep you can get, TAKE IT! Naps? PLEASE DO! All-nighters? STAAAAHHHHP.
– Stay Clean: Yeah…not washing my hair for 5 days is kiiiiinda extreme.  Dry shampoo has been a lifesaver in dental hygiene school.  Best investment I’ve ever made (besides all the money I put towards tuition and becoming a dental hygienist).  But staying clean just makes you feel better.  Do I need to repeat myself? (When you feel good, you do well.  When you do well, you’re happy. Refer to Eat Right section)
– EXERCISE: I cannot emphasize this enough.  Not even just during finals week, but at all times.  You always seem to have more time, more energy, and you just feel good. Again, do I need to repeat myself?Also, dental hygiene takes a toll on your body.  If you don’t really have muscles in your back, or you don’t stretch, sitting in a chair bent over a patient may not be super fun for you.
– Hard Work:  When it came to finals week, it was really hard for me to study, because I felt like I knew it all.  Guess what? I did know it all (okay maybe not all of it, but I knew a lot) because I worked hard during the semester so I could do well on my homework and my quizzes.  When it came time for finals, it was more of reviewing information rather than learning information that I didn’t understand when I was first taught it.
– Do Your Best: If your best is a 85%, then you did your best and that’s what matters.  It took me a while to learn that my best isn’t always an A.  I was always a B average student, with the occasional C.  I will tell you though, your “best” should always be changing.  If it’s not improving, you’re not pushing yourself.  I know that right now instead of being B average with a C, I get all A’s and 1 B a semester.  Obviously it varies with the level of difficulty of the classes, what else is going on in your life, etc.  But you always know what your best is, and you can always make your best, better.
When I started school, my perspective of my “best”, was really flawed.  I started school as a B average student in a sea of A average students.  Girls would cry when they got their first B, and it made me really sad because they were upset with the same score that was my best score.  I got really down on myself because I was an underachiever in a class of overachievers.  That made me start working a lot harder.  But I worked harder for the wrong reason.  I studied more than I ever had because I was worried what my classmates would think of me if I got an 80%.  When I realized that I was working hard for other people, I had to switch my perspective.  I needed to start working hard for ME.  Not anyone else.  I decided to work hard to make myself proud.  And I am proud of myself.  I’m proud of my grades, and all the work I’ve done to be who I am now as a person and as a Dental hygiene student.  Don’t give up.  Work hard.  You’ll make it!  You’re best is always what is required of you.  If your best is a 99%, and 82% or a 65% (I’m telling you, sometimes my best was a 52%), it’s still good enough.

Here is a link to my first post, “Life as a Dental Hygiene Student”.

Happy Holidays from the Witt Family!  Sending you warmest wishes during this time of year from cold and icy Orem, Utah.


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