It feels like junior/senior year of high school all over again. I didn’t officially decide where I was going to college until late April/May right before I graduated. I remember being so unsure all year while all my friends were committing and like I was being pulled in five different directions while searching for the one that God had for me. Now to think about how my life would look if I would have gone to the University of Texas, Southwestern, or Texas A&M (ok, WHAT was I thinking – sorry, Aggies) is such a strange and funny thing. I know I am EXACTLY where I’m supposed to be right now.
I bring up these old feelings because I’m now talking about the current confusing, exciting, anxious, limitless, and overwhelming season of researching dental schools and trying to figure out just where I belong.
Obviously I’ll apply to the three schools in Texas – UT Houston, UT San Antonio, and Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas (which is actually owned by A&M now – confusing I know). However, I don’t want to limit my future, and I’m really considering applying to several out-of-state schools all over the country. I have a deep desire for adventure, branching out, and exploring different places. I also am a little fed up with the Texas heat after 20 years of sweating, and I really want to experience new cuisines, outdoor activities (snowboarding, hiking, etc), and just a different way of living for awhile.
It’s hard to dream big, though, when the reality of debt and massive student loans is staring me in the face and slapping me with a blow of the necessity of practicality. In-state tuition, while still sky-high, is significantly less than private and out-of-state schools. The thought of graduating with $200,000+ in debt is down-right mind-boggling, even when I hear people say, “Don’t worry, your future income will pay it off before you know it!” I’ve heard some say go as cheap as you can for dental school, but I’ve also been encouraged by others to go where I really want and be adventurous while I’m young and not tied down to anything (if I were in a relationship right now, it’d probably be a different story). You can see the dilemma here.
Some of the other dental schools I’ve been looking into (if I ignore the hefty price tags for a moment, and truly think about the kind of professional/clinical/research education I’m looking for as well as an appealing location) and were on the list of where my DAT scores were sent include:
University of Colorado (Denver)
University of Washington (Seattle)
University of the Pacific (San Francisco) *the only 3 year program in the country*
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)
Columbia University (NYC – I really don’t think I could see myself living there though)
Oregon Health Sciences Center (Portland)
Harvard University (actually don’t see myself there)
University of Illinois (Chicago)
I’d say the first five I listed are probably the ones I’m more interested in researching further as well as the three TX schools. Not only are the locations somewhere I really would love to live for four years (or longer if I specialize and get into the same school’s program), but these are also some of the most respected schools. Some of the things that make a dental school “one of the best” (even though it’s very different than undergraduate because there are no REAL rankings) are a strong clinical focus, high research activity, great faculty, diversity, stats/educational background of enrolled students, community/philanthropic involvement, etc.
I know my future is in God’s hands, and I am confident the story he’s writing for my life will be a good one that I can’t even IMAGINE right now. As I slowly figure this thing out (or still am clueless), I’ll give updates on my application process in the summer and then next year’s interviews!
*Title is lyrics from Switchfoot’s new single, Love Alone is Worth the Fight. BUY IT NOW.