“Crushed it.” – How to rock The Interview

terrifyingI cannot believe it’s almost been almost a YEAR since I started my interviewing journey for dental school applications. I still remember my first one was to San Antonio on August 10th (with my former roommate – who also aced her interviews and was accepted to all 3 TX schools!), and now this year on that same date I’m loading up a UHaul truck and heading off on my road trip to move to my far-away new home – to actually be a student! I promise time really does fly, and to all of you pre-dentals (and pre-meds! a lot of this will be similar to your interviews) who will be awaiting those glorious emails and phone calls this fall, take heart. You definitely could be in my shoes starting dental school and seeing all of your hard work in college finally come to fruition in one year’s time! This is an entirely different nerve-racking experience (how will I go grocery shopping in the city without a car?), but the best kind.

dentalSince a lot of my younger friends are going to be going through that entirely new and sometimes overwhelming process very soon (so proud!), I thought I’d put together a little list of do’s and don’ts from my experience and provide some general outline of what to expect. “How do I just talk about myself for an hour?”

I was very fortunate to have been invited to interview at five dental schools, all with very different interview day styles and atmospheres (click here to check out some of my initial thoughts about each school), so I do feel like I have a good idea of the spectrum of things to expect. I will not say I actually aced every single one of them by any means, and I definitely have some funny stories of my adventures (like waking up about 40 minutes before I needed to be AT the school – and still had to catch a cab in the city – and it rained ALL day – and they only really asked me if I had grown up on a farm – and somehow that’s where I’m going. HA!), but somehow they all liked me enough to offer me a seat in their class! The bottom line – and I know you’ll hear this from anyone – is to really BE YOURSELF. Admissions people do not want a rehearsed robot, someone overly cocky (or someone under-confident for that matter), and they don’t want you to be uber nervous like you might fear you’ll be. Relax, have FUN, and just have a normal conversation with your interviewers.

Here’s a breakdown on some of the things I did (or wish I did better) and things I tried to avoid.

  • Dress to impress (but not distract). Buy a nice suit and rock it. Girls, knee length pencil skirt and pants are both equally great. Not too flashy or low of a top (but you can still show a little personality with color or a subtle pattern). Closed-toe pumped are great, just keep in mind you will be walking A LOT on the tour of the school and throughout the day, so break those babies in. Guys – I can’t really help you as much, but just be on the conservative side, and make sure it’s ironed. I’d say stick to black or navy. Bring some kind of file folder/portfolio to collect papers or contact info they hand out and have paper to take notes on throughout the day and write down your questions for them. I had a slim, professional-looking, off-white leather shoulder bag that was the perfect size for my folder and minimal things I might need – phone, chapstick, makeup, bandaids in case of blisters, mints, floss for after lunch (this is a dental school interview after all), a mini water bottle.
  • Fix your hair/accessories in whatever way that will bother/distract you least. Keep jewelry to a minimum. If you typically wear glasses, don’t all of a sudden decide to wear your contacts. Or if you never wear glasses, don’t buy fake ones to look smarter. Please. I am normally about 60/40 glasses/contacts, so some interviews I wore my glasses and some I didn’t.. Girls, for hair I’d advise just something that keeps the front out of your face. I curled mine and wore it half up for some, low pony for some, and maybe just my front layers pinned to the side for one.
  • Get there earlier than you think you need to. Period. Always allow time for traffic/parking/walking/finding where you are actually supposed to be in the building. (Houston traffic = from Satan). You do NOT want to be late. This is kind of important.
  • Eat a good breakfast! Drink coffee if you normally do, but don’t overdo it (frequent bathroom breaks and the shakes are just inconvenient in a time like this). You know they always tell you that for standardized testing, finals, etc. Well this interview is the whole reason you had to take all of those standardized tests (aka MORE crucial to fuel up). You don’t want your stomach to speak louder than your confidence.
  • Be friendly towards your fellow interviewees. Getting to know everyone was one of my favorite parts of interview days! I guess I’m an extrovert from Texas, what can I say? It’s fun to see where everyone’s from, what dreadful undergrad exams they’re skipping to be there that day (or “Woah they’re married and have kids?”), and just to automatically have a lot in common with these folks that also are weird (I mean smart, compassionate, and driven) enough to want to be tooth docs, too. I remember at my Penn interview where we had a sheet of who everyone was and where they were from, a guy said, “Oh who’s from Baylor? That’s awesome!” Thank you, football, for that one. I also loved seeing some familiar faces that I’d shared interview days with at other schools and insisted we all add each other on Facebook to see where we would end up.
  • Know AS MUCH as you can about each school BEFORE you interview. Research! It’s pretty much a fact that there will be a time in the interview for YOU to ask THEM any questions about the program. Another FANTASTIC time to ask questions is when you’re with the current students maybe on the tour or at lunch. In my opinion, this is when you can find the MOST about a school. I carried a folder in with me with written questions on the inside panel that I wanted to ask each school. Some were the same, but some were specific to that school. Also they definitely might ask you why do you even want to go there? Be ready to schmooze talk em up. Seriously, show that you’ve done your homework. At one of my interviews, the FIRST thing she asked me was “What questions do you have for me?” Nothing about me or my application. We talked about the school and just about life in the city, what I liked about the program, and what her experience had been like on faculty for probably 95% of the interview time.
  • On the same lines, know if the interview will be “open file” or “closed file.” This means some schools’ interviewers will have read your entire application, all your essays, and all your letters of rec before talking to you. Other times, they might only be given your essays or letters of rec (without knowing your GPA, DAT, involvement in organizations). These give two very different scenarios because in an open file interview, it’s usually more about what might not be on your application or asking you to expand on something you wrote. For a closed file, I think it’s more just about your personality and ability to engage in the conversation. They’ll look at your numbers later. Also, some schools you’ll have just one interviewer and other places you might have multiple. The curveball I got thrown at Columbia was that it’s a one-on-one interview, but you’re all in one big room with your respective interviewers, so it kind of has a restaurant atmosphere of other people’s conversations. They did definitely have the best food, hands down. They treated us like royalty, and make it hard to turn down. Don’t choose your school based on the catered meal, though. There are more pressing issues.
  • Realize that your interviewers are real people, and oftentimes, actually dentists. They understand what we’re going through and maybe why we want to be in the fascinating field (and that they’ll all say is the best job in the world). They also probably have some things in common with you. I’m not kidding when I say that the vast majority of my interviewers were extremely friendly and easy to talk to. After the first 30 seconds, all nerves left! I talked about everything from Baylor football to religion classes/papers to cooking to triathlons to Panama to mission trips to city living to “growing up on a farm.” Some are more structured than others. You might get someone who has an actual list of questions they’re going through, or you might get someone that just wants to talk to you and let the conversation go wherever it will. Be prepared for both.
  • Have a clear, concise, and convincing answer to THE question, “So why do you want to be a dentist?” No-brainer, right? Even though it’s actually hard to exactly articulate sometimes, you need to have some serious thinking time before hand of how you will answer this one. Again, be honest and be yourself! It’s a good idea to have a friend or family member mock interview you with some typical questions you might could expect (Google dental school/med school interview questions and you’ll get plenty of ideas), but just don’t memorize exact answers. Have rough bullet points maybe, but be in the moment and talk naturally.
  • After you leave the interview day (maybe on the plane ride home or a post-interview coffee shop stop), take some time to sit down and maybe write down your raw, initial thoughts on the particular school. What did you love? What did you not like so much? How were the students and faculty? How were the facilities? Do you like the city it’s in (spend some time if you’ve never visited)? How scary are the tuition costs? Does it offer interesting opportunities for what you’re interested in (externships, research, community service, specialty exposure/encouragement, honors programs, etc)? It’s hard to describe, but you will have a clear feeling about each school right then and there before you have too much time to analyze everything months later (and trust me did I ever). Pen+paper+pros+cons are a sure way to get an idea of where you’re at. I truly loved all of my interview days and everyone I met throughout those months, but I still remember texting my mom right after my Penn interview as I was walking around THE quintessential college brochure campus in the cool drizzle struggling with my umbrella. All I said was “Mom. I realllllllllllly like Penn.” Why did I make it more complicated than it was? 😉

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Good luck to all of you, and if you have any more questions about the interview process, I’d be happy to help!

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the best kind of extravagance

straight

Friday morning I got a call from the all too familiar 215 area code number I recognized. I then walked into my aunt’s house where she and Mom were waiting for me at the computer to map out our cross country road trip and hotel stays with Irving Street, Philadelphia as the final destination. With tears still pouring down my face (I think they must have thought I had been in a wreck or something that would cause sad tears – but these were the joyous and overwhelmed kind of tears), I played them the voicemail saying that my scholarship to Penn had been increased to the maximum amount ($30k/year instead of $20k/year). That’s an additional $40k meaning I’ll be in that much LESS DEBT when I’m through and navigating the waters of post-professional school and new world of doctor-hood (read: a struggle). I really never expected anything to change or be updated with my financial situation just one month before classes start. I had contacted them early on in the summer after Dad’s passing just to simply ask if they could do anything else to help me in this extremely difficult transition, but they said all scholarships were finalized at that point.

{If you maybe missed this whole initial roller coaster decision and God’s crazy sense of humor and timing, read my post about it here.}

I am still in disbelief. I had just been complaining to Mom about an hour earlier about my frustration that grad students had to pay almost $500 annually for all-inclusive fitness center and group class access. “I didn’t budget that into my loan amount!” Throughout this whole process, I have still struggled to not only focus on the money part of becoming a dentist. I am SO excited about this next chapter, but it is definitely a big pill to swallow when I see those expected student budget sheets and my first tuition bill. I also know very strongly that it is not God’s desire for me to be so enslaved to money matters now or in the future, and I really don’t want my life after school (or residency) to be dictated by my loan balances. I want to surrender my finances to Him and be free to go and do what He’s placed on my heart for whatever season I’m in. I want to stay enthusiastic and willing to take even more leaps of faith to see my dreams to fruition, with Him guiding me each step – or I should say leap – of the way.

All those months of praying into this decision and doubting if my dream school where I really felt God leading me would financially be realistic even after I committed, and then God reminds me of his everlasting faithfulness and provision. AGAIN. All in HIS crazy surprising timing, which makes for some way better stories than I could ever write into my life. He so extravagantly gives to His children, and how often we forget that no dream is too far out of reach when He is the author.

My friend Danny said to me after I told him the insane news, “This will be the story you’ll tell someday when you give speeches.” I loved that so much, because I’m currently reading Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story. {I’ll talk more about that later – also how I crazy loved Blue Like Jazz.} If I would have never trusted God in the first place with this crazy idea to move across the country where I knew nobody and attend one of the top (and one of the most expensive) dental schools, I would have missed telling this twisty, surprising, and thrilling story that’s really just beginning.

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Needless to say, Mom and I celebrated with steak, red wine, AND dessert last night.IMG_7715

Bittersweet: pros and cons of moving across the country

With a little over four weeks left of summer before I make the big move, I thought I’d write a little bit about the things I’m most looking forward to and the things I’ll miss more than I’d like to admit. Having lived in the greatest state (some die-hards would say country) of Texas for all 22 of my years, it is finally starting to hit home that I will be a resident of the different, far off state of Pennsylvania in about a month. More people than I can count give me the “Are you crazy? How could you leave Texas? Ever?” response while some friends are super stoked for me to adventure out of the comfort zone of home. Oh, and Penn Dental is one of the top schools in the country and UPenn’s entire academic system is a world leading institution. That’s sort of why I chose to attend there. Living in a cool new city is just the cherry on top. And it’s not Penn State 😉

Here are just a few of my thoughts about it all.

Philadelphia Skyline

PROS

  • All things new. I dig change.
  • Seasons. 4 SEASONS. In one year and not one day. Yes, I know one of them is uber cold. Still, seasons other than constant sweating for at least half the time and looking out for the random ice storm or great flood the other half.
  • Urban living in a city full of young professionals. Even though Waco is much bigger than my hometown, it’s a little far from actual city life.
  • Open minded people. I know it will be a huge change from the Bible belt and far right wing conservatism of East Texas, but I welcome other ideas and opinions and having intelligent conversations about big issues without anyone blowing up. I’m not saying college turned me into an all-out liberal by any means, but I can still value people with different backgrounds and views. I will still holdfast to Truth no matter where I live. The God of Atlanta, TX and Waco, TX is the same God of Philadelphia, and I’m excited about learning to trust in Him more than ever, especially when it’s not the cultural norm like I’ve always known.
  • Foodie heaven – Philly is definitely on the culinary rise and it’s way more than just cheesesteaks.
  • Car-free and bike-loving life. Goodbye to buying gas and hello to everyday cardio.
  • Proximity to NYC, DC, Boston and other cool places along the East Coast. Instead of driving for 12 hours and still not being out of TX in some places, I can hop on a bus and be in NYC in about an hour and a half. DC about the same. I can also meet up with my fellow East Coast pals like Jenna or Danny in Boston, Dusty in NYC, and anyone else who I convince to move this way in the future. I’m looking at possibly making it to a day of the Food Network Wine and Food Festival in NYC this fall or catching tix to see my man Jimmy Fallon or finally a Broadway. You know, in all my spare time outside of studying my brains out…

CONS

  • Y’all already know I’m sad about it. Tex Mex. Read: jitas and ritas as I know it.
  • Other people not saying “Y’all.” (see above for indication of frequency of use) And everyone knowing me as the one from Texas and commenting on my sweet, Southern accent that I don’t even think is that bad. It can be a pro, too I guess…Everyone loves a Southern belle, right?
  • Being so far from most of my family and friends. I’ve got a new nephew coming in T minus one month, and I know I’ll miss my mama from day one after being home with her all summer. Waco won’t be a quick road trip away and all my friends in Dallas, Houston, or Austin will only feel close if I read their letters.
  • Having to find a new church home and spiritual community after my incredible four years at my church in Waco with some of the best people I know. I know this one will be tough and may very well take longer than I’d like.
  • Shiner Bock, Texas BBQ, and Blue Bell. I know Blue Bell is questionable for everyone right now, but what about real BBQ and small town Texas-made Shiner? Someone please tell me it can be found in the Northeast.
  • Football. I really want to go to something like a Penn vs Harvard football game and laugh and tell all my Texas people about what a joke it was. Ivy League vs Big 12? Please. Football games, and especially college football Saturdays, in the South are like nothing else. Sic ‘Em Bears. #OneTrueChampion (Oh how I wish I could come to Ft Worth this fall)
  • Everything else I’ll only realize I miss once I’m gone and a plane flight away. Also, I am so going to be one of those people in the airports on Christmas Eve because we have class/clinic until the 23rd. What is that even?

Nevertheless, I’m beyond pumped for my new adventure! I’m just trying to not think about the actual “school” part at the moment…

The Monday Mission Project, Part 5: Me

Now that we’ve reached the other side of this series I called The Monday Mission, I really do hope for anyone that has been reading that you gained something out of it like I did. Even though this project was focused on others’ perspectives on how they live out their walk with Jesus in the everyday workplace, I really found myself internally processing their responses. I realized how much I have in common with all these people in my life while having my own unique ideas on the topic as well. The body of Christ is like that, isn’t it? Perfectly synchronized as a whole, but as you look closely at each component they each have a specific role. I believe that is just what God has in mind as he gives us all our own perfectly tailored gifts and leads us down different career paths. If every single Christian worked directly in churches or the mission field, who would be the people out bringing Jesus to the worlds of business, medicine, the arts, or engineering? In my Christology class we often take a few minutes at the end of lectures discussing how do we apply what we learn about the person of Jesus in this academic and interpretative setting into our everyday pedestrian lives. How can we take what we read in the biblical text and really let the words and heart of Jesus be an overflow to others, specifically when talking about our profession?

In thinking back on the various featured posts in the series, here are a few things that really struck me from each of the interviewees:

Megan & Stanley: Simple prayer is powerful, embrace changing seasons of life, flexibility is invaluable, and don’t put God in a box. The Holy Spirit can work through any and all situations, so be bold when he’s leading you.

Chelsea: Dream big with God, and be moldable enough to realize when he has something different (and far better) in mind for you ever did for yourself. Being a disciple for Jesus often involves creativity and physically being his hands to serve the least of these.

Jason: As a doctor, my patients and my staff can equally be my ministry. When they are in a vulnerable and anxious state, I can extend the peace and love of Jesus to them. Getting the chance to partner with God in healing really gets me pumped.

Danny: The worlds of business and politics desperately need Christian leaders to step up and be bold. It is definitely possible to be an ambassador for Christ in the corporate workplace if you remain centered on the things of God and understand that businesses can be some of the most powerful agents for change. Embrace new and exciting opportunities for where God is leading next.

Anyone that knows me knows I’m a HUGE Jon Foreman fan. Not only has his music been so integral in my life, but he just has a way of speaking truth and articulating his thoughts so beautifully surrounding difficult topics. He was asked (more than once I’m sure) in an interview where would Switchfoot classify their music in terms of specific genre. Are they rock, pop, “Christian?” They often are seen as an outcast to these genres simply because a lot of the time they aren’t willing to stamp a label on their art. Jon responded with the following explanation of “why Switchfoot won’t sing ‘Christian’ songs” that I absolutely LOVE and think is very relevant to our conversation surrounding career path or vocation. To read the full response click here.

“Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty…So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others.” – Jon Foreman

When I think about how I will use my future career as a dentist or surgeon to serve God and the people I’ll meet every day, I love that I never have to feel like I’m being any less “spiritual” or “Christ-like” than my friends going through the discipleship school or moving across the world to bring the gospel to the nations. Who are we to limit how God can work or who he can work through?

IMG_3872I can’t wait to use my platform as a doctor to make an impact on the kingdom. I know each and every one of my patients will be someone I can show Jesus to through the way I genuinely care and provide the best treatment for them. If the Holy Spirit is calling me to approach my staff or other doctors I might be working with about their relationship with God or pray with them on a regular basis, I hope that I will respond boldly. I look forward to serving globally and providing dental care to those who have never seen a dentist and letting them know they are seen and they are known by the Creator of the universe. I pray that I will wake up on early Monday mornings and be filled with joy and purpose, knowing that I’m going to work that week to live out my mission.

The Monday Mission Project, Part 3: Dr. Jason Beck

So far I’ve really enjoyed this interview series and getting to hear additional insight from so many of the incredible people I know about how they serve God through their career, day in and day out. Today’s post in The Monday Mission Project (if you’re just joining us check out the intro here) is featuring Dr. Jason Beck, DDS, MD, and it is an especially relevant one to include since he’s my main professional mentor in the world of dentistry (and fellow doctor colleague in about four to ten years). What he does every day is basically what I want to do one day! First things first: four years of dental school. Then if I’m crazy enough (let’s face it, we all know I am) and do decide down the road to specialize I’m looking at another four to six years of postdoc training. I am going in with an open mind regarding specializing or not, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love surgery or couldn’t see myself doing this everyday. He is a practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeon here in Waco, and I first met him two summers ago when I was getting some more shadowing hours in with another general dentist in town. I had actually called his office asking the receptionist if I could come observe with no real guaranteed set up before I ran into him having lunch with the dentists I was originally shadowing. He told me to immediately call back and say that he personally had met me and would love for me to come observe at his office for a few days. Needless to say those few days turned into once or twice every week and then eventually the same thing for the entire next summer. I have written a couple times on my experiences working with him (click here or here to read about it), but long story short, he’s great and I have so much respect for him. I consider him, his wife, and his three adorable boys basically my Waco family. He’s not only an exceptional and compassionate doctor, Dr. Beck is a successful and humble business owner, a godly leader for his family and staff, and a sincere voice of wisdom in my life. I can ask him anything about dental school, residency, running a practice, etc, and know he’s going to give me a genuinely honest answer and not sugar coat anything. He also is constantly encouraging me to lean not on my own understanding but to trust in the Lord with his plan for my life. He understands my big dreams and affirms I really do have what it takes. Seeing how Dr. Beck has surrendered his career to God and how in turn God has been faithful to keep his promises, I can only become more excited to see how my career as a dentist will be used for God’s glory.

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1. Describe the process of ultimately choosing to pursue dentistry and oral surgery for your career. How did God lead you into this profession along the way and when did you know you were really walking in his calling on your life?

As a child, I have always felt like I would have a job that would be highly respected and financially lucrative as well. I didn’t know what that would be, however, this had propelled me to excel in everything along the way to eventually make this a reality. Into college, I had always enjoyed the sciences more than anything else. I think because there was always a tangible product that came from scientific work and it is the scientists who I always admired more so than the great thinkers and writers. Scientists were doers and they made things happen. Eventually, I explored the health sciences from physical therapy, to medicine, and ultimately dentistry. Dentistry was particularly appealing to me because it was very hands on work that works well for us ADD individuals. I also felt that the verse in 1 Thess 4:11 was speaking to me about my career choice. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to work with your hands as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anyone.” Dentistry appeared rewarding, fun, and to provide an independence that other careers could not offer. In dental school, I had an even stronger desire to attain all these things in the greatest amount and oral surgery seemed to be the next great challenge for me. I knew that it was where I was supposed to be, because logic would say that general dentistry can provide everything I could possibly want. Nevertheless, there was a thrill I found in doing surgery, that’s it. God speaks to me in many ways, but at this point he simply wanted me to “enjoy life, and have it abundantly.”

2. How do you practically show the love of Jesus through your work and be a light to the people you interact with everyday? How do you see yourself serving God and others through your profession on a day-to-day basis?

I have had people tell me, “I know you’re a believer because I see Jesus in you.” There is no better complement. Providing a calmness before surgery and reflecting the Love of Jesus to a phobic patient has a profound effect on a person in a vulnerable state. I have prayed with patients, quoted scripture to them, and simply cared and showed compassion for them because that is what Jesus taught us as his children. As a business owner, though, I could be that for my patients and viewed as a hypocrite to my staff if I am not consistent. I see my staff as my ministry as much as my patients. They don’t know it, but they are prayed for all the time and I hope that when non-believing employees see something admirable in me, it will point them to Him.

3. What opportunities, big or small, has your career given you to partner with God and make an impact for his kingdom that you wouldn’t have had otherwise if you weren’t doing what you are.

Similar as the previous question. Patients are in a vulnerable, fearful state when undergoing a surgery, so they are looking for someone to put their trust in and lead them through this stressful situation. When things go well for them and they try to show gratitude, I can point to Jesus. My kids pray for my patients every night, so I can tell them that, which makes an impact on their kingdom experience. Additionally, on more global scale, I have been able to provide care to those in third world countries whose only encounter with a physician in life is the one who came delivering the good news of Jesus while tending to their physical needs. This could impact their beliefs for not only their life but generations of isolated families after them.

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4.Describe how your specific gifts and talents God’s given you correlate with your profession.

I have always been a confident person who can make decisions quickly and actually become energized during periods of elevated stress. These have proven to be advantageous to me during an arduous training period and continued profession with “high stress” that comes from putting a patient’s health and well-being in your hands.

5. What do you love most about your job?

I love being able to heal, whether from an ailment, a pathology, or a phobia. To have a patient walk out of the office with exceeded expectations.

6. How do you stay enthusiastic/passionate and find the motivation to continue to work diligently for his glory?

I count my blessings everyday. When I do, I am reminded that all I have comes from him anyway and therefore, not squander my talents that my Master gave to me. (Matt 25:14)

7.What advice would you give to college students who are wondering how they can serve God and be the hands and feet of Jesus through their careers even if it’s not directly in ministry, missions, the church, etc.?

God doesn’t call you to do what you are “good” at or what you love. He calls you to simply obey whatever it is and wherever it is that he has planned for you at the time. I do believe that he gives you certain desires in your heart and truly wants you to have everything your heart desires. But if you seek him in the little decisions along the way, you will have a deeper trust in Him for your future and true contentment will follow.IMG_2788

Another big thanks to Jason, and the next post will be the fourth and final feature!

Shameless plug – Any friends in Waco that need your wisdom teeth out or dental implants? Look no further than this guy. Plus, I might even be there to hear what you have to say post-anesthesia 🙂

Fearfully made [and why I’m a biology major]

With something like sixty college credit hours of science classes under my belt, I guess I’ve gained my fair share of knowledge about how the world (and everything in it) works. Every single class obviously brings its challenges (gluconeogenesis or sympathetics anyone?), but I couldn’t imagine studying anything else but the intricate and incredible functioning of living things, especially when it comes to the human body. Last semester I took an intense histology course, I’m now in microbiology, and I’m still leading sections as a TA for the upper level human anatomy lab I took last year. I’ve felt a renewed sense of awe with our God the Creator with every lecture and lab session as a science major. I will never understand how so many people make science and faith contradicting aspects of life. I could have a friendly [heated] discussion about that for days with anyone, and I don’t have any personal political or religious agendas – simply infinite wonder rooted in a scientific, finite mind. Sure there are days when I seriously question why I chose to take this narrow, long, and many times uphill road.  There are more days,  though, when the more I study the more my fascination grows. I am certain that I found my passion of what I truly love.

  • The miraculous architecture of the bones of the skull that form foramina allowing vessels and nerves to reach and leave the brain.skull
  • Microscopically perfect arrangements of microtubules to form cilia, giving cells movement and filtration.microtubule
  • The insanely consistent physiology of action potentials and nerve synapses behind every single thought and motion.action potential
  • The unbelievable characteristics and design of bone tissue that make processes like osseointegration possible – which I’ll get to witness every day in my career.implant
  • A perfectly synchronized enzyme orchestra in glycolysis to fuel literally everything our bodies are doing at this very second.gly

I am confident that dental school will bring immensely more of these moments when my brain says “WOW.”

May we never lose our wonder.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” – Psalm 139:13-16 ESV

“Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising.”

I’m returning to the blogging world after a month of a holiday hiatus. Isn’t it funny how when I actually had more time to write over Christmas break, I don’t even write one post? Well, this is my insanely brief overview:

Naps on naps. Pinterest. Baking. Shopping. Family time in the country. Guitar. Resting in The Word. Ringing in 2015 with a night out in uptown Dallas. Crying in AT&T stadium at the final score of the Cotton Bowl (my last game as a Baylor student). Feeling 22. Deciding on dental school. Declining other schools. Committing to another school. Receiving the scholarship I’d been praying for for months. Withdrawing previous acceptance and officially committing to being a class of 2019 “Penntist.”

Let’s just say maybe why I didn’t have time to blog was because my mind was highly preoccupied with this obvious roller coaster. I quite possibly have never felt more all over the place in my life than I have in the past 45 days (it was way harder than my up until the last minute college decision). I’ve tried to update on my blog with my specific thoughts occasionally throughout this long, stressful, but exciting process simply because I want to be able to look back and see how God was leading me along the way and to have that same feeling that I have now about going to Baylor for undergrad – that the fact that I ever was torn between schools is actually funny now. So this is mainly for me to read a few years from now maybe as I’m finishing up D4 and being so incredibly grateful for God’s provision and that I made the decision that I did. If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you know Penn was my dream school where I really saw myself thriving and the stepping stone to reaching my personal and career goals in the future. It is also one of THE most expensive schools in the country. Well, crap. My mom always said I had champagne taste…

After finals were over and I had a chance to hash everything out with my mentor and then my parents when I came home, I had finally come to terms with the financial implications of going to where I had really felt led to go for so long. I was going to Penn, I was going to be in a heck of a lot of debt, but I wasn’t going to regret it.

That night I “decided” I felt so sure that it was the right decision. The following days, though, ALL I could think about was what THAT kind of debt would look like for a chunk of my life, and that I would in fact regret being an Ivy League trained doctor struggling to make everything work financially. It’s really twisted if you think about it. I set Penn to the side for awhile and really tried to imagine myself at Baylor and Houston. Before, I was so torn between the two and just never really had any peace about choosing either. I talked to several friends at both and reached a new decision that UTSD-Houston would be the best fit and so much more realistic than going to Penn without a scholarship. That week was mostly spent trying to convince myself of all the great reasons to go to Houston. It was OK to turn down Penn simply because of the price, a friend reassured me. Of course initially I was disappointed. Everything before just felt like a tease. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat angry at God. Why would I have gone to interviews and been accepted at Columbia and Penn – and felt so strongly drawn to Penn specifically – and then it all just be taken away. I was at the point where I just wished I would’ve never even applied to those schools, and it would’ve been a LOT easier decision if I didn’t get in to either. I tried to “get over” the idea of going to Penn, and every day I honestly was getting more OK with the idea of being in Houston next year. This was, after all, an incredible blessing to even be in this position of getting to choose where to go. I even took a trip down there to visit my friend and planned on looking at Houston housing options. I had lost that hope and expectancy that I felt all throughout December of the chance of still getting a scholarship to Penn.

Then things got thrown upside down that same day I was driving back to Waco from my side road trip to H-town. Earlier when I had told my family about my decision to go to Houston, I explained it as an “unless…” situation. Penn’s deadline wasn’t until the 15th of January, so obviously I was still going to just see if anything happened in that next week or so before the door was officially closed. Like I said though, I was pretty much over it and finding peace in my Houston decision. I had realized maybe a lot of me wanting to go to Penn was my pride and feeling that I “deserved” to go to my top choice after working so hard in college. I had to put away my selfishness and turn all of this back over to God and his plan for me. I was going out to dinner with my friend that night to my favorite pizza joint, and she asked me how I was feeling with the recently changed decision. I explained how I was still a little disappointed that it all came down to financial reasons. It wasn’t my plan A, but plan B is sometimes the best thing that can happen. As I’m saying this, I look at my phone, and I see that it’s the Philadelphia area code that I had been sure to memorize. Oh hi there, plan A. My first thought was they were calling to ask about my decision since I hadn’t sent in my deposit or really updated them on my situation. My other thought was that they were calling and going to offer me the lowest scholarship, still not helping enough for me to be able to change my mind. I knew that if they would’ve ever called and given me the max scholarship that I’d go in a heartbeat. If it ended up being the middle level amount, it would be the most complicated. I would have to seriously think about it and be SURE I would be making the right decision, whatever that was. So of course, guess what happened? Yep, the complicated route. All I could do that night was say WOW WOW WOW it actually happened? And laugh. Lots of laughing at God’s sense of humor and my crazy life as well as thinking how worn out everyone in my life was getting with me talking about all this back and forth nonsense.

At first I was so confused because of the timing and everything from the past couple weeks of me talking myself into Houston and JUST now beginning to get really excited about it. I read back through my prayer journal that night, though, and it was unreal how many times I specifically was yearning for financial provision if Penn was where He was leading me. Several times I also wrote things along the lines of “I know you LOVE to surprise me, so I am trusting it will all be in your perfect timing”,  and “I know you make the impossible possible.” There was also the powerful Sunday at church on trusting God with finances when I went to the front to be prayed for the week before I heard anything about acceptances. After taking the weekend to really keep praying about it and talking to my family and close friends about it who had been with me through the entire dramatic saga, I realized that there was no way that all this happened for me to turn it down and still go to Houston. This Dean’s scholarship was exactly what I had been believing for from the beginning. My creator knows the desires of my heart inside and out before I even ask. I have been so constantly reminded in all this that his dreams for me are far greater than my own. This is only the beginning of a crazy adventure of the next season: my life as a twenty-something Dr-to-be in a major Northeast city where I will be stretched academically, mentally, and spiritually. I am leaving my unbelievable community of friends here (who have been some of my biggest cheerleaders in all this), my family who has never stopped supporting me and my crazy big dreams since day one, “y’all,” Tex-Mex, and a lot more. As scary as all that is, I am beyond pumped for what’s ahead: receiving a dental/medical education like no other, an entirely new city full of ALL kinds of people that I would never have met if I stayed in Texas, learning exactly what I will be doing in my career impacting people’s lives everyday, 119 of the most interesting/fun/smartest people that I will ever know and get to call classmates, actual SEASONS praise the Lord, and meeting my new best friends (or…WHO knows, something more??) for life. University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and all that 2015 has in store, I’m coming for ya.

All I wanted for Christmas

All I wanted for Christmas

The title quote is one from Shauna Niequist that I even posted on Facebook on New Year’s Eve as an encouragement and hope for all my friends – especially those of us in the middle of major life changes – in 2015 (before all of the crazy twists actually happened).

“Everything is interim. Everything is a path or a preparation for the next thing, and we never know what the next thing is. Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially. We can dig in, make plans, write in stone, pretend we’re not listening, but the voice of God has a way of being heard. It seeps in like smoke or vapor even when we’ve barred the door against any last-minute changes, and it moves us to different countries and different emotional territories and different ways of living. It keeps us moving and dancing and watching, and never lets us drop down into a life set on cruise control or a life ruled by remote control. Life with God is a dancing dream, full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we’ve said we’ll never do. And with the surprises comes great hope.”

Trust me, I’m (going to be) a doctor.

I’m currently seizing every opportunity to stay distracted from studying any more tonight for my last two (cumulative and far-from-easy) finals Monday and Tuesday, and I’ve got just a few things on my mind that I really need to get in writing. Ok, more like 732 things.

Yes, there was Thanksgiving, family time, and food galore.

HOME

HOME

Of course there were ample Elijah photo shoots

Of course there were ample Elijah photo shoots

I even completed my music/photography Psalms class project with these models

I even completed my music/photography Psalms class project with these models

There were also never-ending Sic Em’s, a little thing called College Gameday, tears shed at my last Baylor football game, and a depressed, bitter, nonstop Twitter feed about finishing at #5 (but still ahead of TCew).

Best way to end my college football experience

Best way to end my college football experience

Seniors (barely survived) ran the Line in McLane Stadium for our last game ever

Seniors (barely survived) ran the Line in McLane Stadium for our last game ever

Being down on the field with all the seniors was definitely something I'll never forget

Being down on the field with all the seniors was definitely something I’ll never forget

Started from the top, and oh yeah we're still here. #BacktoBack #Big12Champs

Started from the top, and oh yeah we’re still here. #BacktoBack #Big12Champs

Johnnyswim rocked around a Waco Hall Christmas on 5th tree, and of course Abner and Amanda serenaded all of Wacotown.

Sexy people making beautiful music >>>> studying for my last management exam

Sexy people making beautiful music >>>> studying for my last management exam

Finals have once again arrived and invaded the hearts of students, dueling it out with the Christmas spirit and holiday cheer all across campus.

Senioritis is REAL

Senioritis is REAL

The news that beats ALL of that, though, is that on the early morning of December 1st, the culmination of stressful nights studying, hours of shadowing, and countless sacrifices to achieve my academic and career goals came together and Galatians 6:9 became my reality: I’M GOING TO BE A DENTIST and you can call me Dr. in a few short (or long) years! Starting at midnight and throughout the day, I received acceptance offers for a seat in the Class of 2019 at each of the five schools where I interviewed: TAMU/Baylor (Dallas), UTSD (Houston), UTHSCSA (San Antonio), Columbia (NYC), and UPenn (Philly)! I am once again overwhelmed with God’s favor in my life and am beyond grateful for every single person who has supported me as family, friends, professors, and mentors through this journey (that is just really starting).

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And no, I don’t just want to go to Penn because of their brilliantly witty name for themselves…

Being offered one of the few coveted spots out of thousands of applicants was more humbling than I could have ever imagined it would be. They all chose little me from small town East Texas to represent their school and the future of the dental profession. That once-far-off, big dream I had busted it for the last three years for had finally turned into tangible emails, phone calls, and letters.

I’m also incredibly proud of my pre-dental friends and classmates that have been on this journey with me from the beginning. Almost all of the Baylor seniors that applied this cycle got into all three Texas schools and some out of state schools too! If this was like a professional sports draft day, we all swept it first round. Of course we tossed aside our studies (for the worst last exam week of the semester) for the night and went out to toast to our new student dentist status and the fact that we actually know what we’re doing after graduation and are no longer “just biology majors” hoping all that work wasn’t for nothing. Rest assured moms and dads, (one day) we will be financially secure.

Smiling's our favorite :)

Smiling’s our favorite 🙂

Cheers! Best group of future tooth docs

Cheers! Best group of future tooth docs

Speaking of finances, if you read my last post you know Penn Dental was my top choice, and I was desperately hoping to receive a substantial scholarship that would make my decision easy. Well, when they called, I was sadly not informed of that. This is not to say that all have been awarded necessarily, and if students that did receive one decline Penn’s offer due to committing to another school or receiving a full-ride military scholarship, those are immediately recycled to be given to other qualified (ahem, PICK ME) students. My heart did sink when I wasn’t one of those lucky first round award recipients. Here I am in this incredible and EXTREMELY fortunate situation of having to pick my school instead of praying for months that ONE picks me. However, now my decision is anything but easy. I have a full 30 days from when I heard for Texas schools (Houston or Baylor, I did go ahead and decline SA) and about 45 days for Penn until I have to inform the school (aka send a deposit check) to secure my golden ticket. That makes things a lot more complicated than I would have hoped due to the timing of things and not wanting to have to put down two deposits potentially to buy more time. My heart is really still set on Penn and I am believing for breakthrough. I also know that complete surrender of my dreams right now is all I can do. I’m praying that I would feel and hear God’s guidance in a fresh and powerful way in the coming days. I know He is the one that has brought me this far and opened door after door for me to walk in this calling on my life to serve people with joy and impact their lives in a very real way.

No matter what happens, this time next year I will be finishing up my first semester as a dental student, and I’m all smiles because of that.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will ACT.” – Psalm 37:4-5

Oh Hey There Winter

Over the past couple of weeks, and especially the last few days, the unpredictable Texas “winter” has definitely made its presence known. When the temperature drops, the [typical college girl] pumpkin cravings rise. I’ve whipped up these pumpkin protein pancakes topped with almond butter (similar to these but pumpkin substituted for the banana) one class-skipping morning and another batch of health-ified pumpkin dark chocolate muffins, perfect to freeze for a week of breakfasts or snacks on-the-go.

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Just so you know, this is a downright delightful combo for a late-night study snack.

Something about the colder weather makes me really cherish my cozy morning quiet time (still in my pjs and fuzzy socks) of reading, worship music, coffee (2 cups if I’m lucky), and filling up physically and spiritually before the noise of the day.

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Slow cozy mornings are my favorite

Changing seasons also means the end of the semester is close and registration time – my LAST time in college at that. Weird. Crazy. Scary. Exciting. Sad. Thrilled. Busy as ever.

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Not the easiest breeze of a senior year they say you’ll have your last semester…

Last weekend I enjoyed a beautiful dinner (my homemade broccoli cheese, her homemade bread, and toasted salami asiago sammies for dunking) and a concert of my absolute favorite on campus a cappella group, VirtuOso. You can’t beat a night of good-for-the-soul food, friends, and ridiculous music.

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Exactly my definition of weekend

This past week I successfully managed to pull off my histology lab case study presentation, an ameloblastoma. Finally I get to talk about things like teeth development and abnormal oral histology, and considering I’m actually going to school forever to focus on this tiny region of the body, that makes studying it enjoyable.

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50 Shades of Grey aka dental radiology

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Yeah, that’s definitely not normal

Despite the crazy low temps for this time of year, Baylor ASDA ladies suited up ready for our last flag football game of the season and ended with another win (and yes, a forfeit by the other team does in fact still count as a W in my book). I’m not sure when I’ll get another chance to play quarterback and channel my inner Bryce Petty, but I’m hoping dental school intramurals/olympics?

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Let’s at least celebrate no broken fingers needing surgery this year!

Friday night we celebrated my lovely roommate Chelsea’s 22nd birthday a couple days early. I was pretty proud of my gift-giving this year. I knew she loved author/blogger Donald Miller, so I got her his best-selling book Blue Like Jazz. She’s also a big fan of theologian Henri Nouwen, so I found an anthology of sorts drawing from his major works. I topped it off with a bottle of her favorite Cabernet brand, and we had a fun dinner out with the girls – complete with watching Bridesmaids, red wine, and red velvet cake balls back at The Roost (our self-titled apartment) afterwards.

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Her appropriate Insta quote of our favorite movie: “This is such a stone-cold pack of weirdos and I am so proud!”

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We do glamour photo shoots so well

While shopping for her gifts at Barnes and Noble, I snagged this classic illustrated volume beauty on sale for a whopping $7.98! This was THE medical/anatomy teaching text for med students starting in the mid-1800s, and I was thoroughly geeking out about owning this beautiful piece of art and medical history. This Gray came way before Meredith and McDreamy.

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It’s so beautiful and will have a place on my future doctor bookshelf forever.

A SHORT TWO WEEKS UNTIL I MIGHT FIND OUT WHAT MY LIFE WILL LOOK LIKE FOR THE NEXT 4 YEARS. What are my thoughts since my last post about the overwhelming world of dental school decisions? Basically, I am praying HARD for a Dean’s scholarship to Penn, and if I receive one that lovely December 1st day, I could not turn it down. There, I said it. Penn Dental is now my “#1,” folks. If God closes that door, then I’d be more than happy to attend Baylor College of Dentistry (only a few points ahead of UTSD Houston at the moment).

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All you need is…[a scholarship]

 One last tidbit of blog-worthy news. Tomorrow, my friends, I will yet again get to witness a night of pure musicianship with my bros Switchfoot. It’s crazy thinking that about this time last year, I saw them at Baylor and wrote about Jon reading my tweet on stage. Call me lame, but I’m preparing myself for if I cry tomorrow night. Not only because their music recalls to mind so many vivid memories throughout my entire life, but mix that with the ball of emotions that is college senior year and it’s bound to happen. Oh, and just because Baylor and Waco are awesome and bring phenomenal music to this city, Gungor is also coming along to play part of the show. Talk about a REAL music lover’s paradise…

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Forever fan-girling

Well that’s it for my catchup from lack of blogging the past two weeks. I’ve got to return to physics, my perfect Mocha, and a cozy night at Dichotomy.

The soundtrack to my college studies

If you know me at all, you know music is a huge part of my life that I could never go without. I’ve written about life-changing concerts, my family’s strong musical roots, my love for singing, and picking acoustic guitar back up this summer. Music is often how I connect with others (if I find out we have common tastes, I can talk to you for hours with unlimited suggestions to check out), deal with certain emotions/situations,  and “when words fail, music speaks.” Ever since the gloriousness that is Spotify came around, discovering new music and finding incredible playlists is basically how I survive the little thing called studying. My friends and I are constantly sharing the latest up and coming band with each other. Two concerts I’ve been to this year (and one next month) have been for artists I just happened upon on Spotify or through word of mouth, listen to on repeat for weeks, see their tour dates, and spontaneously plan a trip to see them. Whether I’m up to my eyeballs with histology notes, cranking out a five or ten page religion paper the night before it’s due (which definitely happened last week for the first time in my college career), or trying to stay awake studying for my mundane business class exams, the music I listen to when I study has played a crucial role in my life as a college student.

All credit for my GPA goes to coffee, colored pens, Spotify, and comfy flannel

All credit for my GPA goes to coffee, colored pens, Spotify, and comfy flannel

If I leave for Common Grounds, Dichotomy, Lula Jane’s, the library, or BSB without headphones and a fully charged computer, studying is a lost cause. I literally can’t study in silence. The loud chatter of sorority girls or stressed freshman isn’t exactly music to my ears, either. Side note to Mom and Dad, Beats or Bose for Christmas??? After all, I would use them all throughout the dental school years.

I’ve recently been hooked on Spotify’s “Indie Folk for Focus” instrumental playlist, but I actually just made a new one called “Study Sounds” tonight. It’s currently sitting at about 29 hours of nonstop songs: more than enough to fuel a full couple of nights hitting the books (or Powerpoint printouts and colored pens – I haven’t cracked open a textbook since I don’t know when). What’s on this A+ mix?

Procrastinated book reviews for Psalms and Wisdom Lit just don't happen without some serious study tunes

Procrastinated book reviews for Psalms and Wisdom Lit just don’t happen without some serious study tunes

Andrew Belle, Colony House, Johnnyswim, Ivan & Alyosha, John Mark McMillan, The Head and the Heart, Sarah Jarosz, Nickel Creek, Jon Foreman, Fiction Family, The Oh Hello’s, Knox Hamilton, Fleet Foxes, Penny and Sparrow, Jon McLaughlin, Ben Rector, Vampire Weekend, Jillian Edwards, Andy Davis

If any of your study playlists or iTunes in general are in a rut, I hope you’ll check some of these artists out. They won’t disappoint.

In other news, tomorrow marks 5 weeks until the first round of acceptances! It’s also when my motivation for this last year’s classes/GPA will probably take yet another hit for the worse. My pre-dent friends and I are already anticipating the big night out [*hopefully*] celebrating years of blood, sweat, and tears to get that coveted letter or phone call. For now I guess I’ve got to get back to those studies for yet another multiple test week…