When you head off to dental school, you’ll likely be doing so around the same time that many of your peers are embarking on their own college adventures. You will soon find that life as a dental student is quite different from those enrolled in arts and humanities faculties. To ensure you’re prepared, keep the following five things in mind:

1. You’ll be working sooner than you think

Though you obviously won’t be extracting teeth in your first few weeks of class, you certainly will commence work as a student dentist well before you graduate. Many people choose to save on dentist bills by visiting student clinics. Though this can be daunting for some students, it is the best way to ensure you’re ready to step straight into professional dentistry the moment you graduate. So, take every opportunity you can get to accrue practical experience at your school’s student clinic.

2. Student loans are not to be taken lightly

When you take out a student loan, it’s easy for it to feel like free money since graduation seems so far away, and you don’t have to start paying it back until then. However, your loan (and all its interest) will become very real much sooner than you think.

Having student loans hanging over your head will impact every decision you make after graduation. Holidays may not be an option, you may find yourself sticking to a job you don’t like because it pays the bills. With this in mind, it’s worth looking into debt solutions well before you get into difficult financial territory.

3. You need to be more than just a dentist

You may be top of the class when it comes to theory, and you may know precisely how to perform a textbook extraction or root canal. However, when it comes to performing procedures on a real patient, you will soon find that the human element is just as important as your technical knowledge.

You’ll be dealing with fear, fidgeting, discomfort, and a whole host of other behaviors and emotions. The ability to make patients feel safe and comfortable is paramount. It’s also vital that you’re able to gauge people’s body language and understand when they need to readjust themselves, take a little break, or tell you something mid-procedure.

4. The workload for dental students is demanding

Dentistry is one degree in which you should avoid comparing your workload to that of your friends in other disciplines. You will likely be spending far more time in class and on campus than your peers. Even the holidays are usually shorter for dental students due to student clinics, so it’s important to be prepared to have less downtime during your studies. Get used to the idea now so you can effectively deal with FOMO (fear of missing out).

5. Graduation is about more than just grades

Though you will need to pass every class you take to graduate, you’ll also have a treatment quota to fulfill. Even if you finish top of the class in every subject, if you haven’t shown competency in the range of treatments required by your school, you won’t be allowed to graduate. Get ready for plenty of extractions, root canals, and crowns!

Though dental school is definitely demanding, it’s also a highly engaging and rewarding field of study. If you’re truly excited about a career as a dentist, your college experience will fly by far quicker than you think. Keep the points above in mind and enjoy the experience while it lasts.