Alum is off to dentistry

Mitchelle De Leon, Reporter

By Mitchelle De Leon



When former BC student Tuan Nguyen woke up on Dec. 3 last year, the first thing he needed to do was check his email to find out whether he got into dental school. Even before high school, Nguyen wanted to be a dentist.

As a student studying biology at BC over four years ago, Nguyen spent three years as a research assistant at the Kern Medical Center Emergency Department. Through his experiences, he learned that he preferred the work environment of a dentist.

“I like heavy interaction with patients, so being a pharmacist isn’t going to help me much,” he said.

Furthermore, his research position allowed him to improve his odds of dental school admission by working on research on bronchiolitis of infants.

“It’s giving students the opportunity to get their name on the research. By the time I transferred, I had two research publications with my name on it.”

When he transferred to UC Irvine, his job shadowing experience with a dentist further cemented his aspiration.

“Everything was very high tech,” he recalled.

Nguyen suggests that students should prepare for the Dental Admission Test, or DAT, as soon as students transfer, but he says that everyone should tailor it to their own study habits.

“After you transfer and you’re good at managing your time, you can study for the DAT. Most students can’t do that because they have to study for midterms. Studying for the DAT is hard because it is a combined six hour test.”

He recommends students study approximately six months before taking the DAT.

“You will forget what you studied a year before the test,” he said.

At Irvine, he spent three years studying general biology with a minor in business management. He believes that this will benefit him as a dentist in the future.

“At some point, I might open my own clinic or be a partner of my own clinic. You have to take care of a lot of paperwork, and you have to manage your own employees,” he said. “I know how to solve conflicts between employees in business. It has [made] me aware of insurance papers that I have to deal with in the future.”

As a first generation college student, Nguyen received a generous financial aid package.

“This is what I like about America. It’s giving students the opportunity to change their lives,” he said.

Nguyen said that many student do not understand how financial aid can actually assist them at a four year school even though the costs are higher.

“A lot of students here don’t understand that they will get more money when they move,” he said. “For example, [at Irvine] you can get 20 thousand dollars of financial aid to spend on housing and tuition.”

When Nguyen finally graduated from UC Irvine, he sent out his first round of dental school applications. However, he did not get any acceptance letters, which, according to him, shouldn’t stop students from applying again.

“It takes a couple of years to get in to dental school. I see a lot of students who applied three times or four times,” he said. “If it’s what you like, don’t give up on your dreams. Just follow it because it’s worth it.”

During the application process, he searched for jobs and found it difficult to find full-time jobs due to the economy. When he learned that he had not been accepted to any dental schools in his first round of dental school admissions, he decided to move back to Bakersfield and work as a transfer mentor on campus through BC’s STEM program. Nguyen, a former MESA student at BC, said he enjoys the position because he believed that students would benefit from his experiences.

“When I was at BC, there were no transfer mentors. A lot of my friends doubt they will survive when they transfer. They don’t understand how competitive the classes are,” he said. “I wish there was somebody like me before, and now I am that one, so I love this job.”

While living at home, he was able to reduce his costs and focus on studying for the DAT to improve his score. However, he admits that studying for the DAT can be challenging.

“You have to motivate yourself to study. Nobody can motivate you to study. Go back and study the books three times or four times,” said Nguyen.

He then decided to apply to 10 dental schools for his second batch of applications. He had even met students who applied to as much as twenty and thirty dental schools. Because he had previously applied for dental schools, he understood which schools fit him and which schools did not.

According to Nguyen, the cost of the application process added up to the tune of thousands of dollars. Each school’s application fee costs around $75. Additionally, each school had a secondary application, costing another $75. The DAT costs around $350. When he had to do an interview with a dental school, he had to travel, which involved flying to Florida, costing him $400 dollars. Furthermore, hotel and other transportation while at the interview increase the costs of the application process. He even decided to rent a car.

“You don’t want to risk taking a bus, so I suggest renting a car for the big day,” he said.

Because public schools in California don’t favor in-state students in dental school admissions, according to Nguyen, these schools are very difficult to get into.

“It’s very hard to get in to public schools in California. You have to compete with out of state schools. California doesn’t care where you’re from. If I can stay in California, I would stay in California.”

On Dec. 3 of last year, he finally found out that he had an acceptance letter from LECOM School of Dental Medicine in Bradenton, Fl.

With his admission letter came relief then worry, Nguyen recalled.

“Sigh of relief for the first hour…then I start to worry about it because LECOM has a different way of teaching,” he explained. “Dental schools are changing their way of teaching, more group discussions rather than big lectures.

“I was worried how I’m going to adapt to that learning style, but I’ll just hope for the best.”