Dental School Confidential

Nikita Shams - Dental Student at UCLA


I am an artist, so I wanted to have a career where I could incorporate both my hand agility and love for science. I rocked my Dental Admission Test (DAT) and applied to all the top schools in the US. I did my undergrad at UCLA in biology and had a great GPA,  but I was told that their dental school was the hardest to get into in the country. From the day I applied, I had already built a coping mechanism so I could brace myself when I got rejected. I planned to start transferring my credits to nursing school if I didn’t get in anywhere. The more alternative options I researched, the more I realized how much I wanted to be a dentist, and I started getting depressed. After two months of waiting, I finally got called to interview at the top two dental schools in the country. I remember I was in Jersey with my boyfriend driving in a convertible, the wind blowing in my hair. My phone rang with a 310 number and I screamed, “Oh my God, I got into UCLA!  I ended up accepting my spot at UCLA and just finished my first year of dental school.

There are a lot of stressed-out kids in college. Many students end up committing suicide because they can’t handle the pressure. My classmates always ask me how I am able to succeed in dental school and have a social life, and I tell them that time management and discipline are the top two things you need. A lot of people think that in order to succeed in grad school they need to be a slave to it, but I disagree. These are my prime years, and if I have the opportunity to have fun and network with people, I will take it over studying an extra five hours. Students think that they can work their butts off now and things ease up when they start work, but that’s not actually true. I motivate my classmates and remind them that they got accepted because they are brilliant. They are so used to cramming and studying nonstop, so I try to bring them back to reality.

People are bewildered that beauty and intelligence can go together. I was reluctant to post pictures of myself in a bikini when I entered dental school because I didn’t want to be judged as someone who is not serious about academics. I’ve stopped caring now and go out of my way to prove people wrong because I am confident in my intellect and what I can bring to the table. My professionalism is separate from my body image. I am a huge advocate of the idea that someone’s sex appeal is not mutually exclusive from their ability to be a successful healthcare professional.