Day in the Life at UCSF as a D1

The summer before coming starting dental school, I scoured the web for any information on what my life might look like for the next four years. I watched dental school vlogs, read blogs, scrolled through forums–and found that there really no “typical day” for a dental student. Schedules and routines vary between dental schools, between each year (D1, D2, D3, D4), and from student to student. None of those answers felt satisfactory and I was looking for some way to prepare or ready myself for what lay ahead. Looking back, I don’t think that knowing my future class schedule would adequately prepare me, but I still think it’s fun to get a glimpse into what’s in store! So I’ll be sharing what a day may look like at UCSF as a D1 student. But before I do, here are some things I’ve learned that I would tell my past self on how to prepare for dental school:

  1. Build good study habits. Know how you learn best! If you learn best by sitting in the front row during lecture to stay engaged, do so. If you learn best by watching lecture capture (if your school offers it), do so! Draw diagrams, make charts, read outlines. You know yourself best.
  2. Invest in hobbies outside of school. Dental school is tough and D1 can be especially busy, but don’t forget to take time to invest in activities, interests, and hobbies outside of school. Watch movies, train for a Spartan race, take dance classes, go hiking, pick up a new skill, or learn how to cook. School is important but it isn’t everything!
  3. Take it one day at a time. I sometimes find myself clicking through my calendar looking at deadlines, requirements, and assignments. It can feel overwhelming at times. Be mindful of what’s coming but don’t forget to enjoy what’s in front of you. Every day can be a new challenge but bit by bit, step by step, we all get through it!

Anyways, enough with the unsolicited advice. Here’s a look at a day in the life:


Wake up and get ready for the day! I like to have breakfast and some tea in the morning before heading to class. While it requires me to wake up a little earlier, it helps me wake up fully so I can hit the ground running.


Classes at UCSF start 10 minutes after the hour but when we’re in simlab in the mornings I like to get there a little early to set up and get all my stuff out of my locker. Today is operative so it doesn’t require quite as many materials as crown and bridge. I have a little trolley that helps me transport my stuff from the locker rooms into the simlab — it’s a lifesaver!



In operative today we’re doing a prep and amalgam restoration of #14 MODL+. This is the biggest prep and restoration to date! Though we’ll likely be working with composites for the majority of our careers, we learn doing amalgam restorations at UCSF to practice and develop our hand skills and learn the basics.  


Time for lunch! Lucky for us today there’s a lunch and learn — what’s better than learning about something new while eating some free food? Often different school organizations and groups will put on lunch and learns covering various topics and subjects. A great way to hear more about what’s happening on campus, find out how to get involved, or learn more about the profession of dentistry. Today we learned about community dentistry from Dr. Lin who shared encouraging words about his journey!


Refill on coffee to gear up for the afternoon.


We have lectures scheduled for the afternoon. Thankfully we get little breaks every hour between lectures! We’re currently in the cardiovascular unit — we’re learning about hematosis and other pathologies of the blood and circulatory system.


Classes are done, time to head home after a long, long day. I’ll usually take some time to unwind, it’s hard to dive straight into studying after so much lecture. Maybe watch some Netflix or YouTube and cook dinner before I study. Typically I’ll review the lectures from the day or look over past lectures. It’s important to stay on top of the material since there isn’t much time between exams.


I try to sleep as early as possible — got to get as much rest to wake up and do it all again tomorrow. Goodnight!