When I was applying to hygiene school I was dead set on attending the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. I had a four year degree from Howard University that cost as much as a small condo, Bentley coupe, or a triple bypass surgery. I was wallowing in this debt and I knew that my second degree would have to be inexpensive but provide substantial earnings.
The debt to income ratio for dental hygienists can be pretty awesome if you simply take the prerequisites at a community college and then complete the two year clinical education in a hygiene program. I took the extended Michael Jackson educational world tour because I considered physical therapy school initially and got a Bachelor of Science in health science. Although my Howard degree is not being used the credits I earned were used to apply to Maryland.
So after crying over spilled milk I counted my credits and blessings and researched D.C. area hygiene programs.
The rumor is that Maryland is an extremely difficult school to gain acceptance. People told me that I probably would not be accepted for a million different reasons.
The top UMSOD hygiene acceptance myths are:
1. UMSOD is not eager to diversify
2. they only accept 10 people a year
3. You have to be part unicorn
I, being the Preparation Patty that I am feverishly pursued acceptance at Maryland but also made plans B, C, L and T. My backup plans included, military, egg donation, and evading to China.
I created a google spreadsheet of all the area hygiene schools and collected information on their price, class size, and the length of each program. When I was applying the schools that I was considering were:
1. University of Maryland School of Dentistry
2. Howard University
3. Baltimore City Community College
4. Community College of Baltimore County
5. Fortis College
Fortis College is a private institution and had a brand new dental hygiene program. I did some research online and this school was over 30,000 dollars a year, had six week courses and offered an associates degree. Fortis does not require prerequisites. If you have completed the courses prior to acceptance you do not have to repeat them but if you have not you can be done in as little as 2 1/2 years. I ultimately chose to not apply to Fortis because the expense was too grand and the school was brand new. I needed a program with a great reputation and a low cost.
Community College of Baltimore County was also a brand spanking new program. The cost was excellent and the facilities were beautiful. The school requires an entrance exam called the TEAS Exam and basic science prerequisites.
Baltimore City Community College had an open house session that I attended. This school prides itself on having great scalers. They opened up the session with that declaration. The school has a great reputation and I agreed to apply there if I was not accepted to UMSOD.
Howard University is a historically Black university and my alma mater. I visited their open house and noticed that the hygiene department was very diverse. I did not love the facilities but I liked that the hygiene program was housed in the dental school. I ultimately decided that I already owed Howard University too many coins and should spread my debt around. Howard only offered a certificate and that was the nail in the coffin. I could not imagine doing all that work in exchange for a certificate.
The open house at Maryland was very warm and the instructors were visibly excited. I knew I had to be there. The facilities were by far the best out of all the other schools I visited. I applied to University of Maryland and completed my prerequisites, interview and prayers. All of my eggs were in one tiny little basket.
I was accepted to the university of Maryland and accumulated 34,000 dollars in debt and an education that will surely pay that off. I can count on one hand the number of tear worthy experiences I had there. I honestly had primarily good experiences. As a minority in dentistry certain levels of ignorance are to be expected unfortunately. Some dental students would assume that I was an employee because there were not many people that looked like me there. There was once a speaker who thought it was fair to display slaves on a plantation picking cotton and compare that to dental hygiene work. Our director addressed her which I appreciated. Those were my worst experiences at Maryland. There are too many amazing ones to list.
The teachers at UMSOD are invested in the profession and instill that in each of us. We were encouraged to be critical thinkers and to give back to the profession. It was a world class education at the world’s first dental school.
My top tips to students that are applying to hygiene school are:
1. Visit each school and talk to as many people as possible. The janitors and dispensary employees know a lot so greet them as you would the director.
2. Research your instructors you should be learning primarily from hygienists. Your instructors should be active in ADHA. Your education should be their bread and butter not their side hustle.
3. Determine a mantra. What is a quote you live by? This was asked during my interview and it really helped me to be steadfast in my pursuit of my education.
4. What is the dropout rate of your school? Some programs will fight to get you to the finish line and some schools will cash your check and tell you to reapply. Please ask this question at some point before you make your final decision, “How do you handle struggling students”.
5. Check the prerequisites. Most schools have one unique course that they want you to have prior to applying. Maryland required organic chemistry and BCCC requested biochemistry. Determine the unique courses so you do not miss one.
6. Do some soul searching before school starts. You are going to meet yourself in a new light. It helps if you know who you are initially.
Best wishes future D.C happy hygienists!
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