How Abby Overcame an Inconsistent Study Schedule to Succeed

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Abby Puckett
29 AA

Meet Abby, a happy DAT Bootcamp customer who recently conquered the DAT. I’ve asked Abby to share her DAT experience with us as the Featured Student of October.

As a student studying while working on applications, what were some challenges you faced preparing for the DAT, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I faced while preparing for the DAT was an inconsistent study schedule. When I first started studying, I was wrapping up the semester, taking final exams, and getting ready to apply to dental school. Once classes ended, I spent a few weeks solely focusing on the DAT. After those few weeks, my summer job started, resulting in me reworking my study schedule yet again to accommodate my work schedule. I overcame this challenge by planning ahead and anticipating these changes. I made a schedule mapping out the hours I planned on studying each day depending on what I had going on and took advantage of free time by hitting the books hard on those days. I made sure to be very intentional about the way I was using my time and took breaks when I needed them to maximize my productivity. Sleep, exercise, and mindfulness made me even more prepared to learn tough material!

Another challenge I faced while preparing for the DAT was my living environment. During much of my DAT preparation, I was living in a college house with eight of my best friends. It was hard for me to choose when to spend social time with my friends and when to say no to fun activities. I overcame this challenge by finding alternate study environments; I took advantage of empty buildings on my college campus and even went home for several weeks to have some quiet time to study and work on my applications. I also made sure to explain to my friends and family what was going on – they were super understanding and supportive of the fact that I needed to focus!

Finally, I struggled to stay motivated because I was SO busy while I was studying for the DAT. There were days where I felt completely overwhelmed and miserable. I helped overcome this lack of motivation by planning fun breaks or by giving myself little rewards after a long day of work and studying. An ice cream date with my friends or an hour of pick-up soccer really helped refuel me and motivated me to keep going!

What advice would you have to other students working while studying for the DAT?

I tried to view work as a much-needed break from studying rather than as a distraction. Studying all day every day isn’t productive anyways, so try to use work as an opportunity to get your mind off DAT prep. However, be sure to use the time you have dedicated to DAT prep efficiently: make a schedule for busy days and take advantage of breaks and lunch hours. I would do PAT practice at lunch and review biology and chemistry flashcards during breaks. I would save practice tests for the weekends and review content more thoroughly before and after work.

Most importantly, don’t panic. There were days where my studying wouldn’t be as productive as I would have hoped, or days where I had very little study time. Sometimes I would get so worried that I would convince myself that I had somehow forgotten everything I had learned so far! During those times I had to remind myself that I still had made a ton of progress and was on track with my study schedule. Try refreshing yourself on topics that you have already covered when you have moments like these – you’ll quickly remember that you know a lot more than you thought!

Finally, trust yourself and your abilities. Right after I started preparing for my DAT, I met with my pre-dental advisor who advised me to postpone my test and to forgo this application cycle, thinking that I couldn’t manage DAT prep, work, and dental school applications at the same time. This conversation resulted in a huge blow to my confidence. Luckily, I knew myself well enough to tell myself that I was capable and ready to take on this challenge. I studied as hard as I could and used that negative experience as motivation to perform well on the test. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t accomplish what you want to accomplish.

What is something you would have changed to help your study schedule go more smoothly?

Lowering my expectations for myself would’ve helped my study schedule run more smoothly. I put a huge amount of pressure on myself while I was studying, and it often made me feel miserable and like I wasn’t cut out for a career in dentistry. I think this even affected my studying to the point that I wasn’t as productive as I could have been because I was too busy worrying about how the test was going to go. I could have saved myself a lot of grief by simply accepting that I was working hard and that I should be proud of myself, regardless of the result!

Another thing that would have helped my study schedule run more smoothly was focusing on one topic at a time. Some days I would be so stressed and overwhelmed that I would jump from topic to topic without really making progress in any one area. I think if I were to do it again I would have followed Bootcamp’s study schedule more diligently to give myself a bit more structure. Luckily, I was able to mitigate this issue myself by using the practice tests as a guide for what to study. By far the most useful study tool that DAT Bootcamp provided were the full-length practice tests. Each week I would take a practice test and focus on the weakest subject areas in the following week. This strategy really helped me bring up my scores in my weaker subjects. Additionally, I would take the practice tests on Saturday mornings in preparation for my Saturday morning DAT; this really helped prepare me for the testing mindset when it came time for the real thing!

To reach out to Abby, her SDN username is pucketta and her email is

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Hannah Brein, DAT Bootcamp Student