My advice to a non-cookie cutter applicant on the fence of going for it: Go with your gut. Those “what ifs” will never go away. If you know that you can work hard and that you have what it takes to grind, you’re golden. I think it’s important to pay mind to knowing what you want out of life and what your strengths are.
Meet Joey Brotowitz, a happy DAT Bootcamp customer who recently conquered the DAT. Joey is a non-traditional student who was able to rock the DAT with the help of DAT Bootcamp. I’ve asked Joey to share his DAT experience with us as the featured student of June.
What did your typical day look like while you had a full-time work schedule and studying for the DAT?
As a brewer, I learned very quickly that brewers don’t have a schedule. Most brew days start at 4AM and job responsibilities can last all night, because beer never sleeps. A few things I learned while going back to school and maintaining this wild job was to always keep books in my locker and to make sure my pockets were stuffed with notecards. While I found it hard to ever fit an actual “break” into my day, I got pretty good at finding short periods of down time where I could flip through organic chemistry mechanisms or review bio vocabulary. My point being: I learned how to prioritize, increase my efficiency, and jam pack every living second of free time I had into preparing for this monster of a test we call the DAT.
I remember one day, when the bottling line was down, one of the other brewers barked at me to quit texting my girlfriend (now my fiancé. I also fit in an engagement 20 days before my test. She said yes… somehow). What he didn’t know was that I was on Bootcamp reviewing biology notes via my phone.
The DAT didn’t care what my brew schedule was like or when a bottling valve failure cut into my study time. I knew I was at a disadvantage having such a busy schedule but I learned how to adapt and work harder than what I even knew I was capable of.
What advice do you have for non-traditional, older applicants that are going back and forth with the idea of going into dentistry?
The biggest advantage I had when making my decision to dive in and pursue dentistry was the idea that being out in the real world gets very real, very fast. I was 3 years out of college (I have a business degree of UW-Madison), I had been busting my tail brewing for a couple of years, and life was just about as real as it gets. I had successes and I had even more failures, but the aggregate feeling was always the same. I could never get the repetitive little man off my shoulder that constantly whispered “dentistry” in my ear. I developed a very well-defined value system, formed from the contrasting ideals of a young inexperienced kid in college philosophy classes pondering the meaning of life, versus the “at work all night up to your neck in beer sludge, hops and yeast” reality that I now faced.
The frightening pathway to dentistry became less and less scary after getting my butt kicked a time or ten. Then, the question of “what am I really working for?”, meant much more than it ever did before. My advice to a non-cookie cutter applicant on the fence of going for it: Go with your gut. Those “what ifs” will never go away. If you know that you can work hard and that you have what it takes to grind, you’re golden. I think it’s important to pay mind to knowing what you want out of life and what your strengths are. Are you reaching your full potential in your current position? Are you okay with the outlook of the next 30+ years of your employment? If you really have a good reason to pursue dentistry, it should be an easy choice. You’re never too old and it’s never too late. I love beer. I love everything about it. But, at the end of the day, I knew I had to make a decision about what was best for me.
How did you use DAT Bootcamp to prepare for the DAT?
After some research, I decided to use DAT Bootcamp as my backbone study source. I knew that the premium membership contained 10 timed practice tests (plus videos/explanations/etc.) in each subject area which would allow me to gauge my readiness as my studying progressed. In my opinion, that was the biggest selling point. I knew my studying would be a process. So for me, it was important that I had the means of evaluating my progress at different points throughout my studying. I had a set amount of study time and there was no margin for error on how I spent that time preparing. The idea that I could take a test, study, improve on my weaknesses and then take another test to evaluate my progress, was invaluable. I started out getting 16’s on the subject specific practice tests (maybe even a 15 or two). After using the post exam reviews, videos, and going to outside sources if I needed additional help, I was able to see a consistent upward trend in my scores. By the week before my exam I was scoring anywhere from 18-20 which was quite an improvement from the solid 16s I had been receiving a few weeks earlier.
Specifically, I would pick two subjects a day, take a test in each, spend a good chunk of time reviewing each question, and then fly through past exams in those subjects. This helped to keep all of the information from that subject fresh in my mind. In between each section/test/review I would use the PAT simulators for practice. PAT is all about repetition (my first practice score was in that “sorry your score is so low we cant even give you a number” category). There are an insane amount of random things that could potentially be on the exam, so if you sat down and tried to learn it all in great depth, your head would explode. I learned this subject matter the best via repetition. At the end of the night, I’d sit down and have a beer or two, flip on the TV, and just cycle through PAT practice questions, knowing I could train myself to transform PAT into some form of a second nature response.
Most importantly, I had to take a leap of faith in trusting that DAT Bootcamp would emphasize subject matter that would be tested on the DAT. I’m telling the truth when I say that I had almost zero surprises on the actual exam. Before I purchased DAT Bootcamp, I had a few study books that looked as if they were pulled straight from the library section “Full and Detailed Written History of Science”. There was no way I was going to be able to actually get through those study books and be able to pick out what really mattered, let alone retain enough of it to score well. DAT Bootcamp does that for you.
Once I was within a week of my test date, I saved 3 tests in each subject and then took one after the other in the same sequence of the actual test. This helped to simulate what the actual DAT was going to be like. This was the best way for me to judge not only my subject progress, but to also get used to the time crunch testing situation. These 3 “full length” exams plus the ADA 2007 and 2009 exams were my last hurrah in my DAT preparations. After taking the last few practice exams, I didn’t feel fully confident (as to be expected), but I definitely felt the least intimidated I possibly could before taking such an important exam.
Its hard to compare the difficulties of the DAT Bootcamp exams vs. the actual DAT because there are so many factors that go into it, but here are my marginal increases in my actual DAT scores compared to my DAT Bootcamp average scores. Bio = +5, Chem = +1, Ochem = +4, PAT = +2, RC = +1, QR = +3
My last statement to non-traditional applicants or anyone who is a bit intimidated: I am a normal guy, with a normal (non-science) degree, who works a normal job. I am not some crazy science wiz or some overly smart student. I learned how to work hard and I came to realize that working hard can get you where you want to go (maybe even farther than some of those science wizards). I used DAT Bootcamp and put in the work and achieved a (hopefully) good enough score to get to me through to the next step. If I can do it, so can you.