Raina Harrelson encourages prospective dental students to bypass roadblocks on their path to dentistry.
TheTexas A&M College of Dentistry student didn’t take the typical route to dental school, and has not let anything deter her from pursuing the dream she’s had since primary school. Today, she shares that journey with 4,000 social media followers.
What inspired Texas A&M dental student Raina Harrelson on her path to dentistry?
Being exposed to dentistry at a young age helped Harrelson develop her passion for dental medicine.
Growing up, Raina’s mother was an assistant for an oral surgeon and later became an assistant for a general dentist. Being in that environment made Raina realize that she also wanted to pursue a career in the dental field. Spending time in dental offices as a young child and as an intern when she got older made her realize that she loved building relationships with patients and comforting them when they were nervous.
“I was so intrigued by how much of an impact the dentist could have on a patient’s wellbeing and self-esteem. Being in that environment solidified my decision to pursue dentistry.”Raina Harrelson,Texas A&M College of Dentistry
When it came time to apply for dental school, Raina Harrelson’s path wasn’t ‘traditional’
“When I was a junior in college and most of my pre-dental colleagues were applying for dental school, I didn’t feel ready to apply. On paper, my GPA wasn’t considered competitive.Raina Harrelson,Texas A&M College of Dentistry
I wanted to give myself the best chance I had to get accepted into dental school, so I decided to apply for a Master’s program at The University of North Texas Health Science Center before applying to dental school.”
Harrelson applied to dental school while still pursuing her Master’s degree at North Texas Health Science Center and was put on the waitlist. She didn’t let this discourage her and the next cycle when she applied again, she was accepted into three schools, including Texas A&M College of Dentistry, where she is currently a D2 student.
With dental school being significantly more intense than undergrad, D2 student Raina Harrelson is grateful for her support system at home
Free time outside of school is limited, and Harrelson credits her husband as the best support system.
“My husband has definitely impacted my dental school journey the most. He supports me through it all. When I get so focused on school and am pushing myself to my limits, he reminds me to take time for myself and rest,” said Harrelson.
When I am studying on the weekends and want company, he comes and sits with me, so I don’t get lonely. I am so grateful that I have this support system to get through what may be the toughest four years mentally I ever have to go through.”
Prospective dental students should know, ‘If there’s a will, there’s a way.‘
If Harrelson wouldn’t have persevered through the challenges that came her way during her years of college, she wouldn’t be in the position she is today. She wants prospective dental students to know that even though everyone’s journey may look different, “if you truly want to become a dentist, you can.”
“If there’s a will there’s a way,” Harrelson said.
“Your path to dental school may not be straight and easy, but no matter where you are starting from now, you can make it. For me that meant getting my Master’s degree. For others, that might mean retaking their DAT, or retaking classes.”Raina Harrelson,Texas A&M College of Dentistry
“Don’t let roadblocks get in your way, find a way to overcome them and you will get accepted into dental school and will be able to live out your dream of becoming a dentist.”
What started as an outlet to journal Raina Harrelson‘s dental school journey has grown into a platform with 4,000 followers
“My original intentions for my sharing my dental school journey on social media was to create a space where I could journal my experience through dental school and share what I learn in dental school with others. It then transformed into a space where it has been my outlet to write and be silly, highlight the amazing people in my life, share my journey with pre-dental students, and interact with like-minded people around the world.”
Harrelson regularly shares fun videos featuring herself and occasionally other Texas A&M dental students. She also shares information about what being in dental school is like daily.
“Through my social media platform, I have been contacted to speak at multiple pre-dental events and share my journey with prospective students and give them advice on how to navigate the application process. I have also started receiving inquiries from brands to start collaborations on my Instagram page. We will see where this goes, but it seems like a fun way to push myself to do something new while still in dental school.”Raina Harrelson,Texas A&M College of Dentistry
Harrelson is set to graduate from Texas A&M College of Dentistry in 2024 and begin private practice dentistry. Her love for general dentistry hasn’t faltered and she hopes to be able to practice in the Dallas- Fort Worth area post-graduation.
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