Q & A with University of Maryland School of Dentistry Student Connor Lu

Connor Lu was born and raised in Maryland, and graduated from UMD in 2021 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a minor in General Business. He is currently in his second year at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. 

Why dentistry?

Connor Lu
Connor Lu

I knew from a young age that I was interested in dentistry. My uncle is a dentist in Boston, so when I was little I’d go to his office and see what it was like. I also had personal experiences with dentists because I had a lot of teeth problems when I was younger and had to get a lot of orthodontic work done. Those experiences made me even more interested in dentistry. 

 What extracurricular activities do you think best prepared you for dental school? 

I really think any extracurricular activity will help you prepare for dental school. I was in a cultural organization called VSA [Vietnamese Student Association], a pre-health fraternity called DEM [Delta Epsilon Mu], worked as a dental assistant and was part of a few student dental organizations. Anything that helps with time management, public speaking, and meeting new people is really beneficial. 

What are the challenges you face in dental school?

Even though I'm a Maryland resident and not too far from home, it still takes some adjusting to move to a new city. The big one is time management because we have exams almost nonstop–we pretty much have anywhere from 1-3 exams every week. So it’s kind of hard to balance studying because you also want to do things that are not school-related. 


What drew you to your particular dental school? 

UMSOD has a really good reputation for having state-of-the-art facilities and top-notch faculty and researchers. So that definitely had me interested. But then, the in-state tuition is also a lot less expensive than out-of-state; for example, I applied to Columbia and their tuition was roughly $500,000 for the four years. So being from Maryland is definitely a plus. I am also pretty close to home, so it’s nice to be able to go back for family events.  


How and when did you prepare for the DAT? 

I studied from May through September after my sophomore year. I would say I got lucky in a way because that March is when the COVID lockdown happened, so it really limited what I could do other than study. I used DAT Bootcamp and would  definitely recommend it. 


What advice would you give your younger self?

Just to enjoy undergrad more and spend more time with friends and having fun. I know that’s easy for me to say now that I’m in dental school, but I think I was so hyper-focused on my dental school application and becoming a competitive applicant that I didn’t really make the most of my college experience. So I would just say: your GPA, DAT score, and volunteer/clinical experience are important. But finding time for yourself is important too. 


Is there anything else you would like to share with us? 

One of the biggest things I would emphasize is to learn how to talk to people. Once you get to the interview stage of applications, they really just want to see that you can have a conversation with someone. Anybody can have good grades and have experiences, but if you can't talk to patients and build relationships with them, it's going to be a problem in the future. So if you can work on that kind of skill, it definitely puts you in a much better position to get accepted to dental school.