Sara Tavakoli

Class of 2020

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

Studying at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine in the DMD Program

Q: What are some meaningful extracurricular activities that you were involved in while at UConn?

I was a part of the women's rowing team at UConn. This experience implemented the discipline that was crucial to my success as an undergraduate student. It made me recognize that you are always capable of much more. However, it is up to you, if you want to pursue the opportunities or not. It was difficult to stay excited and motivated about my career goals in the midst of many prerequisite classes and some low grades. However, I continued my passion for research by taking the initiative to start doing research at the health center in the Hurley and Xiao lab working on a project related to bone loss. I was able to work on a publication and become the first author. Such accomplishments reignited my passion and determination for my higher education goals.

Q: What were some challenges you have faced along your healthcare journey so far, and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge in all of this has been the financial aspect of pursuing higher education. The cost of applications, DAT, and prep courses was thousands. I began saving for this as an upperclassman. I worked at the UConn Rec Center and took all the opportunities for paid research or grants. My decision to take a gap year and work as a research assistant was somewhat influenced by my motivation to continue to save money to fund Dental school.

Q: What did you do during your growth year(s) and what did you learn?

I worked at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute & Massachusetts General Hospital as a research assistant. I worked on a project looking for drugs that would promote tendon regeneration upon injury. During this time, I became even more independent as a researcher. I learned to be patient as results do not come fast and to use my other colleagues as a resource to troubleshoot any problems. In addition, I became more confident in navigating life outside of college and in a big city. As a result of my experiences, my transition to dental school was much more seamless and less daunting.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring pre-health students?

Take your time!! I felt immense pressure to go straight into dental school from undergraduate school. However, once I started my gap year and went thru the application process, it was clear that many other applicants had taken multiple gap years. Also, I was able to experience city life without the pressure of school in addition to being able to travel a lot. It was an amazing year and would definitely do it again!

Q: What’s something that you wish you knew when you were in college?

You can do anything as a UConn student. All of the opportunities are there, you just have to put in the effort to find them. At a big school, you can easily get lost in the sauce. I wish that I would have spent time getting researching the opportunities at UConn and even outside of it.