Pre-Dental: Predent to Dent- A Look Back
My experience as a pre-dental student was for the most part normal; I majored in science (biology), I researched dental schools, figured out the general requirements that every school has, fit them into my undergrad plan, and then did the best I could do. I also volunteered, shadowed, participated in clubs and eventually ran clubs, and threw in some research for fun (depending on my PI). I took the DAT during the summer between my second and third year of undergrad because I had taken every course that would be on the test and wanted them to be still fresh in my head. This turned out to be both good and bad; I did well because the subjects were fresh in my head, but bad because the scores are only good for three years and some schools will only accept them for two years. Like always, do your research on schools.
The next step on your path is applying to schools; this takes you through AADSAS, an application system that is common to all dental schools. It’s not a perfect system, but pretty good. The application has you fill out pretty much anything you could think of, but most important is your personal statement. This is where admissions committees learn about who you are as a person rather than just a bunch of statistics, and you have to do it in no more than 4,500 characters--including spaces. After all of this has been accomplished, you move on to the supplemental applications. Research some more, because some schools request them after you apply, and some schools want them at the same time you apply through AADSAS. Then you eagerly await requests from individual schools for interviews.
So after waiting (and waiting), you get an interview. Yeah! You book your flight/hotel/travel arrangements, and hope for no weather delays. There is nothing I can stress more than to prepare for your interview; don’t go in blind, know what kind of interview it is: MMI, group, individual, or committee. Know how to answer the most common questions. Take advantage of any coaching your school provides. My university had a program where I would do a mock interview and record me to go over what I did that might be weaknesses or where I really shined, etc. Be prepared to ask questions of the interviewer, since undoubtedly there are questions you have about the school or life in the area. They want to see that you are interested in the school. Remember the person who is interviewing you is a human, just like you, just not as nervous as you are!
On the first day of dental school a whole new level of work begins; the course load is far greater than as an undergrad, the tests come fast and don’t let up, you study hard (and harder) but, most of all, find some time to have fun. On one of our first days of orientation a professor said to us, “The days are long, but the years are short.” I know this seems like a daunting road--4 years of undergrad, 4 years of dental school--but before you know it, you will be sitting in a lecture thinking about how fast a semester went.
For those of you reading this who may be like me, it may take multiple attempts to get into dental school. This is okay and quite common, with the competitiveness of schools with a limited number of spots each year, some (lots!) people are going to be rejected. Instead of getting down about it, improve yourself, get more experience, take a gap year (in which you do something), get a master’s (this is what I decided to do), volunteer more in your community, do anything, as long as every day you feel like you have improved yourself or made a difference.