Dental

A Timeline For Your Ultimate Predental Experience

This article originally ran on ASDA’s blog, Mouthing Off, on Dec. 2, 2015. ASDA encourages all predentals to join us in celebrating Predental Week 2016 Feb. 21-27 and becoming a member of the association. 
Yesterday was dental school acceptance day – the first day that dental schools start extending offers. If you aren’t quite at the point where you’re checking the mail for your acceptance letter, here are some tips on creating a compelling application.
There are endless opportunities available for predental students to enhance their applications. Most students are aware of the basic elements needed for applying to dental school: a great GPA, a high score on the Dental Admission Test, dental shadowing hours. These components are surely respected, but there are also other avenues available to leverage your experiences. It is important to discover, participate in, and highlight all potential prospects during your undergraduate career. As an enthusiastic predental student embarking on your journey toward the application and acceptance process, here are several recommendations to consider:
Freshman Year

  • Focus on your academic performance to set a strong foundation for your later years. Performing well in the basic science courses eases your understanding of complex material later on.
  • Shadow a general dentist. This opportunity will provide you with exposure to the dental lifestyle, desirable interpersonal skills, and applications of your early scientific knowledge.
  • Get involved with ASDA (e.g., attend an ASDA national event or district meeting).
  • Get involved with your predental club. If your school does not have a designated club, definitely consider starting one. Predental clubs offer rich environments where you are able to connect with other passionate students.
  • Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer–preferably in dental-related activities (e.g., a dental clinic or a local dental mission trip).
  • During the summer, attempt to attend an enrichment program to enhance your preparation for dental school (e.g., the Summer Medical and Dental Enrichment Program).

Sophomore year:

  • Participate in research that interests you. You thrive best in areas that interest and challenge you. A research lab also offers a unique, collaborative team-based learning experience.
  • Engage in leadership activities (e.g., tutor, become a teaching assistant, apply for a club leadership position).
  • Shadow, work, or volunteer in a dental office or clinic.
  • Enhance your manual dexterity by joining an art class, like sculpting. This will allow you to strengthen your visual motor and fine motor skills in non-dental related activities.
  • Consider taking your DAT this summer to reduce stress during your junior year.
  • If you were unable to attend a summer academic enrichment program during your freshman year, try to do so this summer.
  • Consider going on a mission trip to gain insight on how helping people may be self-gratifying.

Junior Year:

  • Start asking for your letters of recommendations. The earlier, the better so as you provide your evaluators with enough time to write a good letter.
  • If you haven’t taken your DAT, prepare for and take it this year.
  • Research dental schools and list the schools in which you are most interested in.
  • In the summer, start applying into your chosen programs. Apply as early as possible!

Senior year:

  • Schedule mock interviews with your health professions office to help prepare you for dental school interviews.
  • Take any remaining classes that you need or recommended courses that may help you in dental school.
  • Consider visiting schools to gauge your interest in their program. Interviews provide you with the opportunity to match your experiences with those of your desired programs.
  • Spread that ASDA fever!

Throughout this process, it is important to:

  • De-stress with a hobby you enjoy!
  • Meet with your pre-health advisor periodically. This will allow you to stay on track with your pre-requisite courses and optimize the use of your school’s resources.
  • Keep a log of all the experiences you have had thus far.
  • Participate in your pre-dental club on campus or in local dental-related activities.
  • Get to know your professors, advisors and mentors well as they will serve as valuable role models to shape your pre-dental knowledge.
  • Partake in several community service, volunteering, and/or shadowing events.
  • Last but not least maintain your involvement with ASDA, as it can be a very helpful resource for you throughout your path to become a successful dentist.

Are you looking for more predental resources? Visit ASDAnet.org for more timelines and tips. Also be sure to like ASDA’s predental page on Facebook!

L
Loulia Al Bitar is a predental student.