6 Pieces of Advice for Pre-Dental Students
Hello, aspiring dental students.
My name is Zoe, and I graduated from the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC in May 2021. I received my B.S. in Biology from UCLA in 2017 and was once a pre-dental student myself, so I have been in your shoes before.
I first got into dentistry during my second year of undergrad at UCLA after I was given a unique opportunity. Originally, I wanted to pursue veterinary medicine because I love animals. But when I couldn’t find a veterinarian in my area to shadow, my dentist offered to let me shadow him. Through the shadowing experience and meeting other like-minded pre-dental students at UCLA, I realized that dentistry was a profession which combined multiple disciplines I was interested in—science, art, and community service. From that point onwards, I set my path to pursue dentistry by joining my school’s pre-dental clubs, signing up for the DAT, and researching prerequisites for dental school.
Here are a few pieces of advice that I have for future dental students:
Get involved to find out if dentistry is what you really want to do. Find out if you really want to become a dentist by shadowing local dentists in your area or working as a dental assistant if you have time. Make sure that you enjoy dentistry enough to do it for the rest of your life because dental school is a highly expensive and rigorous investment.
Join or start a pre-dental club. I highly recommend joining pre-dental organizations at your college (or starting a club if your college doesn’t have one). In addition to connecting with other students that are interested in the same field, you can make friends, study together, and get connected to important resources and volunteer opportunities.
Do your research ahead of time. Look up the required classes, shadowing hours, and general ranges of DAT scores/GPAs for the dental schools that you plan on applying to. Explore the location, cost, curriculum, grading system, school environment, and clinical experience by talking to current students from those schools. There are loads of dental students on Instagram and dental forums that would be more than willing to share their pros and cons with you. Another great resource are online interviews with dental students on Youtube (like FutureDDS) or podcasts. Don’t waste your time and money sending an application to a school that you don’t want to go to or that you don’t have all the prerequisites for.
Showcase yourself in your personal statement. In order to make your application stand out, you want a strong and distinctive personal statement. Tell your story and let the admissions committee know who you are as a person, something that they can’t tell just from looking at the list of your achievements and activities. Have multiple people (family, friends, teachers, counselors, etc.) look over and help you revise your personal statement to make sure it reads smoothly and portrays your unique experiences. If the school is interested in your personal statement, they will bring you in for an interview to find out if you are a right fit for their program and vice versa (bring questions for your interviewer to find out if you like their program).
Apply early! Dental schools have a rolling admissions basis, so you have much higher chances of being called for an interview before any spots have been taken. Give yourself enough time before the submission opening date to finalize your personal statement and triple check your application for any mistakes before sending it out.
Everyone’s journey into dentistry is unique, so don’t compare yourself to others. Some students take a gap year or work for a few years to save up enough money in order to apply to dental school. Everyone has a different timeline, and it is never too late to pursue dentistry if that is your dream. If you don’t get in the first time you apply, don’t be discouraged. Take it as a learning experience to find out what you can improve in your application for the following year.
I hope that this advice was helpful, and I wish you all the best of luck on your respective paths. For those of you who are interested, I have my own dental blog at https://aiaoicho-dds.tumblr.com/ with posts on pre-dental and dental school related topics.