A Quick Guide to Pre-Dentistry by a First-Gen Student!
Hi everyone! My name is Ana Goldstein, and I am a proud part of the University of Florida College of Dentistry Class of 2025. I am a first-generation immigrant so I know first-hand that the pre-dental journey can be overwhelming. Here are some tips that helped me get accepted to every school I applied to :)
I have always been strong in academics. This is not because I am naturally smart, but because I work hard, and I know how I study best. Everyone has different study methods and undergrad is a great place to test out different study skills to find what works best for you! Personally, I am a visual learner and I need a lot of repetition. In undergrad, I really liked preparing myself before lectures and reviewing soon after. I am also a huge advocate for tutoring! Nearly all universities offer free tutoring and it’s so beneficial. When in doubt, go to office hours.
Also, something that greatly helped me with my academics was working on my time management skills via making a weekly schedule. You can see my schedule for my senior year: blue represented lectures; pink represented scheduled blocks for homework and studying. This helped keep me accountable!
Get involved in what you’re interested in! Look up your school’s list of clubs and explore your hobbies or even try something new. I love gymnastics and when I realized my school didn’t have a gymnastics team, I took it upon myself to start one. Not only did I make lots of friends, get great exercise, and do the sport I love most, but this also furthered my leadership and communication skills.
I was also a chemistry tutor at my university. Of course, being a tutor means you are a proficient student and that you have excelled in a course, but this position is so much more! Being a good tutor is being a good leader. Additionally, being able to take a complex concept and patiently break it down to stressed students is similar to explaining procedures to anxious patients. I highly recommend looking into tutoring positions at your school!
If you’re not shadowing right now, START NOW! I started simply by googling “General Dental offices around me” and I just started calling. “Hi my name is Ana and I’m a predental student at FAU. I would like to know if Dr. _______ is open to students shadowing the office.” Many offices quickly said no, but you only need one to say yes. And boom! Incorporate shadowing into your weekly schedule. I will say that I did not have any very meaningful shadowing until my junior year of undergrad. It’s important to note that every office is different and if you’re not learning, reach out to a new office!
In short, the Dental Admissions Test is a 5 hour and 15-minute exam that assesses your knowledge in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, perceptual ability, reading, and math. Most people take the DAT the same summer they are applying to dental school. I had the opportunity to take it a year early. I loved taking it early because the early sciences were fresh in my mind and I had plenty of time to retake the exam if I had to (less stressful).
The material on the DAT itself is not too complex; the hard part about the DAT is the amount of information and, more notably, the stress of it all! The DAT is trying to see if you can consume a lump sum of information and perform under pressure. My best piece of advice (similar for academics) is to know your study methods and make a schedule for yourself! I found it really helpful to rewrite the notes from my prep course and take notes on my test mistakes. Here is a quick recap of how I got a 24 AA on my DAT :)
Some people think that they need to wait until the application opens in May to start working on it. Wrong! I started working on the application in January the year I applied. In a nutshell, the application consists of a personal statement, experiences (categories include employment, dental shadowing, dental experience, volunteer, and extracurricular), achievements, and manual dexterity. With some research, I was able to get a head start on all these sections before my application opened. I also went to my school’s free writing center weekly to help me with everything. Take advantage of your school’s free resources!
I know it all seems like an enormous amount of information, but you have more time than you think! Especially if you’re an underclassman, there is absolutely no need to stress. And I promise there is time to make memories and have fun. Here’s a quick recap of things to keep in mind:
Beginning of undergrad…
Start shadowing ASAP!
Keep your grades up
Make relationships with professors (office hours!)
Year before you apply…
Make a plan for your DAT
Start your application early
Get your recommendation letters
YOU GOT THIS! If you have any specific questions about the pre-dental journey feel free to DM me on Instagram (@ana_goldstein). Think like a proton and stay positive J
P.S. I just adopted a kitty and his name is Max(illary central incisor) haha!