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Bridging the Gap

Updated: Jan 25


Hello Pre-dental students! My name is Shivani and I am currently a dental student at The Ohio State University School of Dentistry in the class of 2025. I completed my B.S. in Medical Sciences and B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Bioethics from the University of Cincinnati in May 2020. After taking a gap year, I started dental school at The Ohio State University in august 2021.


Going through school and hearing someone taking a gap year they were looked down on led me to come up with the presumption that if I take a gap year I am choosing to “waste a year” and putting myself further from my goals. Therefore, the last thing I expected to do was take a gap year after undergrad. But soon after a fork for what I wanted to do with my career on a pre-health path, I realized that going to graduate school immediately after college was a path for some, and even though it wasn’t mine, my path wasn’t any less fulfilling.


During this time, I had a chance to narrow my field to dentistry. Focusing on my DAT and

elevating my application I chose to pursue the path of becoming a dental assistant. After

countless hours of reaching out to many dentists, a few had given me the opportunity to

interview and work as a dental assistant for a year. The things I learned during this time

whether that be as minimal as taking an impression or how to make a temporary crown this one year that I feared changed my life and elevated my application significantly.


A gap year is a period of time, typically a year, taken by a student between undergraduate and dental school education to build a better portfolio.


Are you thinking about taking a gap year?

Reasons to take a gap year:

  • To strengthen application before initially applying or reapplying

  • To develop finances

  • To destress from a stressful undergrad or life experiences

Even if your “reason” to take a gap year does not fall on this list there are many reasons to still take a year or a few off. There is a negative connotation that can come along with taking a gap year and I heard them all during my time taking one, but what is more important is how you use that time off. When you come to the conclusion that a gap year is the best for your future you want to then focus on how this will be helpful. To better understand what to do you must look at why you wanted to take a gap year in the first place.


Questions to Ask:

  • What are my weaknesses?

  • Am I hitting the minimums of the application?

  • What drew me to dentistry that I want to shine brighter in my application?

  • Reach out to current dental students and ask them what they would change if they applied again. Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @riseandfloss


What to do During a Gap Year?

  • Dental assistant

  • X-ray technician

  • Lab technician

  • Research Assistant

  • Shadow

  • Post-Bac program: for students looking to improve their GPA

  • Retake the DAT


Tips to ensure a successful gap year:

  1. Stay focused on dentistry. It is not bad to take time off from dentistry as the rest of your life after your gap year will entail dentistry. But, be able to connect all your experiences back to a “why?”. Be able to answer to an admissions council on why.

  2. Visit universities and learn more about each university you are interested in to focus your application to each college specifically. The best thing I did during my gap year is make a list of top 5 colleges and reach out to students that went to those universities through Instagram or LinkedIn. Here I was able to ask questions and make my secondary applications personal to the school from things I heard from the students going there themselves. In most interviews, the things I mentioned from the students were brought back up.

  3. Read and keep yourself in the loop in the field. The best way to do this is to subscribe to the ASDA, ADA, and your state dental association newsletter.

  4. Develop your hand skills by taking on painting, knitting, or playing an instrument.

  5. Relax and spend some time with family and friends because after school starts it’s hard to take a pause.


Discussing your gap year during your interviews can be intimidating. But you create your story in every interview. How you shape the story of your gap year and tie it all together is what the admissions council is more focused on rather than you taking a gap year.


The biggest thing to realize is your journey to dental school does not end with taking a gap year. In most cases, like mine, it can offer a new perspective and be a new beginning making you a much better applicant. At the end of the day, most people that take a gap year discover themselves making them much better dentists in the long run.


~ Shivani Tumukuntala, The Ohio State University ’25

Reach out with any questions at @riseandfloss on Instagram or Riseandfloss@gmail.com


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