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Pre-Dental Advice: Focus on YOUR passion!

Hi pre-dental students!

My name is Michael Chen. I graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2016 with my BS in Bioengineering and earned my DDS from the University of California, San Francisco in 2020.

When I was in college, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. Even when I decided to apply for dental school I had my doubts. Fortunately, when I made it to dental school, I realized that dentistry was exactly what I wanted and loved to do. However, dental school is not easy and there will be moments when you may wonder whether dental school is right for you. Some people even ended up leaving the class. But the point is sometimes you have to take a leap of faith! It is okay if dentistry or any career is not right for you. Plans change. But you will never know what a career truly entails until you are in it.

My biggest advice for a pre-dental applicant perhaps is that while extracurricular activities are important, it is better to focus on just a few activities that you are truly passionate about. Also, it doesn’t always have to directly relate to dentistry. Rather than doing a little bit of everything, it is better to really delve deep into two or three activities. This is especially helpful for interviews and being able to provide meaningful responses based on your experiences. It is much better to be able to talk passionately and deeply about something you were involved with rather than a lot of small events that you cannot talk much about.

For me, it was research and assisting at a free dental clinic. For four years, I worked as a volunteer researcher in the Bhalla lab, working with C. Elegans to study mitosis and meiosis checkpoints, which lead to a poster presentation at the bay area worm meeting and a small publication for being involved in a graduate student’s project. I found out about this opportunity by simply going on our school website and looking through a bunch of PI’s research goals. I then emailed the PI’s that I thought had interesting work. Just remember PI’s are busy, so don’t be hurt or take it personally if they don’t reply or they don’t need you. Eventually, you’ll find a good fit. Just be courteous, eager to learn, and work hard.

When you put a lot of time into one or two things that you are passionate about, people will naturally recognize it. Moreover, you will meet mentors that can write you a strong recommendation letter – instead of a professor that you rarely talk to. For me, my research PI was really helpful because I worked for her for four years and she could really attest to my work ethic and qualities.

The most important part is to enjoy the process and the journey – whether you are applying for dental school or even while you are in dental school!

I have an Instagram @kintsugi_dentistry if you ever want to see dental cases and things I learn as a dentist!

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