Just a quick introduction: My name is Shelby Cansler and I am a D2 at the University of Washington School of Dentistry! I graduated from UW with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health in 2020. A few words of advice from me: My biggest piece of advice is to get experience! It’s worth investing time to make sure it’s something you really want to do! It took me shadowing nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and dentists to finally settle on dentistry. You are going to invest a lot of time and money in dental school, so you want to be sure it’s right for you. Also, it doesn’t hurt that dental schools LOVE (and usually require) you to have experience in the field. I was able to work as a dental assistant for three summers’ during undergrad and I believe that experience played a huge role in me getting into dental school. Volunteering is also a great way to get valuable experience and makes a huge difference in people’s lives. The more experience you can get the better.
Another valuable lesson I learned is to invest in yourself. Get involved in other things outside of Dentistry. Being diverse is one of the best attributes dental schools are looking for, plus it helps you be a more well-rounded individual. I decided to major in Environmental Health because it was a topic I was super interested in and provided me with the basic science background you need to apply, while at the same time giving me a public health background. I think this experience made me a unique applicant because I had a lot of public health knowledge which is not only an important part of healthcare but also makes for a well-rounded provider. It truly DOES NOT MATTER what you major in as long as you take all the prerequisites, so you might as well choose something you enjoy.
I don’t have much to say about the DAT other than my biggest piece of advice is to focus more on practice questions/practice tests instead of content review (unless it has been a while since you took the basic science classes). I found that aspect of studying the most helpful. DATbootcamp is a great resource and I felt completely prepared with the content they provided.
Now being in dental school, it is clear that one of the most important values they look for is leadership. As a dentist, you will be the leader of the team. You need to know how to manage, encourage, and lead with patients and strength. I would recommend finding leadership opportunities that resonate with you and incorporating that into your application.
Last but not least, don’t give up! I had plenty of ups and downs on my journey to dental school but that is what makes each person’s own path unique. You are not defined by your failures but rather your successes, so remember that and play on those things! Write a personal statement that is meaningful to you and represents who you are as a person.
Good luck on your journey, your hard work will pay off! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have, I would love to help in any way I can. You can follow me on Instagram @shelbycdentistry