While time spent in the classroom is certainly important as a pre-dental student, extracurricular activities and experiences are just as valuable. Finding your community as an undergraduate is important, and these experiences can come from several different channels. As somebody who was involved with a diverse array of activities in college, I hope that my experiences serve to inspire students to pursue their passions.
When I arrived on campus at Virginia Tech in the fall of 2016, I knew my goal by graduation was to gain a dental school acceptance. I joined Delta Epsilon Mu (a co-ed pre-health fraternity) and the ASDA Pre-Dental Chapter, where I was able to meet others taking the same introductory science courses I was. Joining these organizations early, allowed me to gain experience to pursue leadership roles as I became an upperclassman.
Like many students, I decided to work a part-time job in college to pay for things like new clothes, groceries, or a night out with friends. I worked as a dining hall cashier for two years and met a lot of other students in similar positions. In my junior year, I transitioned to working for the writing center at Virginia Tech. Each week I spent Sundays at the library helping students with essays ranging from freshman English assignments to dental school personal statements.
Even though only one of these activities was specifically dental-related, the friends I met and skills I learned I will carry through my dental school career. I remember at one of my first interviews, I sat down and was immediately asked, “So you worked at the food court! How was that?” What may have seemed like a monotonous job quickly turned into a great talking point for a conversational interview.
My advice to pre-dental students is to get involved with anything that you enjoy. Don’t feel like you need to have a specific experience in order to “check a box” on your application. I always felt like research was pushed on science students but was not passionate about participating. Although I was worried at first, this was not an issue in my application success at all! The activities that you enjoy or learned a lot from are those that will prove to be the most valuable. Find your support system, absorb as much as you can from your classes, and enjoy your undergraduate years!