These days, everyone wants a “how-to” guide that will help them reach various goals in life. While that would be amazing, it doesn’t quite work that way. At the end of the day, your journey through life is yours; it’s beautiful, unique, and challenging. It brings failures and triumphs. And it rarely turns out exactly how you planned. For you, this journey probably involves graduating high school, moving on to a four-year university, and (hopefully) ending up in dental school. Some of you knew you wanted to be a dentist from as early as you can remember and others figured it out along the way. I hope reading this helps you through your journey in some way no matter what season of life you’re in. Honestly, if you take anything from this blog post, let it be this: if you want to be a dentist, then you WILL be a dentist.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about myself, but let me give you some background information so you know who I am. I was one of those 10-year-olds that knew they wanted to be a dentist. Fast forward about eight years and a ton of dental work later, I attended the University of Florida for undergrad and decided to major in Applied Physiology & Kinesiology. I also had the opportunity to be a member of the Dazzlers, the official UF dance team. I’ve been a dancer all my life, so this experience truly made my four years at UF special. In addition, I was involved in Pre-Dental Society, research within the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences, and a teaching assistant position. I definitely filled my plate in undergrad, but I take pride in the fact that I stayed true to myself and participated in the things I actually enjoyed. As a current D2 at Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine, this still remains true. There is so much more to life than school!
Extracurriculars: Pick What You Love!
This leads me to my first piece of advice: when you pick extracurriculars, pick things you love besides dentistry. Maybe you’re into playing sports or even ministering to a youth group at your local church. Admissions committees can see right through “resume fillers,”, especially during interviews. Everyone is worried about standing out as an applicant, but in reality, it’s so simple! I promise there will be no one with the exact same interests as you. Yes, you still need to have the standard shadowing hours with a general dentist because you need to show interest in the dental field (and that’s the easiest way to see what your future looks like firsthand). However, at the end of the day, we are more than just dentists. We are communicators, educators, team players, and students that never stop learning. At least one (or maybe all) of your extracurriculars will most likely exercise the qualities I just listed, making you both a better person and future healthcare provider.
Goals & Plans
My other piece of advice comes from a podcast I listen to and it couldn’t be more relevant for pre-dental students. I wish someone told me this when I was applying to dental schools: “Place your goals in concrete and your plans in the sand.” Like I mentioned earlier, if you want to be a dentist, you WILL be a dentist. If that is truly your goal, there is nothing (and I mean nothing) that can stop you. There will be many obstacles or detours, but you will get past them. Some people get into all 5 of their dream schools on decision day and some apply three times before that acceptance letter arrives. Neither individual is more or less worthy as a human. I truly believe that God has a plan for each and every one of us. Funny story, I was actually waitlisted at my dream school. I’m not going to lie, I was crushed at the time. I kept thinking, “What did I do wrong?” The truth is, I did nothing wrong at all! In fact, I did everything right…I was 100% myself both on paper and in that interview. The school did not see me as a good fit for their program and that’s OK. As it turns out, Nova was the perfect place for me. The people, environment, and curriculum allowed me to thrive here. You will find your perfect fit too. Apply to a wide range of schools and keep those plans in the sand.