When I was a freshman in college, I thought I would go straight to dental school after graduation. However, as the semesters progressed, the notion of taking a gap year — or years — started to become a possibility.
My decision to pursue dentistry was not solidified until my sophomore year. With a change in my major near the end of my junior year, I reevaluated my schedule and realized that I would not be able to complete all the dental school prerequisites by graduation. So, I reached out to pre-health advisors, dental school admission officers and dental students for advice. I started to look into various post-baccalaureate and master’s programs to learn my options.
The rigor of my undergraduate institution challenged me, and I had been struggling to continue an upward trend in my academic credentials. Although I wanted to boost my undergraduate GPA, I ultimately decided that taking classes within a master’s program would be the best option for me. In my situation, I only needed two more classes to complete dental school prerequisites, and I knew that a superior graduate program GPA would be more meaningful in my dental school applications.
When I looked into various programs, I came across requirements for GRE, MCAT and/or DAT scores. Because I looked at the program requirements early on, I was able to develop a plan for my gap years. After I graduated college, I studied to take the DAT, and soon after, I applied to a number of master’s programs. I also worked and continued assisting at a local dental office to keep me motivated and allow me to become more familiar with the field.
Now, as a first-year dental student, I truly appreciate how helpful it was to have that time off. My work experience allowed me to learn more about different dental procedures and specialties. Completing additional upper-level science courses in a graduate program helped me to study properly and gave me the confidence to handle dental school work. Additionally, I became a more competent dental school applicant.
I would recommend completing a master’s or graduate-level work to anyone considering continuing education after attaining your bachelor’s degree. You will find that some of your classmates have completed similar programs, too. If you decide to take this non-traditional path, be sure to review the type of classes in the curriculum when determining if a program is right for you. I made sure that the programs I applied to were geared towards dental school applicants, and I wanted to know what dental schools the students eventually attended after completing the program.
There are a variety of ways you can continue your education after undergrad, but getting a master’s degree that allows you to take advanced science courses and/or classes with dental school students would be most beneficial.
~Katherine Ynsinare, Tufts ’21
About Katherine Ynsinare
Katherine Ynsinare is a first-year dental student at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. She has her master's degree in oral health sciences from Boston University. During her free time, she likes to read, travel and stay active.