Dental school is not easy — and neither is getting into one. It requires hard work as well as smart work. I started applying to dental schools for International Dentist Pathway programs in September 2017. Soon, I realized how my ignorance of the process impacted my first Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists (CAAPID) cycle. During my second and last application cycle, I was better prepared, which earned me multiple interviews and acceptances. Here are seven lessons I learned during my first CAAPID cycle.
1. Have experience in the United States. Having 10 years of clinical experience in my home country India, without any gaps in my career, I was confident that I had enough experience to get into a U.S. dental school. But I was wrong! I learned that any type of experience in the United States, however small, is important. This experience can include shadowing, assisting, dental lab observerships, externships, etc. Not residing in the country, though, makes it difficult for most of us, so it is a good idea to make the most of any of your trips to the United States. For example, when you visit during NBDE, extend your stay and try to shadow or volunteer for few days to gain experience. This also is a good opportunity to confirm if you want a U.S. dental degree or not. Do your research on which path you want to follow and be certain that you’re ready to put in hard work.
2. Take note of rolling admissions. In India, we have deadlines for applications. In my first CAAPID cycle, I submitted all my applications a few days before the deadline. But most of the schools in the United States follow a rolling admissions cycle. This means they review applications in the order they are received from the candidates, so the person completing the application first has an advantage. Submit the application as early as possible, with a well-built profile and a good statement of purpose to stand out.
3. Start working on applications early. There are many things you need to have for your application such as a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation and original transcripts from your former university. Your statement of purpose should reflect your personality, your struggles and your aspirations of pursuing a U.S. dental degree. English fluency can be an issue that some of us face, but getting your friends, family and a mentor to give valuable feedback after you have written it can help.
You also will need an English translation of your documents if they are in a different language. In addition, some schools have supplemental questions that are important and require a good amount of work. Plan ahead to complete your applications and don’t rush through the process.
4. Apply with NBDE Part I. I regret not doing this. Look for the requirements of the dental schools you’re applying to. In some schools, you can apply with NBDE I. I have seen many applicants with good profiles receive admission with only NBDE I. Many schools list Part II as not required, but keep in mind that it could improve your chances, considering the competition.
5. Start working for the bench exam and interview once you have applied to CAAPID. Don’t wait for an invitation to start preparing for the bench exam and interview. Most schools only give two to three weeks’ notice for these. If you have not touched a handpiece for a year, you need at least two or three months to practice your skills. You might feel that prepping a Class 2, Class 3 or crown is easy, but remember ADEX guidelines are different, and your work is checked according to them.
6. Don’t be overwhelmed with Facebook groups. I have seen predental students trying to make their social media profiles exactly like those of people who got into dental school. Don’t blindly follow others on social networking sites. For example, some of the applicants during my dental school interviews were planning to or pursuing master’s degrees just to get into dental school. Everyone is different and dental schools look for unique profiles and diverse students. Be yourself. What can you do to stand out? Don’t be afraid to highlight your extracurricular activities and unique interests.
7. Join ASDA. This is a must if you want to be updated with the latest news and build your network with students already in dental school and with other predental students. You will be better informed about the dental system in the United States as well as about your life before, during and after dental school.
~Dr. Shaily Aggarwal, International Dentist