As we all know, getting into dental school takes a lot of time, money and hard work. We all have varying amounts of experience assisting and doing community service and research. We have to have a good GPA and DAT score. But applying as an international student or foreign-trained dentist presents its own set of challenges. Schools often look for more diversity, but sometimes it can be hard to present ourselves as effectively on paper as we can in person.
How can you stand out? Here are some tips to help make yourself more competitive.
1) Work, volunteer or shadow at a dental office.
Keep detailed records of your duties, hours and what you’ve learned. More than this, develop a good relationship with the dentist and staff. Ask questions and show enthusiasm. If you ask them for a letter of recommendation, this helps them write a great one.
2) Do community service, take on leadership roles and get research experience.
These are a standard part of a dental school application, but it is especially important to show that you’ve gone above and beyond to help your community and dedicate yourself to your career. Keep records of events, hours, dates, duties and how many people you served. Get contact details of the people in charge and ask if you can mention them by name in your application.
3) Improve your manual dexterity.
Demonstrating that you already have some hand skills and know how to improve them is important. If you can, find a sim lab day or predental event at a dental school. If you take a less conventional approach such as art or other activities involving manual dexterity, mention these in your application.
4) Make your application immaculate.
The application includes a statement of purpose, AADSAS, CAAPID or PASS application, CV and supplemental questions.
- The statement of purpose: The statement of purpose plays a major role in your application. Spend some time to make it thoughtful and well-crafted. ASDA, ADEA, Google and YouTube all offer tips on how to write a good statement. Once you have a draft, show it to someone else. The more critiques you get the better it tends to be. Find a writing or career center at your school, or look for a community college that offers free help for writing statements of purpose.
- The online application: Read all the options carefully and answer them as precisely as possible. Even if something says optional, you should have something to fill in. When you’ve finished, print out the entire completed application before you submit it. Check for any errors in grammar, dates or details. Make sure that everything you entered is true. Provide as much detail as you can, but be concise. ASDA offers more tips in their video here.
- The secondary application: Many schools ask supplemental questions as well. Do your research before answering the questions. Know what features of the school you like and how you can be a great addition. You can learn about the school through their website, publications, alumni and current students. (Hint: Always send a cover letter when you are sending secondary applications and other documents.)
- Proofreading: You want your application to sound clear and professional. If you have access to a university writing center or advisor, that can be a great resource for editing. There are also many software options such as Grammarly, PaperRater and others that can help throughout the application process. A professional editing agency may also be an option if you choose.
5) Get involved with ASDA.
ASDA has many helpful videos and application tips available to members. Its publications (Mouth, ASDA News, and now Contour) and blog provide student perspectives on a variety of issues including applying and transitioning to dental school. I’ve found their predental and advanced standing/IDP webinars especially helpful. I also recommend their recent blog posts about the predental experience and residency applications. ASDA also has many leadership opportunities for getting involved before starting school.
Lastly, it’s important to be grateful to everyone who helped you during your journey. Applying can be a long and stressful process, but there are people there to help you through it. Good luck! Feel free to share resources that have helped you out in the comments section below.
~ Dr. Nidhi Shah, Indiana ’19