As a former president of the University of Florida’s Predental ASDA chapter, I am constantly consulted by predental students for advice. After having more conversations with predental students than I can count, here are my top five pieces of advice that every predental student should know.
- Join a Predental Club. A dental-focused organization can provide you with opportunities that other clubs simply cannot. Predental clubs will help you learn more about the field of dentistry; connect you with relevant service, research, and shadowing opportunities; and help you bond with your predental peers. I can guarantee that if you participate in club events, then the other members and yourself will become a close-knit group. This will not only help you with your studies, but also connect you with friends that understand the hardships of being a predental student. The people you meet in your predental club will be the people you attend dental school with and your colleagues later in life.
- Get the DAT out of the way. This may seem crazy, but if you’ve finished all your general chemistry, biology and organic chemistry classes your sophomore year, then my advice is to study for and take the DAT that summer. Some feel that taking higher level science will help them better understand the lower level science. Although this may be true, I think that if you did well in the classes required for the DAT and you study hard, it’s incredibly advantageous to get this test out of the way. This will make your application process less stressful as you can focus solely on the application without having to worry about studying simultaneously. On the other hand, if your first DAT doesn’t go as planned, this will also give you the opportunity to retake the test the following summer and apply without having to take a year off from school.
- Apply early! This bit of advice should be no secret, but it is so important and still often ignored. If you get your completed application and DAT scores submitted during the first few weeks of June, then you are automatically giving yourself a better chance of gaining admission to dental school. Do not even take a second look at the application deadlines that falsely lead you to believe that you can wait until December or sometimes even later to submit. An early application submission means that dental schools will review your application before they even begin offering spots in their class. Some schools start interviewing as early as July, so by waiting too long to complete your application you are already lowering your chances of being admitted.
- Be yourself and let your extracurricular activities reflect that. Do not feel like you need to get involved in every opportunity under the sun. Many times I see predental students joining all 11 honors organizations they qualified for, more than one predental club, several service organizations and more. Unless you are truly involved in all of these organizations, which is quite improbable, your membership is very transparent. It is okay if an organization isn’t centered around academics. Perhaps you are extremely involved in your sorority or fraternity, or a school sports team. I highly recommend you join one predental club (see #1) and perhaps one or two other clubs where you can become genuinely involved and eventually hold leadership roles. This will not only keep you from spreading yourself too thin, but it will demonstrate your ability to lead, as well as your commitment and passion for your chosen organizations.
- Shadow Often. This one is huge. As a predental student, you should be shadowing every chance you get. During summer, winter, fall, thanksgiving, spring breaks and any other time you have off, spend at least a little time in a dental office. If the school you attend has a dental school, then be sure to ask if they are open to undergraduate volunteers. Keep a blog or journal to track your hours and what you learn each day. This will be an excellent resource to look back on later. There are two main reasons why I recommend shadowing. First, the obvious, these hours will go on your dental school application. Second, perhaps the less obvious, spending all of this time immersed in dentistry will reaffirm to yourself that you are pursuing something that you love. This is most important of all because becoming a dentist is A LOT of work. I could think of nothing worse than working this hard and realizing in the end that dentistry is not the career for you. Go beyond your application requirements and spend time in the office for yourself.
If you’re a predental and haven’t joined ASDA yet, now is the time! You’ll have access to valuable member benefits including ASDA’s print publications, discounts on Crack the DAT and Chad’s Videos and more. Most importantly, you’ll belong to the largest student run dental organization in the United States. Join us today by clicking the button below!
~ Michelle Thomas, Florida ’17, chapter predental liaison