For a nontraditional applicant, the process of applying to dental school can seem complex and overwhelming. As nontraditional applicants ourselves, we have experienced the frustrations of uncertainty first-hand. Most resources are geared toward the large numbers of traditional applicants, who continue on to dental school immediately after college. However, as the pool of nontraditional applicants increases, it is vital to provide resources for these students to help them along their dental school application journeys. For some, this simply means explaining how to complete and submit their AADSAS application. For others, the road is a bit more nuanced, requiring guidance in necessary coursework, DAT preparation, shadowing and more. As part of ASDA’s Predental Advisory Committee, we have created a guide specifically geared toward nontraditional applicants to assist them in the process.
Sean was a Neuroscience major and French minor in college as well as a college symphony orchestra violinist. As an undergrad he was sure of his desire to be a health care practitioner, and decided later on dentistry as the perfect combination of using hand skills to directly deliver care. However, a series of eye-opening internships with underprivileged patients led him to apply to a position in health care consulting after graduation to learn about how economics and policy decisions impact access to care. With some guidance, he was able to transition back to dental school applications in a timely way, and was appointed to the ASDA Predental Advisory Committee.
Jill was a human development major, always wavering about what career path to pursue. It wasn’t until a job opportunity fell through three weeks before graduation that Jill decided to overcome her apprehension of the predental science requirements and enroll in a post-baccalaureate program. With the help of friends also completing post-baccalaureate programs, and ones already in dental school, Jill was able to enroll in the necessary courses and plan out a comfortable application timeline. She took her DAT one year later, submit her AADSAS application that same month, and will be attending dental school this fall.
As nontraditional applicants, we were very fortunate to have friends and mentors who provided significant guidance about the dental school application process. However, we recognize that not all nontraditional applicants have access to this kind of support. This is what motivated us to create this resource, and start providing more advice and direction to the growing pool of fellow nontraditional dental school applicants.
From our experiences, we decided it was important to outline eight key areas for nontraditional applicants to focus on as they apply to dental school: coursework, the DAT, recommendation letters, committee letter, shadowing, extracurriculars (including ASDA), personal statement and AADSAS. Some of these categories have been further subdivided to better address the needs of different types of nontraditional applicants, namely gap year, working professionals like Sean, and post-baccalaureate, continuing education students like Jill.
Another idea that we hope to work on is a compilation of stories from nontraditional students and how they arrived in dental school through unconventional paths. It is our hope that nontraditional applicants will gain confidence in their ability to succeed in the dental profession after reading anecdotes of students who have already accomplished this goal. We hope that these stories along with our new resource will provide guidance and direction to help nontraditional dental school applicants become successful dental students.
~Sean Lee, member, ASDA Predental Advisory Committee & Jill Markowitz, member, ASDA Predental Advisory Committee
If you can’t wait to read the stories of other nontraditional dental school applicants, check out the April 2013 issue of ASDA News. Yesle Kim, Pennsylvania ’16, shares classmates’ stories in “Career changers shed light on nontraditional routes to dental school.”