Predentals: Don’t fear the gap year

What if you are passionate about dentistry and you look down at your resume knowing it doesn’t quite reflect your passion? The dental school admissions process is a highly competitive endeavor. According to ADEA, more than 12,000 hopefuls applied to dental school in 2013 for less than 6,000 open spots. Therefore, it’s understandable that you may get overlooked if your resume is lacking.

If this sounds like you, then I have one piece of advice: don’t fear the gap year.

There are actually many advantages to taking a gap year and statistics show that nontraditional applicants gaining admission to dental school is rising every year. If you’ve never considered a gap, year here are a few reasons why you should think again:

What is a gap year? If you don’t quite understand what a gap year is, trust me you’re not the only one. Traditional dental school applicants send in their applications after their junior year when the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) opens in June. A gap year would mean sending in your application any year after you graduate. By taking a gap year, you gain various distinct advantages.

Gain more depth to your resume. Taking a gap year can fill the holes that may be looming in your resume. Maybe you don’t have the required number of shadowing hours with a dentist or you haven’t volunteered enough. Maybe you still need to get those letters of rec that you put off for too long. What about that DAT score that you know you can raise if you had a little extra study time? By taking a gap year you are allowing yourself to fine-tune your resume to ensure it reflects your true character. You might want to have a look at a good article on how to write a personal profile if you’re struggling with any of the important features of writing a successful CV. Don’t cut yourself short if you know you have more to offer to admissions officers.

Explore more of your passions. With the added time you gain by taking a gap year, you can get a taste of the “real world.” You can get a job at a lab, clinic or continue volunteering full time. This will help you grow not only as a person, but also as an applicant before you enter dental school. This extra year will aid your scientific and social development by exposing you to new experiences that aren’t feasible as a full-time student. All of these life stories you gain during a gap year will give you plenty to talk about during your interview–making you stand out from the crowd.

Ace those high-level science courses. Traditional applicants generally save their upper level science course for their senior year. Unfortunately these grades will not show up on a transcript by the time interviews are being handed out. By taking a gap year you can show admissions officers that you can handle the rigors of upper level classes like anatomy, biochemistry and microbiology.

Take a master’s program. Most colleges offer one or two year master’s courses in oral health, health sciences or health administration. Not only will these courses help raise a weak GPA, but they will also expose you to the difficulty of dental school. Some programs even count for credit in dental school!

Take as much time as you need. A gap year can be longer than a year depending on your circumstances. If you have a passion for dentistry but you’re burned out from your undergraduate experience, don’t be afraid to take a break. Dental school is a rigorous four-year endeavor. Make sure you are prepared to excel and make the most of your time there. You need to be focused and ready to give it your best shot once you’re accepted.

Relax. One or two years won’t kill you! The average dentist practices for nearly 40 years. So what if you retire a couple years later? The experiences you gain while taking a gap year will be invaluable to your future career as a health professional. Enjoy every step along the way. If dentistry is truly what you love then make sure your dreams become a reality.

Have you taken a gap year (or maybe you’re taking one right now)? Tell us about your gap year in the comments below!

~J Scott Jarvela, Boston University ’16, predental

J Scott Jarvela

J Scott is a Junior majoring in Human Physiology at Boston University. He is the Vice President of BU's Predental Society and has been an ASDA member since 2013. J Scott Attended ASDA's District One Leadership Conference in October and looks forward to attending ASDA's Annual Session in Boston. Once in dental school he strives to earn a leadership position with his school's ASDA chapter.

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