The numbers matter, but they will only get you so far in the application process. Although a strong DAT score and GPA may get you through the initial cut, to advance to the interview and acceptance stages, you have to set yourself apart from the many other applicants with great scores. After the DAT and grades, one of the most important factors for dental school admissions is dental experience. Schools want to know that you have investigated dentistry thoroughly, understand the realities of the profession and are very confident that you want to become a dentist. To do this, you must spend time in dental settings. The length of time, the amount you have seen and done and the breadth of experiences all matter.
If you are applying for dental school next year, you need to focus on expanding your dental experiences between now and the time you submit your application. Even if you already have spent plenty of time observing and volunteering, it is important that you continue your involvement or add new experiences to the list. Your family dentist is a good place to start in gaining experience. Contact him or her to ask about shadowing opportunities, and then, ask if they could refer you to a colleague, preferably one in a different type of practice or specialty. Low cost or free dental clinics offer excellent opportunities for involvement and need volunteers. You might start out by checking in patients or setting up rooms, but stick with it and you will likely be given more responsibility and direct patient contact. Sometimes, volunteer positions turn into paid work, which is ideal – you will actually be compensated to gain dental experience.
Some dental schools offer courses for pre-dental students that offer hands-on experiences in the dental lab and teach techniques such as making impressions and casts. These courses are usually one or two weeks in duration and often take place during winter or spring breaks or in the summer. They offer a different perspective on dentistry and a chance to demonstrate your fine motor skills and artistic ability, both of which are crucial in dentistry.
Balancing a full load of science classes along with studying the DAT may not leave you much time to spend in a dental environment, but it is essential that you find schedule in time to investigate the profession. Even a few hours a week will add up and will make you a much more competitive applicant and assure that you are entering the profession that is best for you.
Need the help of an advisor experienced with dental school applications? Contact Dr. Eaton at (626) 768-2154 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 20 minute phone consultation.