Dental School Admission –
How to Get into Dental School
First, if you haven’t already done so, make a thorough examination of yourself as to whether you really do want to get into dental school and become a dentist. Do you know what becoming a dentist entails? Spend a few days, or longer, doing this exploratory work. Go to a dentist's office, read some books on becoming a dentist, ask dentists whether they enjoy their job. Just make sure that this is really what you want to do. Don’t apply to dental school just as a backup in case you cannot get into medical school. Do take a little time out of your busy schedule of volunteering and joining clubs to reflect if becoming a dentist is what you would like to do for the rest of your life. There is nothing wrong at all about being a dentist. You may even really like it. Just make sure that your temperament and personality fit this type of job and that you know exactly what it entails. Different people are suited to different jobs. You will excel and be happier in a job that suits you more than in one that is molded onto you by society. And everyone can make a difference to society in any job. We need cashiers, people dumping garbage, taxi drivers, computer programmers, etc. In choosing your favorite occupation and excelling in it, you will make your stamp in this world most pronounced.
Second: Carefully read through what your schools of choice prefer and emphasize. Some schools like people who have traveled and seen the world, other schools are more academically oriented, and still other schools like you to have taken certain courses even if they are not listed in their list of prerequisites. In this day and age of internet access, it should be easy to look up this information on the internet without having to browse through manual copies of college catalogues at the student service center. Thoroughly read their website, including as many related links as possible. Another angle of this that people often neglect is to read the online newsletter for their desired university, and type in “dental school,” “school of dentistry,” or “dentistry student” into the site's search engine. It will often bring up useful clues about the program or about their dental students. You can slip some of that into your admission essay, or at least orient your application in such a way that it is apparent to the admissions committee that this applicant really is familiar with their school.. One useful activity to do is to shadow a dentist or someone in a dental clinic for at least a few weeks or more so that you have a feel as to what being a dentist is like.
Third: Once you have decided that you really do want to go into dental school and read through information about the dental schools on the top of your list, it is at this stage that you can put your creative energies to use. Think about how you can increase YOUR chances of getting into dental school. Come up with innovative ideas of your own. Often, the ideas that we come up with on our own, and not by reading books, become some of the most effective strategies that we develop. However, it is still imperative that you do read perhaps three or four good books on the topic. (A list of such books can be found in the Useful Books section.)
Fourth: Prepare as early as possible. There is no such thing as too early preparation. If you are suddenly deciding to apply to dentistry and your applications are due next year, then you still have some time to work up a good application. Ideally, though, the more time between your decision and application, the better chances you will have of getting accepted. One reason for this is that you will be able to do activities that are more relevant to what your schools of choice want, as mentioned above. The most important of these, of course, are the prerequisite courses. Instead of taking an elective that you would enjoy somewhat, you may concentrate your time on taking a pre-requisite course. This is not to say that you should overdo it and just be a one-sided person, as many dental schools prefer all-rounded individuals; however, in the back of your mind you are always thinking that this could be something that you could talk about at your interview or in your personal statement. Decide on the activities that you would like to engage in, and try to excel in them. Do not try to do too many or overwhelm yourself with them. You only have 24 hours a day. Try to use the law of “Conservation of Energy” because if you use up too much energy these days, you will have much less when you study during dental school, or after you graduate from dental school, which will really be your years of arduous effort.
Fifth: Take the DAT at the appropriate time. Do not take the exam too early, as you will be wasting timing learning the material by yourself instead of learning it during your lectures. Also, do not decide to take it early only because you fear that you may not do well the first time and may need to re-take it later. Again, it is just wasting your time. Similarly, do not take it too late, or you will have forgotten much of what you have learned during previous years. Depending on when you apply to dental school, you will have to time when you take your DAT accordingly. The most important thing is to be able to make the deadline. In summary, do take it before the deadline to make it for your dental schools of choice, but try to take it only when you are ready for it.
Sixth: Keep your grades high. In the midst of dealing with your extracurricular activities, do not forget to keep your grades as high as possible. Yes, it is true that many people feel that grades are not important determinants for predicting the success of a dentist. At the same time, though, getting high grades does show determination, intelligence, and willingness to work hard. You can always add an extracurricular activity, or do something to rectify weak extracurriculars, but once you have taken a course, the transcript is basically set in stone. You cannot change it. That is really the reason to do as well as possible with grades. Furthermore, getting good grades reflects that you have learned what has been taught, and since you are at school to learn, the better you learn, the better you will be able to function in society. What you learn may not directly relate to your future, but it does indirectly help you.
If dental school and becoming a dentist are really what you want, go for it! Don’t be afraid of the competition because often, when people want to go into dental school, they are not really putting in the time necessary to get in. On the other hand, you will be because you have made up your mind to do the best you can. Do not be deterred of all the other keen students applying because there will always be spot for the determined.
Other topics that should be of interest to you:
How to Write Admission Essays and Personal Statements
How to Get Good Reference Letters and Letters of Recommendation
How to Do Well on Admission Interviews