Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Deciding to apply to dental schools after a gap year

My decision to take a gap year came from hours of chatting with dental students and current dentists. Here are some important advice I learned while making this decision:

1. Objectively evaluate your dental application.
If you application is ready, apply. There is a reason people love University of the Pacific's 3-year program. You are losing your first (or last) year’s salary by starting your career a year later. Rolling admissions is a tricky game, but schools do save spots for late applicants who have stellar applications. On the flip side, do not apply if you are not ready. It takes time to bring up your GPA, take the DAT, or finish the required shadowing hours. Look through the many dental resources online and compare yourself to other applicants who got into your dream school.

2. Consider your senior year workload.
Applying does not end with your AADSAS application. Dental schools require interviews as part of their admissions process, so you will miss school. I have seen applicants emailing in their lab reports during interview lunches and panicking at their spotty 3G connection. GPA is a part of your application too. Make sure you can handle the application process while keeping your grades up.

3. Start studying for the DAT early.
Especially the Perceptual Abilities Test. It took me some time to get used to this particular way of thinking and visualizing.

4. Don't worry about filling your gap year with something "meaningful"- yet.
You probably have to make this decision early on in the year. Do not not take a gap year because you don't know what you will do next year. Many things can happen between now and graduation. Also, this is not as important as you think. See 5. (Or you can browse through thrift stores for beautiful things in your spare time…)
5. Push through your senior year.
Your senior year matters much more than your actual gap year because application process occurs so early. Most of your application material will come from your activities senior year. Finish your senior year with a bang. Finish your community service project. Ace your classes and submit that publication. I was asked about my gap year exactly twice at my interviews and both times because my interviewer was doing related research.

What factors did you consider when (if) deciding to take a gap year? And please solve the decade-old puzzle: is it your first year income or last year’s? (See 1.)