Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pre-dent advice from Dave: 1. The basic application checklist

When I heard Dave was helping his special someone with the dental application process, I knew I had to get him to guest post! So here's Dave Maciborski, giving you all his pre-dental, dental school applications wisdom. This is stuff I wish I knew when I was applying to dental school! You can reach Dave on twitter here or read more of his famous posts on Student Doctor Network (he's dantemac!!). Here’s Dave- telling it like it is.

Dave will be writing about how to study for the DAT! Check back next Tuesday for his advice.

Yesle asked me to weigh in on pre-dental matters, which was great timing because I am dating a pre-dental student going through the dental school application process right now. I remember on our first date (nearly one year ago!), I grabbed a napkin and wrote down a basic list of how to be competitive dental school applicant. It’s a funny memento of our first date, but I also think it’s a great start for any pre-dent preparations:

  • Keep your GPA competitive (Ideally above a 3.5).  Enough said.

  • Start to plan out when you will want to study for the DAT. The DAT is taken summer after junior year normally, but a lot of people take it after senior year (or later!) if they want some gap years off. Alternatively, it can be taken after sophomore year (early) if you want that organic chemistry and physics fresh in your head.
  • Try to job shadow at least 150 hours! Most schools don’t require a specific number of shadowing hours, but this should do the trick. My boyfriend shadowed at a public health clinic I set him up with. It doesn’t need to be all private practices!
  • Ask for letters of recommendation early! I asked for letters a full six months before filling out AADSAS. I heard a quote once saying there are only two types of letters: Excellent letters, or terrible ones you shouldn’t be asking for. I agree with this sentiment – only ask from writers who can give you their strongest recommendation. Anything less will not help you. I recommend asking in person.
  • Start to collect unofficial transcripts from all the schools attended- including community colleges, studying abroad, transfers. You’ll need them to fill out AADSAS. Official copies will be sent later when you apply.
  • Make a list of schools. This is a difficult task, as it requires a glimpse into your future life as a dental student. Use the ADEA Guide to Dental Schools book (Hey, Dr. Sheridan from Penn is featured on this year’s cover!), the dental schools’ websites, and your own considerations of where you see yourself living and working for four years. Most pre-dents apply to ~10 schools. If your GPA and DAT scores are less competitive, I suggest applying to at least 15 schools. 
  • Start working on your personal statement. I could write a novel about the good, bad, and ugly personal statements I’ve read over the years, but I’ll save that for another blog post. Suffice it to say, make yours unique – show some humanity, some passion for your career, explain how you have prepared and why you think dentistry is for you, and write in the active tense with good verb choice. It’s a personal statement, so it’s alright to be a little conceited – always be discussing your accomplishments and preparations for your career.
  • If you are a junior, take some upper level biology classes senior year. Many schools any combination of basic sciences. Some also require psychology. Using the ADEA guide to Dental schools, make sure you fulfill the requirement of all dental schools you are applying to! If you are a biology or chemistry major, take higher level classes to show you can excel with loads of scientific material. If you are not a science major, I suggest at least taking biochemistry, as ~75% of dental schools require it.
  • Continue to volunteer, research, or work. Dental schools just want to see involvement, so find something you are passionate about and keep doing it. I honestly do not think that research is better than volunteering, or vice versa. 

This is my boyfriend, tired of studying for his DAT, feeling how any pre-dent probably feels. He ended up with above a 20! Keep going, success is right around the corner!

Obviously, my boyfriend didn’t get all these descriptors on his napkin list but he did get another date ;-). If all of this seems daunting now, don’t panic; life moves you right along, and you have come so far already! Before you know it, you will be submitting AADSAS and completing your DAT. After that, interviews will be just right around the corner.

Stay tuned for more in the pre-dental series!

Yesle: Whew- thank you Dave! I wish I had someone like Dave coaching me through my own dental application process. ;-) More of his advice on dental school admissions coming soon!


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