This is a question that most Pre-Med/Pre-Dental students ask themselves as they make the transition from high school to college to continue their undergraduate studies. As a Pre-Dental student, this was the same question I asked myself when I started my freshman year at UConn. When I first started thinking about dental school, I didn’t know where to begin or who to talk to about my future aspirations.
The first step is to do research about the field you are interested in to see if it is a potential career path that fits your interests. Most people will tell you to speak with a Pre-Med/Dental advisor first, but from experience, it’s better to read about the field first so you are well-versed about the opportunities available and requirements that need to be met prior to applying to a dental program. For me, I started to research dentistry while I was a senior in high school. Despite spending many hours researching different dental programs, I found that doing this was extremely helpful because it showed me what dental schools were looking for from a well-rounded applicant. After doing some research, I met with not only Pre-Med/Dental advisors, but also spoke with other students who were currently applying to dental programs to hear their advice about what they did to become a well-rounded applicant and what they would do differently if they were to change the way they prepared their application for dental school.
After taking all of these steps, one of the most important things in this whole process is to shadow a physician or dentist by contacting different medical or dental practices. I believe this is a crucial step because when you are shadowing a physician or dentist in the field, you can see hands on what kind of work they do on a daily basis and what the work entails. For most people, this is a checkpoint because it gives you an idea of what kind of work you may potentially do as a physician or dentist. If you feel passionate about this work and you are certain that this is the career you want to pursue, then every measure you take beyond this point will become easier. When I shadowed different dentists during my winter and summer breaks, I knew that this was the career I wanted to pursue in my life. For me, not only did the dental procedures and the work environment of a dentist inspire me greatly, but it was the impact a dentist can have on their patient’s self-esteem that truly touched me.
After the first two years of undergrad, I began my preparation for the dental admission test (DAT) where I scheduled study sessions for two and half months prior to taking the DAT. This was a very stressful point in my college career because I had to be very disciplined in keeping up with my study schedule so I could perform well on the DAT. Despite this struggle, I can assure you that creating a tight schedule with breaks included will make this difficult time easier. After taking the DAT, I remember starting to write my personal statement which required a lot of time and effort to write. One thing I would suggest is to start writing your personal statement in advance because it is the one of most important factors of your dental application that admissions committees will review and it is not something that can be written overnight. My personal statement took three months to write and after doing many edits on it, I soon was able to reach a point where I was satisfied with my work by making small changes on it each day.
Among all of the pre-requisite courses, shadowing hours, extracurricular activities, research, and employment opportunities I had throughout my undergraduate studies, one thing I learned was never to give up. At some point, you will reach a roadblock, by not doing well in a class or feeling overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities that you are given. When you reach this point, ask yourself one question, how bad do I want it? If you want something as bad as you want to breathe, I assure you everything will fall in place.