After making that exciting decision to pursue a career in the dental field, your next thoughts will inevitably turn to how exactly you should go about setting yourself up for success. Obviously, getting into the right dental school is going to be a large part of this, but what can you do to ensure that you get into the school of your dreams? Here are five steps you can take to help you get started on the right path. Good luck!
Step #1: Focus On Your DAT Scores
Of course, a high GPA in your undergraduate studies is one way to help yourself look good for dental schools’ admission committees. However, if you are returning to school or have only recently decided to pursue a career in dental after you’ve already graduated, then you may not be able to do much about your GPA.
The DAT (Dental Admissions Test) is an opportunity for you to offset a “so-so” GPA or to help you boost your application appearance. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of this test. Even if you have a strong GPA, dental schools will not take your application seriously if you do not have equally strong DAT scores.
You should be giving yourself a minimum of 3 months to dedicate towards your DAT prep, which usually means it will be best to schedule your test date for your junior year of college. This should give you enough time to study while also allowing time for any retakes before your application deadlines.
Step #2: Find A Volunteer Or Internship Opportunity
Having practical experience on your resume is another incredibly important step. Not only does it show your dedication, but it shows a familiarity in the dental environment that can give you a competitive edge. Try finding a local dental school clinic where you can volunteer and shadow dentists. It helps to find a position where you can work in the back with other dental students as opposed to simply working a front desk or receptionist position.
Step #3: Get Your Dental X-Ray License Or Serve As A Dental Assistant
This is similar to Step 2 except it goes a little further by getting you licensed. Getting the necessary licensure does take extra time and should only be done if it does not negatively impact your DAT prep or undergrad. However, it also gives you a significant edge over other students as it gives you direct experience in dentistry and patient care.
Step #4: Focus On Research Experience
Research experience in any field will be beneficial to your application, though experience in a related field is always best. Working in a lab or doing interview-based research are both great ways to boost your resume. It will show potential schools that you have experience with advanced thinking, and the skills required for any kind of research tend to span across most fields.
Step #5: Find Community Service Opportunities
Just like when you were applying to your undergrad, community service is always a bonus to an academic application. Find a cause that you are passionate about and commit to it for a prolonged period. You want to show potential schools that you care about helping your community and not that you’re just volunteering to boost your resume—even if that’s a major factor. It will help you demonstrate leadership skills as well as compassion, both of which are highly valued in any kind of medical field.