An Open Letter to Predentals
Congratulations on your journey to the greatest career there is! Dentistry is a field of lifelong learning, collaboration, and integrity – it’s an industry in which technology blooms and the doctor-patient relationship flourishes. There is no other healthcare professional that can impact a patient’s quality of life with such ease in a relatively short period of time; a mere crown can dramatically impact a patient’s self-assurance, confidence, and presentation to the world. Smiles matter. Each of you reading this has the inherent potential to achieve your dental dreams, but getting in is the first step (and you will!). The following are my top tips to ace the AADSAS:
1. Maintain a Google Doc detailing all of your dental experiences (shadowing, working as a dental assistant, etc.)
Many dental schools have a minimum number of shadowing hours required of applicants and even those that don’t require some quantity of dental experience. But your interest in dentistry cannot be qualified just because you claim you’ve shadowed a doctor for 100+ hours. The AADSAS is an honor system, but it’s evident to AdComs when you fake it. Keep a journey or diary of some sort that records when you shadowed, with whom, and what you learned that day. When it comes time to compile your AADSAS application, all of this will be centralized and available for easy entering. Bonus: your journey will be a reflection of your accomplishments and will offer a great point of discussion in interviews.
2. Don’t get involved in something just to check off an application box
Dental schools seek well-rounded, involved applicants that demonstrate passion for their commitments. Your extracurriculars need not all be dental-related, instead, involve yourself in activities that interest you and further your personal growth. A one-dimensional application focused only on dental-related things doesn’t make you passionate, it makes you a robot. Not all matriculated dental students have research experience and if you feel your talent is better suited for something else, pursue that – tell your why, not just the what.
3. Build relationships with your professors, dentists, really anyone that might one day write your letter of recommendation
Through undergrad and/or your prereq classes, you’re apt to encounter classes whose professors you get along with. Perhaps this professor’s style of teaching intrigued you, or maybe the dentist you shadowed shared many of the same interests as you. Dentistry is a sociable profession and forging connections is key: it starts when seeking letter writers. AdComs can tell when letters are canned, you’ll want someone who has a vested interest in your success, but also an eye for highlighting your achievements and strengths to submit your letter.
4. Apply early!
Try to submit your AADSAS in the “J” months: June or July. Dental schools evaluate and interview students on a rolling basis, which means applications are reviewed in groups based on their timestamped submission. The earlier you submit, the higher the probability of interviewing and being admitted at a school simply because AdComs are looking to fill an entire class instead of the final few seats. Extra tip: While it may not always be possible, I recommend one take the DAT before May of the year they will be applying. The ADA takes 4-8 weeks to process DAT scores, and even though you may have submitted your application in June, your DAT may be pending, slowing review of your application.
5. Only apply to schools you would actually go to
Dental school applications are not cheap (and neither is interview travel). It costs $245 for the first school app and $99 per school after that. Some dental students recommend predentals apply broadly and to as many schools as they can afford, but financially, this isn’t always feasible. Though application fees are paltry compared the cost of a dental school education and the debt you incur but factoring in the cost of living in the cities some dental schools are located in, you might be better off selecting schools that are within your reasonable four-year budget. Only a few things to consider include tuition, scholarships offered, on-campus housing availability, average rent, etc.
Colleen Leong is a second-year dental student that currently serves as the Colorado ASDA Predental Chair aka the most important ASDA position. A former military brat, she’s proud to call Colorado home, nevermind her Texas license plates and questionable driving. You’ll likely find Colleen at her favorite Denver pizza shop, Ian’s (#ad), eating all the gluten and violently typing out emails on her vintage Macbook Air.
Likes: downhill skiing in denim, succulent arrangements, sneakers, rose gold home décor, sitting next to Sam in lab, most things cheese covered
Dislikes: other people downhill skiing in denim, Danskos, vegans, smelling polysulfide