Looking into being a dentist?
So, you are looking at getting into dental school and you are not sure where to start, or you have started your journey and you want to know you are going to get in. In this article, I want to share with you the process of becoming a dentist and give you some tips along the way to increase your chances of getting accepted into dental school. Dentistry is one of the best occupations to get into because of the sense of satisfaction from helping others combined with the ability to make a lot of money. Dentists average a six figure salary in the U.S. and rarely work a full 40 hour week. Dentists are well-respected in their communities. Being able to help people and do well financially, in my book, is a win-win situation. This is my experience of applying and getting accepted into all three dental schools in Texas. I hope this will help you in your journey.
The path to becoming a dentist usually starts out in high school, but can be anytime when you decide that dentistry might be the field for you. The journey is usually eight years in length beginning in a college or university that has a pre-dental program or offers the classes that the dental school requires. The last step, is dental school itself, which is very competitive to get into. Many schools have thousands of applicants but only accept a few hundred students each year. Don't get discouraged however there are many things you can do to make yourself stand out in the crowd and the goal is well worth it.
I will share four major phases that you will go through on the way to becoming a dentist.
1. Evaluating whether dentistry is really your thing.
2. Preparing to start "undergraduate/pre-dent courses"
3. Tips on what to do college, including not worrying so much about your gpa and what to major in.
4. The holy grail: the application process and "How do I get in!?"
Looking into becoming a dentist?
A few things you can do to make sure dentistry is your field.
Take an interest inventory or shadow a dentist.
The first thing you will want to do on your journey is to make sure you want to be a dentist. This may sound silly because that is what this article is about, but oftentimes the sound of dollar signs can drown out the reality of being a dentist, so you want to do a few things to make sure you are going down the right road. You do not want to spend years in school and training just to find out dentistry is not your thing. Here are two things you can do to check your interest in the field:
1. shadow a dentist: This is an easy way to find out what it is like in a dental office. There are many different fields of dentistry out there, but a general dental office will show you an array of different procedures you might be doing. Dentists love to teach and share with those interested in their field. If you develop a good relationship, the dentist can help you with recommendation letters to dental school.
2. do an interest inventory: I went to my local college and they hooked me up with a wonderful program called an interest inventory. This is a program that asks you multiple questions to find out what kind of careers might interest you. This does not mean if dentistry isnt on there that you can't move forward, but it is a great tool at helping you think about who you are and what you like to do.
Shadowing a dentist is a great way to get to know what the job is like.
Hot tip: set yourself up for success before you get into a pre-dental program.
If you are still in high school or if you are an O.T.A.S. (older than average student), there is something you should think about before starting your pre-dental program. Thousands of dental students all look the same. Unless you are a 4.0 GPA student, you want to do things that make you stand out in the crowd and they don't all include volunteering at the local food shelter.
Yes, dental schools look at intelligence and a propensity for goodwill, but they are also looking for real people with experience and connections. Do something wild and crazy, or take a trip to a unique place. Focus in on your hobbies. Whatever it is, start working on your personal story right away to make yourself stand out.
College: the first big step getting into dental school.
What do I major in, when getting into dental school?
The next step on your way to a career as a dentist is pre-dental program at a local college or university. Make sure the college you go to is approved by the dental schools you might be looking at. My suggestion would be to look at dental schools in your state because of the tuition advantages and there could be a whole book on which dental school to go to, but for now lets just say make sure the undergraduate college you go to has a pre-dental program that is approved.
You might wonder what to major in. One thing I noticed when I applied to dental school was that 90 percent of applicants were biology majors, but the 10 percent who had a unique major received more attention. Again, imagine looking at thousands of applications all day long that say, '4.0 GPA, Biology Major, Volunteered at the food bank', boring right? So look at some areas you might be interested in: music, engineering, whatever; its all about standing out.
Applying for dental school.
The last hurdle
When you get near the end of your pre-dental program then it is time to apply for dental school, it is at this point that your life narrows down to one thing, "how do I get in?". The process of applying includes three major items and a host of paperwork. The three major items are, the dental aptitude test known as the D.A.T., your application and letter about yourself, and (if you receive an invitation) the interview.
The D.A.T is a difficult test. The DAT combines visual 3D exams with testing on the classes you take in undergraduate class. If you do not have a high GPA then more weight is put on your interview, letter, and DAT scores. You'll want to buy a good DAT study guide. Kaplan and Barron's are some of the more popular study guides available. Make sure you look at both to see which format you like the best or which format would be easier for you to study and then study like crazy. I set aside two months locked myself in a study room and studied all day everyday and it paid off.
Every dental school has an application process and you should contact each one you going to apply to and ask for a packet. Most of the application is collecting data on your GPA, classes you took, etc, but where you get to stand out is the personal essay or letter. When you write the letter follow the format they ask for, usually the letter is an essay on why you want to be a dentist and why should school 'X' choose you. Don't be afraid to sell yourself here, at the point you apply, you will have spent 4 years preparing for this moment don't sell yourself short and make it count.
The dental school will go through the applications, letters, and scores. If you make the cut, they will ask you for an interview. The interview is the last obstacle before dental school, my advice to you is to relax and have something different about yourself to bring up at the interview. Be funny. A little levity will go a long way especially for the interviewer. I remember when the dean asked a group of us about our dream car. I said I wanted an AMC Gremlin. The group, including the dean, just laughed and laughed. I received an acceptance letter to that school! I will be writing a lot more on the individual pieces of this process. Good luck on this professional journey. Open up and say Ahhh!