The dentist’s office is what some people call a torture room, yet what others call their office. There are a lot of stereotypes behind dentistry, and like every career and facet in life, there are pros and cons to each field.
Dentistry is not only the study of the oral cavity and its diseases and treatments; it is also a fantastic career choice. Several of you freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors may be entering the new school year with an open mind (maybe not everyone!) and will strive to be productive. You may also be wondering about what you want to do with your life: where you will see yourself in the next 5, 10, 15 years down the road. A step to take in this pursuit is to identify what your passions, strengths, and even weaknesses are in life, and where you see yourself with those attributes. From thereon out, you can hone your strengths and look for careers that fit you and your lifestyle.
If being dedicated, interested in the sciences, working with your hands, and changing lives sounds like something that is of interest to you then dentistry may be the career for you! If so, consider the testing timeline: many juniors take the DAT (Dental Admissions Test, mandatory to be eligible to apply for admission into a dental school) over the summer before their senior year.
Since we are situated in the state of NY, here are four schools in New York that have a dental school:
1.) New York University
2.) SUNY – Stony Brook University
3.) SUNY – Buffalo
4.) Columbia University
All of these schools have stringent application requirements, with a competitive GPA of at least 3.6 overall, and 3.5 in science. Now, you may be wondering, “not everyone has that GPA! My friend had lower and got into that school.” In fact, every case is different. There are many things to take into consideration when an admissions committee goes over your application file, but believe the emphasis is on the DAT Score and GPA, although extracurriculars, personal Statements, and interviews are still important.
The DAT is a test composed of 6 sections: Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, QR (math), Reading Comprehension, and PAT. Now hold up there, what the heck is a PAT, you may ask? The PAT is the perceptual ability test, and its purpose is to exam your perception skills and spatial acuity. A competitive DAT score, for matriculation, is usually around 20 for both, overall (Academic Average), and science (Total Science). Usually a solid applicant would also have great extracurriculars, something revolving around shadowing a dentist for over 100 hours (personally, I’d recommend 200+, as 100+ has become the norm). I would also suggest volunteering at as many places as you can–nothing will hurt you! You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, a hospital, a dental clinic, physical therapy center, or whatever you may find interesting.
Community service is also important. Working with food banks is a great initiative. Leadership skills are also a huge boost to one’s application. Starting a club, running for a position at a current club, perhaps even a Pre-Dental one can certainly help. Research is always benefice. Albeit some schools might not focus on it much, you never know when it might stand out, and perhaps in an interview you’ll strike a chord and have something to connect to with your interviewer.
Writing a strong personal statement is also essential to a complete application. Revising it will most likely take several weeks, if not months. That is not to say that it takes a long, hard, grueling time to write a P.S., but more so to prove a point that when you write your P.S., you should consider making it the best representation of you, that you can possibly make–and that usually requires a ton of rewrites and revisions!
Finally, there is the interview step before the wonderful & elusive letter of acceptance! Interviewing skills can be improved; all it takes is practice. Meet with an advisor or a good friend, your parent, a sibling or anyone you know, who can be professional and improvise questions for half an hour so you can practice your responses. It is in fact an arduous journey, but a very worthwhile one as well. Dentistry, pound-for-pound, in my opinion, is considered the best healthcare career in the world. Don’t believe me? Have a look yourself: http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/best-healthcare-jobs
My final suggestion is this: it’s extremely difficult to come out swinging and get a 20 flush on the DAT if your performance in undergraduate classes has been lackluster. That’s not to say that a C+ in General Chemistry ensures you a 17 on the DAT, but in reality, consistent Cs or Bs will show a student who doesn’t have a competency to undergo a rigorous dental curriculum. Getting As in your science, as well as other classes, will show dental schools that you have what it takes to become a Doctor of Dental Surgery. Work hard, never, ever, ever, give up, and grind through it. Whether you’re a step away from dental school or you haven’t even started the process, every journey begins with one step. Like my advisor always tells me, “make sure to smell the roses along the way”!