There are plenty of tips for getting into and through dental school that you can find for free online and through networking.
The information below is my personal advice on some of the main subjects involved in getting accepted into dental school. If you are interested in customized advice for your personal situation, then please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm also in the process of making youtube videos for those seeking extra advice: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4PNDpMc9UBZ8_rC9bYAaYA
Is Dentistry Right For You?
It can be a difficult task to find out "what do you want to be when you grow up?" If you truly want to be a dentist, you MUST know why you feel that way. At every dental school interview, you will be asked, "why do you want to be a dentist?" They're asking you this because becoming and then working as a dentist is not an easy task. One out of every 10 dental students that started in my dental school class did not graduate with with us for various reasons i.e. dropped out, expelled, held back. In my opinion, the main reason this occurred was due to students who didn't realize that dentistry wasn't their passion until they already started dental school. Not only was this very hard on the person who went through it because they've now spent at least a year of time and tuition money but also, it is also not good for the dental school.
First decide if you want to be a general dentist. There are many opportunities in the dental field besides general dentistry such as teaching, research, public health, specialties, etc. But dental school trains you to become a general dentist. If you won't AT LEAST be happy working as a general dentist, then you're taking a big risk that you may go through 4 difficult, expensive years of dental school to possibly not be accepted into your dream career.
Shadowing and/or assisting is very different from actually working as a dentist. There's no good legal way to experience being a dentist until you actually do it, but the more exposure you get to the dental field the more you will learn if it truly is the correct career for you. The reason dental schools look at shadowing hours isn't so you have a "check box" that you did your time, it's because they're hoping you have enough experience to know what you're getting yourself into. In my opinion, getting into dental school is more difficult than getting through dental school (although it's not a cake walk). Before you look at the application process as a game that you win by getting an acceptance, first do everything in your power to make sure dentistry is the correct field for you.
What Do I Need to Do to Become a Dentist?
Once you've decided that dentistry is the correct field for you, you need to follow a general path to become a dentist. The first step is that you need to go to college. I'm going to group colleges into 3 general categories, community, standard, and elite. I define an elite college as a big name ivy league-type college. The people working in admissions are subject to bias just like all other human beings.
Candidate #1 has straight-As at a community college vs candidate #2 that has As and Bs at an "elite" college. If everything else is equal, candidate #2 is more likely to get an interview. From what I have seen in my experience on the admissions committee and from talking with deans' of admissions, there are some undergraduate programs that are "feeder" schools meaning that the dental school tends to accept people from those specific colleges. Depending on what dental school you're interested attending, it may be in your benefit to attend a feeder school. If you have to choose between an elite school in which you may not excel at vs a standard school that you may excel at, I would recommend you chose the standard school. I attended what I would consider a standard college that did not have a great academic reputation, but I excelled at the school, I had a great time, and I was still able to get into my top choice dental school.
Once you get into a college, you have to take the courses required for the dental program that you plan on applying to. Your major isn't crucial as long as you do well in the required courses and the dental admissions test (DAT). There was a cello major in my dental class! If you major in the sciences then you're going to have an easier time taking the required courses and learn more material that is going to be relevant to your career. Your grade point average (GPA) is very important which is one reason I would recommend excelling at a standard school rather than have a mediocre performance at an elite school. If you have a bad semester or a bad start to college it can be saved by showing improvement and having a good DAT score. I personally had a poor start to college. There are plenty of websites available that list the average accepted DAT score and GPA at different dental programs. Once you have completed the required courses, have a college degree and took the DAT, it's time to start working on the application process.
What Dental Schools Should I Apply to?
When deciding on which dental schools to apply to, first I would recommend determining what your long-term career goals are. You can get into any field of dentistry from any accredited dental school, but different schools make the path to certain careers easier. All schools are going to teach you how to become a general dentist, but every school is different. Some schools give you more exposure to research, public health, different specialties, molar endo, partial boney extractions, pedo, etc. First decide what you might be looking for in a school then we can determine which schools may best fit your goals. Once you've determined the schools you're interested in applying to, it's time to start on the application.
How Do I Apply?
Most dental schools participate in the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) which can be found at the following link: https://aadsas.liaisoncas.com/applicant-ux/#/login
I believe that the generalized application process has it's pros and cons. It makes it easier for you to apply to more schools, but everyones application has the same format, so the only ways you stand out are your numbers (GPA and DAT score) and your words (the application and interview).
I'm here to offer my personalized advice on the best path for you to get an interview then ace it!
If you're interested, send an email to email@example.com to discuss how I can help you!