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Advice for Future Dentists

The following advice has been primarily provided by UD students who successfully made it to dental school and Health Professions Advisors. Upon graduation, many students reflected that they wished they had known as Freshmen what they knew as Seniors. They agreed to share their wisdom with future students, so the following thoughts are for you!

Freshman Year (First semester)

  • Start strong! Admission to dental school is very competitive. Your overall GPA and science GPA are important — these outcomes, especially science GPA, are easier to maintain when you start off earning A’s and B’s in your introductory BISC and CHEM courses. Use academic supports at UD.
  • Begin taking required courses early — both BISC and CHEM together beginning in the first semester through Organic CHEM: SEE THE PRE-HEALTH COURSE CHART for REQUIRED and RECOMMENDED courses for Pre-Dental with corresponding UD course numbers. Check individual schools for specific requirements and recommended courses.
  • Meet with a Health Professions Advisor in the Center for Health Profession Studies and review the CHPS Advising Syllabus.
  • Join UD’s Pre-Dental Society. Follow them on Instagram and search for them on Student Central. Seek out different registered student organizations (RSOs) based on your academic and personal interests.
  • Get to know your science professors. Attend their office hours. Begin thinking about how to build the kind of relationship that lends well to a letter of recommendationHINT: It’s more than just attending their class and doing well!
  • Save everything from the required courses (for the DAT) – this will save you a lot of money when studying for the DAT. Note: Physics and Biochemistry are not covered on the DAT.
  • Get familiar with the ADEA GoDental website.

Freshmen Year (Second semester)

  • Expand upon your involvements and success from your first semester. You should be seeking shadowing opportunities in dental settings — breadth and depth of these experiences are important, so be sure to shadow with one Dentist for a longer timeframe as well as in a variety of settings (private practice, clinic, etc). See Delaware State Dental Society (DSDS) for a list of dental clinics in Delaware. For clinics in other states, check the website of that state’s dental society.

Freshman Year (Summer)

  • Expand upon shadowing and volunteering from your first year. If you choose to go through HPEC, you’ll need a minimum of 50 hours of shadowing and 50 hours of volunteering by the time you submit your portfolio for evaluation.
  • Remember that continuous experiences are a good way to show “distance travelled over time” and growth in both competencies and professional knowledge.
  • Summer is a good time to take any introductory science courses you missed or need to retake from your first year. Courses should be taken at a bachelor’s granting institution to give you the best access to apply ato any dental school in the future and should be retaken at UD if you’re interested in grade forgiveness.
  • Seek Summer programs for Pre-Dental students like the Summer Health Professions Exploration Program (SHPEP) or those tied to dental schools themselves.
  • If interested, try to certify and find a job in the dental field — this is not a requirement to apply to dental school, but shows progression and helps develop clinical skills in a dental setting. Many community and tech colleges have programs for Certified Dental Assistants.

Sophomore Year (First semester)

  • Continue doing well academically (especially in your required science courses). This is likely when you’ll be shifting to more challenging content, so be sure to proactively seek academic supports.
  • Start asking for recommendations from professors and open your HPEC file at the Center for Health Profession Studies — submit the Scheduling/Question Form and select “Health Professions Evaluation Committee (HPEC)” as the reason for advisement.

Sophomore Year (Second semester)

  • Consider Undergraduate Research — this is not a requirement to apply to dental school, but it builds scientific reasoning skills and shows that you value discovery and generating new knowledge.
  • Consider Study Abroad. CHPS sponsors a study abroad each Winter — see the CHPS Study Abroad page for details.
  • If you’re a part of a registered student organization (RSO), consider running for their E-Board to show leadership development.

Sophomore Year (Summer)

  • Think about where you want to be with experiences by the end of Summer and round out early involvements with new volunteering and Summer programs — next Summer will be very busy if you’re applying in your first eligible cycle.
  • Begin drafting your personal statement for HPEC and dental school applications. Run your drafts by the UD Writing Center, sources for letters of recommendation, and people who know you well (so it sounds like you and is authentic).
  • Further investigate Summer (or Winter) Pre-Dental programs. Some of our students have attended Gateway to Dentistry at UMDNJ and Dentistry Today at University of Maryland.

Junior Year (First semester)

  • Open your file for HPEC if you have not already done so — you must have the file open by the end of semester deadline if you’re being evaluated in Spring!
  • Continue making asks for letters of recommendation — 2 science professors, 1 non-science professor, a Dentist you’ve shadowed, and possibly others. This is VERY important – do not put this off!
  • Consider taking BISC 422 – Teaching Experience to engage in teaching and tutoring peers in early BISC courses.
  • Refine your personal statement. The Graduate Assistant in the Center for Health Profession Studies can also offer assistance — submit the Scheduling/Question Form and select “Personal Statement/Resume Review” as the reason for advisement.
  • Start taking upper level courses that dental schools recommend. Consult dental school websites and PRE-HEALTH COURSE CHART for suggested courses, especially those involved in content preparation for the DAT.
  • Begin to research dental schools – find out their requirements like admission prerequisites, but also ask about things like average admitted DAT scores, shadowing/volunteering hours, and student demographics for their last few cohorts.
  • Continue undergraduate research, teaching/tutoring, and other involvements.

Junior Year (second semester)

  • Finish making asks for letters of recommendation.
  • Finish and submit your final draft of your personal statement (first to HPEC and then to AADSAS).
  • Make sure that your file is complete for HPEC and submit it at least a few days to a week before the deadline just in case.
  • Prepare for the interviews with the HPEC — do mock interviews with yourself in the mirror and ask others to interview you – the interview is important, so be prepared. The UD Career Center offers mock interviews which they record and review with you.
  • Upon notification, promptly contact your HPEC interviewers to arrange for interview appointments. Dress appropriately for your HPEC interview. Arrive for the interview on time. Write a letter thanking the interviewers for their time and note what you enjoyed about your discussion.
  • Begin studying for the DAT. If you saved the books from your courses, you may not need to take an instructive course, but many students find prep courses helpful. Find books that will help you study for the exam such as “Barron’s Guide to the DAT.” Get familiar with the exam format by taking full length practice exams 1-2 times per month that you’re studying. Use a stopwatch and practice under time constraints.

Junior Year (Summer)

  • Take the DAT – Be sure you are ready. If you are unhappy with your scores, you cannot retake the DAT for 90 days. Make sure that you take it early enough that you can retake it if necessary before the application deadlines (e.g., take it in early June, so you can retake it in September), but do not rush a second attempt without first addressing your key areas for growth by studying thoroughly.
  • Receive letter from HPEC. If it isn’t what you expected, find out why with a follow up appointment for Health Professions Advising.
  • Fill out the AADSAS application online. ADEA GoDental is very helpful and informative for this part.
  • Research dental schools – consider finances, location and settings (urban, suburban, rural), mission, culture, curriculum, etc. If you are unsure of how well a school is preparing future Dentists, you can call the schools and ask them how they scored on Part 2 of the boards – most will tell you. The ADEA and ADEA GoDental sites are also very helpful.
  • Begin preparing for school interviews. Set and stick to a budget for travel.

Senior Year (first semester)

  • Be persistent in finding out the status of your application – make sure the school received all of the necessary information.
  • Fill out the secondary applications. Do this quickly but accurately. Be persistent to ensure that all the necessary information and fees were received and then wait to hear the dates of your interviews.
  • Before going on the interviews, study dental school websites – this is very important in giving you an edge. Find out what the school concentrates on and try to remember some key names.
  • Go to your interviews. Be confident that you are prepared. Be ready to discuss your accomplishments. The interview is your chance to see what the school is about. ASK QUESTIONS and find out everything you can about the school. It is especially important to ask the current students questions since they will give you a unique perspective and were recently admitted themselves.
  • Write thank you notes to those who interviewed you. Try to mention something unique from the conversation you had with the interviewer so it sounds more personal.
  • Wait to hear their response and find out via their admission offices if they accept letters of interest/update. Only send these if you have significant updates after your application to share, not just to reiterate interest.

Senior Year (second semester)

  • Decide which dental school you will attend.
  • Fill out your FAFSA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
  • Fill out the necessary paper work, especially financial aid applications.
  • Search for scholarships. You might want to try FastWeb, a free scholarship search service.

Applying to Dental School