10 THINGS EVERY PRE-DENTAL FRESHMAN NEEDS TO DO
My name is Samantha Abrahams. I am a first-year dental student attending Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University. I love all things dentistry, food, and fitness!
I started the blog “Smile It’s Contagious” to provide a resource for pre-dental students, document my time in dental school, and have a platform to share my life experiences. Feel free to follow my blog at www.samanthaabrahams.com and my Instagram page @smileitscontagiousblog for more posts like this one.
While starting college is such an amazing time, as a pre-dental student, it can feel extremely overwhelming. I remember being a pre-dental freshman and feeling lost with all the things I needed to do in order to into dental school.
Although you may be overwhelmed, knowing that you want to go into dentistry from your first year puts you miles ahead of the game. The hardest thing for college students is finding out what they want to be, and you have accomplished that. The following are ten things I think every pre-dental freshman needs to do to prepare themselves for success:
1) See a counselor
This should be the first thing you do as a college student. Most schools have “pre-dental or pre-health advisors” that can help you stay on track to graduate on time and get into dental school. These counselors typically have years of experience and may know certain connections or have tips and tricks that can increase your chances of getting into dental school.
One of my pre-dental advisors connected me with a retired dentist in my town. This dentist ended up being one of my biggest resources for all my dental questions. He gave me countless opportunities to be involved in dentistry and wrote one of my letters of recommendations. Also, if you are close enough to your pre-dental advisor for them to write you a letter of recommendation that would look amazing on your application!
2) Join your school’s pre-dental club
Being involved in your school’s pre-dental club will not only look great on your application, it will give you many opportunities to stay involved in dentistry and your community.
In college, you can get wrapped up in all your classes and lose sight of volunteering or shadowing. These types of clubs can relieve the stress of looking for volunteer and shadowing opportunities so that you can use your time wisely to be at these events. Use your time wisely to be present at these events.
3) Join a club (or organization) that has nothing to do with dentistry
This is important for many reasons: it can show that you are well rounded, it will make you stand out from a crowd, it can also be fun and give you a break from your busy schedule focusing on dentistry.
In college, I was in an elephant conservation club. I was debating putting this on my application because I felt like it was completely unrelated. However, during my interviews, two schools asked me about this club and said it made me stand out from the pool of applicants.
4) Find out when the “pre-dental days” are at your local dental schools
Go onto your local dental schools’ website and find out if there are any tour dates or “pre-dental days.” These events give you the opportunity to make connections, see which schools you like, and get an insight into dental school itself.
While some of these events are strictly tours, try to find one that lets you get hands-on experience (like work with hand-pieces, take impressions, etc.). Pre-dental days were one of my favorite things I did as an undergrad student.
5) Contact admissions for your top school
Making connections with your top dental school is an amazing thing to do as a pre-dental student. You can email them asking if you can do a tour, or with specific questions about your experience, what they recommend, etc. If they see a familiar name in the application pool, it can only work in your favor.
6) Shadow dentists during school breaks
While school is extremely hectic in your first year, shadowing is something you should be thinking about as well. My advice would be to shadow as much as you can during breaks for your first year. While I do usually recommend spreading out shadowing (a few hours a week rather than 10 in one day), for your first year I think it is very important to focus on acclimating to college courses. This way you are getting most out of your core classes, getting the best grades possible, and working on completing shadowing hours at the same time.
7) Do not take too many units
While you may want to get as many classes out of the way as possible, I would not recommend this. College courses are much different than high school courses in every way possible. At least for your first semester/quarter, take a moderate amount of units and maybe only two science courses if possible. It is a marathon, not a sprint!
8) Take care of yourself
Most pre-dental students share the characteristic of being perfectionists. We all work so hard and make school our lives. We obsess over the little things and sometimes we just need to take a minute for ourselves. In the end, your mental health is the most important thing. Make sure that you are happy. If you are feeling overwhelmed, go do something that you enjoy. For me, anytime I got super stressed I would take an hour for myself to go get my nails done or workout. These are the small things that really do make a difference in your life. These breaks can make a huge difference in your studying abilities as well!
9) Set goals for the year
Make sure to set aside time to write down your goals. The best thing to do with goals is to make them extremely specific (ex: instead of “volunteer more” put “complete 30 volunteer hours”). Write these goals down and put them somewhere where you will see them every day, like hung up in your room or the front of your binder as a reminder of what you want to accomplish.
10) Do not get caught up in the process & remember why you are in school
It is SO easy to get caught up in the process of being a pre-dental student and begin to doubt yourself. At times, I would google things like “What is the average GPA for admitted dental students?” or “How many people apply to dental school every year?”
My biggest advice: DO NOT FOCUS ON HOW OTHERS DO, OR THE SMALL THINGS THAT GO WRONG IN YOUR COLLEGE CAREER. The time you waste on seeing how other people do, you can use to make yourself a better student. You are the only person who is you, who has your own unique experiences and personality. Focus on learning from your mistakes, improving yourself, and being the best applicant that YOU can be. That, in itself, will allow you shine amongst a pool of applicants.