What advice would you like to share with applicants or those considering dental school?
If there were one piece of advice I could give to applicants considering dental school, I would tell them to pursue their interests and to carve their own paths. An oral health career is possible for people from all walks of life, and a science background is not required in order to succeed. The world of dentistry involves art, science, entrepreneurship, management, technology, and so much more. No matter what your interests are, dentistry has a niche for you. Many of my peers questioned my decision to pursue a college major in philosophy, but it turned out to be my greatest asset in dental school. Philosophy taught me to crave knowledge and to always think outside the box. In addition, my concentration in ethics taught me to look at complex patient management issues from a variety of angles. So feel free to explore your interests, and don’t let anyone discourage you from pursuing this wonderful profession.
Have you taken advantage of scholarship, loans, or loan repayment programs? What advice would you give applicants about financial aid and dental education financing?
You may not realize it now, but the amount of debt you graduate with will have a direct impact on the rest of your life. When you go to the bank in the future for a loan to buy that dream practice or your dream home, they will look closely at your debt-to-income ratio. If you graduated with an excessive amount of student loans, your choices will be severely limited, and the interest rates on your home or business loan will be sky-high. My advice to applicants is to explore your options because there are many scholarships and loan repayment programs offered to students in the health professions. They are available through many local, state, and national agencies, and taking advantage of these programs early on could save you a ton of money in the long run.
Jessica Brereton Peterkin
Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine - Illinois
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Why did you choose dentistry as your career path?
As a child, I always knew that I would pursue a career in the health profession. During high school, I focused on dentistry but did not solidify this decision until 2008, after I completed the Summer Medical Dental Education Program at the University of Texas Health Science Center (Houston). It was there that I was exposed to both medicine and dental medicine for six weeks, and realized that dentistry was the perfect career for me. It combines my love for art, tactile learning, passion for healthcare, interest in science and medicine into one amazing profession!
What advice would you like to share with applicants or those considering dental school?
It may be a smooth process...or it may be rough. But no matter what, never give up! A dream deferred does not mean it is a dream denied. If you do not get into dental school on your first try, try and try AGAIN!
Did you participate in any shadowing opportunities before applying to dental schools? What value did you gain from the experiences? Would you recommend shadowing to others?
Much of my shadowing experiences were at dental schools where I was able to interact with and "assist" dental students within their first through fourth year. These opportunities were, in my opinion, ideal because I was able to see exactly what would be done during my dental school career and beyond. Shadowing is definitely the way to go to gain clear insight on the profession.
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
I always enjoyed biology and chemistry in high school, but I began college interested in architecture. When I took a science course in college, I knew it could lead to a challenging health profession. As I considered both my interest in architecture and my passion for the sciences, I found dentistry combined elements from both fields in its demand for a strong scientific knowledgebase, a sense of creativity, and a great degree of manual dexterity.
What did you do as an applicant to prepare for dental school?
After graduating from college, I did a two-year master's program in medical science. I believe the difficulty of dental school is mostly due to the enormity of the course load. Each individual course may not be all that difficult in itself. When you are taking six courses at once - in addition to preclinical classes - it can be stressful. By completing a graduate program in the sciences, I was able to adapt better to the course load of dental school, while others struggled.
Whether it's working in a college lab or conducting a thesis project, research experience is a key aspect of your application. Either way, I suggest having a strong rapport with the person you will be working under. You will likely encounter some obstacles along the way, and having a solid relationship can allow things to run smoothly and provide an end-product that meets both of your expectations.
What advice would you give applicants or those considering dental school?
My single biggest piece of advice when it comes to interviews is to be prepared. Simple questions like "Can you tell me about yourself?" suddenly become difficult to answer in a complete, thoughtful way when an interviewer whose opinion will help decide your future is sitting across from you. Take the time to outline answers to typical questions that you expect to be asked, but don't memorize a script.
New York University College of Dentistry
Hometown: San Diego, California
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be in the medical field. First I wanted to be an M.D., but the more I explored the lifestyle, the more I didn't like it. I want to be able to be my own boss, run my own business, on my own terms. Most of all, I didn't want my job getting in the way of starting my family. Dentistry offers a lot of what I am looking for. I was plagued by cavities and crooked teeth growing up. After regularly going to the dentist and orthodontist, I had a major boost in my self-esteem. I think it's amazing that something like a smile can change someone's outlook on life. I want to be able to give that feeling to someone else.
What are you doing now?
I am currently a third-year dental student at New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry. Aside from classes and seeing patients, I try to stay involved in extracurricular activities. I'm secretary of NYU's ADEA Chapter and an active member in the American Student Dental Association (ASDA), the Community Service Club, and the Vietnamese Student Dental Association. I am also a Teaching Assistant (TA) for the D1 preclinical lab sessions and an Admissions Ambassador, for which I help with interviewee tours.
I also have a YouTube® channel where I blog about my life in dental school, give advice to predental students, and make preclinical procedure tutorials for fellow dental students. So, if you are interested in what the life of a dental student entails, visit www.youtube.com/linhphandds.
What are your short-term and long-term goals?
Short-term, I want to enjoy my time in dental school and learn as much as I can. I don't want to be a student that does just the minimum requirements. I want to do everything to the best of my ability, grow as much as I can, and get involved in all of the things that interest me. I eventually want to have my own practice - but whether a general practice or a specialty, I really am not sure yet. I also want to teach part-time in a dental school, either preclinically, clinically, or both.
University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine
Hometown: Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
My mom started brushing my teeth at a very early age and I loved it. Despite my good habits, my teeth would still turn pink from the dentist's disclosing tablets; this drove me to take better care of my teeth. In preschool, I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse. In junior high school, I understood that I could combine my interests in the health professions with my fascination with teeth. No matter what I decided to do, I wanted a career that made a direct positive influence on my community. There had to be a reason and greater purpose to what I was doing with my life.
Did you shadow before applying to dental schools?
I did as much shadowing as possile the summer before applying to school. It worked out really well, as I got to shadow before my 2:00-10:00 p.m. shift at work. I knew I had found the right career when I saw the dentists interact with patients. Through shadowing, I leaned that dentistry is what you make it. You have the independence to set your own priorities and do exactly the type of work that you love. I shadowed at three different dental practices, exposing me to different focuses and approaches to patient care. The dentists I worked with were making an impact. I could see the results in their work and the way they advocated for their patient's needs. The experience was invaluable.
What advice would you to give to applicants or those considering dental school?
Preparing for the interview was the most important and challenging part of my application process. It took a lot of practice to be comfortable talking about myself. Reflect on the general questions beforehand. Sometimes in the excitement of the moment, you can forget to touch on topics that are very important. Practicing will help you remember your main points and mitigate nervousness. The interview is your chance to let the admissions committee know you as a person. I's also an opportunity to get to know the school. Read through the institution's website and research their programs so you can ask appropriate questions to help you decide if the institution is the right fit for you.