Evelyn Lucas-Perry, D.D.S., M.P.H.
ADEA Vice President for Students, Residents, and Fellows
So often I’m asked by pre-dental students about how to best prepare for the dental school application process, and what are the so-called secrets to getting accepted. Well, I'm afraid to tell you that there isn't a sure-fire way of getting accepted into dental school. Yes, you may have a high DAT score but lack exposure to the dental field, or have limited experience within leadership positions. On the other hand, you may have exhibited a strong commitment to healthcare with outreach activities, but have a lower GPA. More than likely, you are in the middle of the extremes... have solid test scores, GPA, and reasonable participation in extracurricular activities-but are unsure of how to stand out.
In order to best prepare yourself for the application process you must understand the individual school's mission and focus. Speaking to current dental students and recent alumni can help identify school characteristics. This can also help identify what school would be a good fit for you as well. Remember, even though you are going through the application process, YOU are choosing the school to attend.
Separating yourself from "the crowd" in your personal statement (and later interview) can become key ways of showcasing your uniqueness to admission officers. Whether it is a personal story or account of your future aspirations your personal statement should highlight your commitment to and knowledge of dentistry. And remember, the personal statement needs to be interesting...ask yourself in a pile of 100 applications would I enjoy reading mine?
But the best way to prepare yourself for the application process is objectively evaluating your application. Yes, applying early and seeking advice from your school's pre-health adviser, current dental students and mentors are important; but recognizing your strengths and opportunities (sounds so much better than weaknesses!) as an applicant is essential. Knowing this can prompt you to take another higher level biology class, involve yourself in a community program or begin to discover an interest in research. For those who are in the midst of the application process, self-evaluation can help guide your personal statement, selection for those to write your letters of recommendations, and what questions to anticipate during the interview process.
Whatever the case, it is always best to prepare yourself by exposing yourself. Utilize resources like GoDental, ExploreHealthCareers (explorehealthcareers.org), the ADEA (www.adea.org) website, professional organizations (ASDA, SNDA, pre-dental associations, pre-health study clubs) and of course the dental school's website.
If you’re getting started or already on the path, ask yourself, If you were on the admissions committee what would you say about your application?
Keep this in mind and best of luck!