5 things I wish I knew before I applied to dental school

dental admissions strategy

The dental school application process can be overwhelming (but it's worth it, I promise!). Here are some key things I wish I had known when I was applying to school:

1. Don't compare yourself to others

When I was preparing for the DAT and applying for dental school, I joined a bunch of Facebook groups and religiously checked dental threads to learn about different school’s stats, top study sources, and interview schedules. While all of this was exciting and provided helpful insight, I found myself questioning whether I was good enough to be a competitive applicant. In my first year of dental school, I was given a valuable piece of advice: "95% of the stress you feel in school is due to others." Therefore, it's important to focus on your own journey, rather than comparing yourself to others. You can always be there to support and congratulate others in your dental community, but I think maintaining a positive mindset and staying true to yourself will help you succeed and reduce unnecessary stress. Take the time to reflect on your achievements and focus on your own path. Remember that there is no "perfect" dental school candidate, and everyone's journey is unique. Stay true to yourself and trust that you are capable of achieving your goals.

2. Stay true to your passions

Make time for things you are passionate about outside of dentistry. This could be your extracurriculars or activities that make you happy. When it comes to extracurriculars, I think it is more important to hone in on ones you are actually are passionate about and find leadership within those targeted activities rather than spreading yourself thin across a bunch of extracurriculars that you think would “look good.” The activities you are truly passionate about give the admissions committee a better sense of who you are as a person. 

3. Don’t Stress the interview

Although interviews may seem stressful, remember you are interviewing each school as much as much as they are interviewing you. This is an opportunity to not only showcase yourself, but also determine whether the school aligns with your personal and academic goals. Some general tips for your interview day include:

  • re-reading your application (questions about your app will come up, so it is important to know your app like the back of your hand)
  • asking your interviewer thoughtful questions (this helps demonstrate your interest in their school)
  • articulating why you think you would be a good fit at this particular school
  • having a good, personal answer for “why dentistry”
      

4. Wrap your head around the cost

Yes, dental school is expensive. Many dental students find themselves worrying about the high cost of attending their dream school. Although student debt can be overwhelming, it's important to remember that investing in yourself and your future can have significant benefits. If attending a more expensive school can help you achieve your academic and professional goals within dentistry, then I think it is definitely worth considering. In addition, many schools offer scholarships and loan programs to help students meet their financial needs. At the end of the day, you should be choosing a school that is the best option for you. 

5. Find a balance

Dental school may include some of the most challenging yet fulfilling years of your life so it is important to find balance. Organization and consistency are key. Find time for yourself, do things that you truly enjoy, and take breaks. Dental school doesn’t always have to be stressful it can be fun! Lastly, something I found helpful in my transition to dental school was establishing a support network early on. Whether that be with family, friends, or mentors, create a community to lean on.         

Brynn is currently a dental student at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. Previously, she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor's degree in Science majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Tulane University.

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