Dental Advice for someone getting involved with EC's late?

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Volunteer Staff
Mar 22, 2021
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(sorry in advance for the long post, felt like a lot of context was needed).

I'm currently a second semester sophomore, and very worried that I decided to pursue dentistry (relatively) late. I was always interested in dentistry throughout childhood and high school, but once I reached college, I faced a lot of uncertainty in what I wanted to do in the future. The pandemic made this uncertainty worse, as my relatives that are dentists had a very rough time.

However, after shadowing a relative during winter break, I feel like I had been overthinking everything. My passion definitely lies in dentistry, and I had been pushing myself away because I thought it was too difficult or that I wasn't cut out for it. I've been feeling discouraged as I practically did nothing except focus on school these last 3 semesters.

At the moment, I have about a 3.7 cGPA, and have minimal (< 50) shadowing hours with a relative. I have contacted another dentist that will allow me to shadow during my breaks. No volunteering hours either, but starting some this semester. In addition, my major already requires me to participate in research to graduate, so I've been inquiring about opportunities that our advisors have recommended.

I guess I'm just worried about my prospects if I aim to apply the summer after I graduate. Since admissions typically like to see EC's carried out for a long time, I'm also just wondering if it would be a red flag that I'm starting almost halfway through my undergraduate years.

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Hard to give specific advice since you're still relatively early on your journey. But the two biggest pieces of advice I would give you are: 1) Remember that the biggest part of your application is going to be your academics. Do not take on more EC hours than you can spare and wind up having academic missteps. Those will hurt you far more than any EC would help. 2) Apply when your application is ready rather than on any preconceived timeline. If your app isn't ready when you're hoping, it will be much better in the long run to wait a year and apply when your app is strong
I agree with the above. Honestly, I was in a similar situation as you. I actually didn't shadow a dentist until the summer before my junior year because of covid. Volunteering will be important, a food pantry will be good, and a soup kitchen will also be a good option. No it's not a red flag to start halfway during college, I did most of my volunteering early on and have done research the second half of my degree. You just need some volunteer hours. Research is also not a bad idea. I had a lot of research during my undergrad. But yes, don't burn yourself out with EC's and try to maintain your grades. I think I've invested a little too much in my research and my grades slipped a little this semester so you don't want that to happen if you can avoid it. Obviously, schools use a holistic approach but just make sure to keep doing well, pursue your passions, and give yourself ample time to study for the DAT.

The best time to take the DAT is in the spring or early summer of the year you plan on applying. Apply as EARLY as you can. You can apply to dental schools without your DAT score (should you need to take it in the summer) to get your GPA and transcript, and application verified. The score will go through and then the schools will accept your application. It gives you a faster chance of receiving an interview invite with the rolling admissions. However, having everything ready when the applications officially open is better, but it's an option.

Do what you love, you don't necessarily need to be in the pre-dental club if you'd rather do something else. Do what makes you happy, and show the schools you have passions. Crochet would be a fabulous club to partake in, it shows artistry and hand skills that schools will like.

And as they say above, apply when you're ready. Don't just toss in an application because you want to see how you'd do. Be 110% ready, you only get to be a first-time applicant once. Do it right the first time. You will be held to higher standards as a reapplicant, which could hurt you if you don't show schools enough improvement.
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It's not about how late you start with your interest in dentistry. It is about how you see yourself as a future mature professional and your preparation for the rigorous education academically and kinesthetically. Many successful career changers are in dental school.
It is not too late to switch career choices. However, I would be very careful with how much you put on your plate. As mentioned in the posts above, academics is the #1 priority. Your GPA is good now, but if you start adding in a ton of ECs (jobs, clubs, volunteer, shadowing), the amount of time for studying obviously is going to be cut in half. My advice if your real goal is to get into dental school is to not get a job (if you don't have to right now). I would shadow another dentist who is not your relative for another 30-40 hours, and then start gaining your other volunteer experiences. You have to remember that the more you know the content, the easier it will be for you to study for the DAT as well.
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