Advice to everyone else who has yet to take the DAT and apply to dental school, i.e. a pre-dent. I applied to Dental Schools this year. I have a low gpa 3.1 overall, 2.9 science, but I did fairly well on the DAT?s, 21 overall and 19 PAT. Over this last year I have received so much advice, that by now I think I am an expert. But, there was one advice I did not take. APPLY EARLY. Now, it is almost April and I am waiting for admission into Boston U. Not my first choice, but an excellent consolation prize. I wrote this letter for pre-dents to help them in the process of applying to Dental School. I am only one person and you should never listen to only one person . This is based on my experience. A lot of people will tell you a lot of different things, I am telling you one thing. You have to listen to all of it and try your best to do what you think is right. Remember YOU have to do this yourself because no one is going to do it for you. There are three main parts in gaining admission. Applying to schools, taking the DAT, and interviewing. I will give you my perspective on these two of the three. Hopefully by the time you will get to participate in the third choice, you will know more than me. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Advice on the DAT: Take the KAPLAN course. It is about $700, but it prepared me well for the DAT. On Kaplan?s diagnostic (First test) I was scoring 13's and 15's on all sections, and by the end I was up to 17's and 18's in Science and up to 23 on Math and 24 on PAT. It doesn't seem like much, but the KAPLAN tests are much harder than the actual DAT. When I took the actual DAT, I scored pretty well on the DAT's. Bio-22, Gchem-21, Ochem-19, Math-21, Reading-22, PAT-19, and Sci-20, Academic-21. I might have gotten lucky, but I like to think not. My advice is to practice and practice. During the middle of the KAPLAN course, I was feeling pretty dumb; everybody was scoring higher than me, and bragging about where they were going to go to school. On the midterm test, I scored 16 on the bio and 14 on both the chem. sections. But the reason they were scoring higher was because they were there 4-6 hours every day. Well, I stopped feeling sorry for my self and started doing the same as them, which was going to KAPLAN every day, doing practice tests, retaking tests, reworking problems I missed, taking detailed notes, and studying off them. I think I ended up fine. Practice is the key. The reason Jordan was so good in basketball was because he practiced every day, he was in the gym 8 hours every day. You have to do the same. In order to concentrate on the DAT, take a light school schedule, so you can focus on your goal of scoring high on the test. Note on Kaplan, their focus is a little different than the actual DAT. Remember the DAT tests you overall knowledge and does not go into detail in any section, so focus too much on any one subject in a given section. MATH: Their practice exams are garbage. It takes 5 minutes to do one problem, assuming you can do it. Go do problems from their actual tests (diagnostic, midterm, final, computer) and your high school SAT?s math section; they are closer to the actual test. BIOLOGY: Kaplan?s focus is more on the body. I realize there is much to know, but there are other areas that you need to also know. The DAT tests your overall knowledge of Biology. You need to know about the human body as well as Genetics (Punnet Square, not Punit square ), Ecology (Carbon, Nitrogen cycles, Biomass pyramid) Botany (Plants, Photosynthesis), Kingdoms (Protist, Monera), Evolution (pre-modal soup), etc. Make sure you cover all the sections. Remember don?t focus on one section. There are 40 questions, and there will be at least 1-2 questions from all the major sections. CHEMISTRY: Not my specialty, I did really bad in my general and organic classes, and was doing pretty bad on the practice tests. But practice makes perfect. Remember, there are only so many kinds of problems they can ask. PAT: There are a few things different on the actual DAT vs. in the KAPLAN tests. For example, in the hole punch, at KAPLAN there is only one hole punched in the paper, but on the test there were 2 or 3. But overall it prepares you very well. There are 6 sections: Keyhole, Pattern Folding, Cube counting, Hole Punch, Angle Ranking, Front-Back-End. Angle Ranking and Cube counting are the easiest and fastest sections, make sure you breeze through them, so you can spend more time on Pattern folding and F-B-E. For Cube counting, it is easier to count all the cubes and then go back and answer the ones they ask you (count all the 1s, all the 2s, all the 3s, etc?) This section is fun but don?t focus on this too much. Practice until you get good and then remember to do them on a regular basis. Remember the actual DAT is on the computer, and this section goes much faster on the computer. When taking the paper practice tests make a habit of not marking on the paper, it will help you a lot in this section. READING: I did not study for this section at all. On the actual DAT, I winged it. For practice I only did two passages!!! On the DAT there is supposed to be 1 dry passage and 2 easy reading passages. But, on the test I got 3 really dry and boring passages. I don?t know how I scored a 22. I was expecting a 15 but got a 22. I guess a broken clock is right twice a day. It is safe to say, don?t do what I did, you might not be so lucky. But for practice you SHOULD read journal articles; Nature is a good one to read. Also make sure you do the review book reading section. Next question is when should I take the DAT. Kaplan recommends taking it about a week after the course is over. This is ideal. But, you should take the DAT only when feel you are ready. I took mine a month after. Make sure you have about 2-3 weeks to really focus on the test. During this time practice, practice, practice. For scheduling, ask if it is possible to take an afternoon test. I took mine at 3 in the afternoon, after a good lunch. That?s why it is important to APPLY EARLY for a date. When taking the actual DAT, get your 8-hour beauty sleep, go into the test with a positive karma, and get a song stuck in your head. Good luck. -------------------------------------------------------------------- Advice on Applying: Apply EARLY, and don't be LAZY,like me. I applied in September. Early means before the 4th of July, this should be your deadline. If you have not taken the DAT by July, make sure you still apply, you can always send in your scores late. You should start this by April and have it done by June. Take Craig Townsend?s advice, it should tell you all you need to know about the importance of applying early: "I have: 3.45 SCI, 21 overall, 25 PAT, 23 SCI DAT. (I should have had a 23,25 on the DAT) But I never took many math classes and did poor on that section and the reading. Anyhow. I got offered interviews at almost all the schools I applied; but was only accepted to two. Why? Because I suck at interviewing and did not prepare for the interviews. Also, my application was not complete until December in some schools. So I interviewed late at all these schools. No excuse, I am no scholar, and there are about 1000 solid applicants with 22 and 23 on the DAT with 3.65 GPA's. But my advice to you, is to prepare for the interview like you prepare for anything else. Believe me, especially at a school like Connecticut. I did not take the interview seriously. I felt that I was already in somewhere, and that "I need work no longer". In conclusion, I ended up not being able to select my school of choice. Last note: I feel, unfortunately, that dental schools are lazy about reviewing applications (unlike medical school (dentist do the reviewing -and there time is money)) so an early applicant can be graded in equivalence to a high GPA or DAT score. Just because there application is the first one there...?Craig Townsend Nuff' said. There are three things to the process. Filling out the AASDAS form online, getting your personal essay, and letter of recommendations. First, filling out the AASDAS form on the Internet. Yes, do it on the net, it is much easier this way. This is the easiest part and should take you about 4-5 hours. If you can, pay by a credit card, they get the payment faster. The hardest part is filling in your courses. When filling in grades for your classes always round up. , slightly, but don't overdo it. A 2.8 can be a B, but a 3.1 can't be a B+. It is easy to figure out. The rest of the section is easier. For the supplementary forms, typing the forms is a must, it makes it easier to read, and also looks good. If you don't have a typewriter, do what I did. Type what you are going to write on a computer and print. Then cut, paste and photocopy. For the question about hobbies and manual dexterity, make you put down something that requires using your hands. You can't put down collecting baseball cards and beanie babies as a hobby. If you don't have a hobby get one. When I realized that I was going to need one, I started building model cars. You can get them at Wal-Mart for 10 bucks. But, if you already have a hobby that requires manual dexterity, like pottery, piano, knitting, etc. Excellent, use it. Next is the Personal letter. There is no one way to write the letter, but your topic should be: ?Why do you want to become a dentist?? What made you choose dentistry? Not what, but why. Not dentistry, but why dentistry. No crap about how you want to help people, or what you would do when you become a dentist (like specialize, you are not even a dentist yet). Don?t even touch these topics. My reason was: ?I choose dentistry because coming out of high school, I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I did not know which field. Fortunately my dad?s best friend was a dentist, and he invited me to start volunteering and check out dentistry. I have been there ever since, spending every Saturday there for the last 3 ? years.? It took me about a month to write this letter. It could take you less time or more, but get started now. Make sure you show it to everybody. Everybody will give you a different opinion and the letter will evolve into a better letter. Make sure the letter is typed and grammatically correct, no spelling mistakes. Don?t be dry and boring. Don?t fill up the letter with facts and useless info. You can use a few words to explain why you messed up in a particular course. Keep it one page, about 500-600 words. There are many sample essays around. There are 5 at www.predental.com, and there are a few in each of the Dental School guide-books (Baron?s, etc.). Finally, the letter of recommendations. These are important, so make sure to do them right. You need at least 4: one from a dentist, two from your science teachers, and one from a non-science teacher. You can get them throughout your undergraduate career, but it is better to get them during your junior year. Now the do?s and dont?s. Don?t ask someone who doesn?t know you, or you don?t know. This means don?t ask professors in your introductory classes (classes with 100-500 students). If you ask them, and they are a little hesitant, forget them. If they don?t know your name, forget them. You want a letter from someone who can recommend you, who knows you as a person and as a student. If you don?t know anybody, then take a course where the class size is small (10-20 students). This will allow you to get to know your teacher better and vice versa, and then afterwards you can ask for a letter. Most importantly, don?t be hesitant to ask for a letter from someone you know. For professors, you should not be afraid to ask them for a letter. They have written countless letters and are familiar with the process. This is why you ask someone whom you know. If you ask someone who is unfamiliar with you (i.e. an introductory course professor), then they will write a 10 line general letter. You might have well have asked a total stranger to write you one. Let me tell you what the letter will contain. First sentence, so and so was in my class. 2nd to 4th sentence, what the class was about. Then a few more about how you did in the class, and what grade you got. Finally, I recommend this student. This is basically a useless letter; you want someone to add more detail. Make sure you ask at the beginning of the next quarter/semester. This is the time when they are free and they still have a fresh memory of you. If you ask during the middle of the quarter and towards the end they are very busy, and will not get it done in time. Give them a timeline and keep reminding them. They might have forgotten, so check up on them at least once a week. Go in and say hi, ask them how it?s going and if they need any more information. Give them your personal letter if you have one. If you don?t have one, then give them a sheet with a rough personal info. It lets them know you a little better and lets them write a more detailed and well-rounded letter. Last but not least, make sure you thank them. You want this to be a pleasurable experience for both you, and for the next person who asks for a letter. Well this is all I can write at this time. If you have any more questions email me at [email protected] I hope you do well, and hope you have the best of luck and remember YOU have to do this, because no one is going to do it for you. GOOD LUCK -Punit Aulakh- P.S. Please add information I left out. I am not perfect, even though I know I am.