Utilize your health professions advisor

Your health professions (prehealth) advisor plays an essential role throughout the dental school application process. All undergraduate institutions structure this position differently, so it will be up to you to find out who your advisor is.

Many advisors will advise for more than one health profession at the same time. Some schools have a dedicated prehealth advising office where one or more advisors are dedicated to assisting predental students.

In other schools, there is no dedicated prehealth advising office. In this situation, there is either one person on campus doing health professions advising for all of the health professions, or a professor in one of the science departments works part time as a prehealth advisor to students. However your school is set up, it is important to identify your prehealth advisor(s) early so they can help you prepare to apply to dental school throughout your undergraduate career.

Be sure to discuss these topics with your prehealth advisor:

  • Career plans and goals
    It is important to discuss your plans to pursue dentistry with an advisor. They need to be aware of your interests and goals so they can advise you properly to pursue them.

  • Course planning and prerequisites
    Your advisor should also help you ensure you are taking all of the prerequisites you need to apply to dental school and advise you on when to take them.

  • Extracurricular and community service opportunities
    Talk to your advisor about the opportunities you are interested in pursuing. They can help you decide which ones may be better for your application and provide you with the most valuable experience. They can also help plan when you will take part in these activities.

  • Your timeline to apply
    They can help you plan the rest of your undergraduate career to put you in the best possible position to apply to dental school. They will help you plan your courses, when to take the DAT and when to collect letters of recommendation. While you are expected to do your own research about each program you wish to apply to, make sure to discuss all of the deadlines and processes to apply with your advisor. They can help clear up any confusion with the application process and also direct you to different resources that will help you throughout the process.

  • Academic struggles 
    If you are having a difficult time with a course, it is important that you discuss all of your options with your advisor before you decide to drop the course or postpone taking it. Dropping a course before discussing it with your advisor could hurt your chances of completing your prerequisites in time to apply to dental school and could weaken your application.

  • Letters of recommendation
    Every school has a different system to complete letters of recommendation for predental students. It is important that your advisor is your first stop before you ask someone for a letter of recommendation, because it is possible that your school uses an alternative method to individual letters from professors. Read more about letters of recommendation here.

  • A gap year
    If you are thinking about taking a gap year after college and before dental school, talk to your advisor about your school’s policies for advisors working with students that have already graduated. Advisors can also be a good sounding board to help you decide if taking a gap year is really the right decision for you.

  • The DAT
    Decide with your advisor when to take the DAT. They can also help you with the sign up process and refer you to good study materials and strategies.

  • Shadowing
    Before beginning a shadowing experience, let your advisor know what you will be doing. They can give you advice on conducting yourself professionally and safely in the dentist’s office and recommendations on how to make it a good experience for you.

  • Service Abroad
    Before signing up for a service abroad experience, talk to your advisor about the program. Sometimes, students can actually hurt their dental school applications by going on an abroad service experience, performing a procedure that they are not trained to perform and discussing it in their application, not realizing there may be legal and ethical ramifications of what they did.

  • Balancing
    While rigorous courses and extracurriculars are part of the predental student’s undergraduate career, it is important to maintain balance so you don’t get burned out before you even get to dental school. Talk to your advisor if you are having trouble maintaining a happy balance. They can help you plan your time more effectively and give you advice on managing stress.