Tips From Current D.D.S. and Dental Hygiene Students

ASDA's National Leadership Conference Through a Predent's Eyes

Posted by David M. Walton on September 19, 2017

Just like most predental students, I felt the pressure of getting into dental school. I worked extra hard during my undergraduate years and studied for months to ensure a strong score on my Dental Admission Test (DAT). All with the goal of overcoming that scary statistic of only 50% of students being accepted into dental school. However, I had my most impactful experience as a predent when I attended the American Student Dental Association’s (ASDA) National Leadership Conference (NLC).

I was previously exposed to ASDA by a friend and mentor. He explained to me the importance of participating in dental organizations. Taking his advice, I joined ASDA and soon after, I established one of the first predental ASDA chapters at Brigham Young University.

In 2016, I received an invitation to attend ASDA’s weekend conference in Chicago. Some of my fellow classmates and I were eager to attend due to the advertised three days of predental programming, the chance to connect with current dental students and the opportunity to network with predental students from around the country. We considered this an opportunity to invest in ourselves.

Upon arrival, I was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the conference. Future clinicians and leaders in dentistry assembled here for a common purpose—to pursue dentistry. I felt inspired as I considered the impact this large body of future dental professionals would have on communities across the nation and the world.

The educational sessions at NLC provided excellent sources of information and new perspectives. The topics included the DAT, admissions panel Q&A, ethics debate, interviewing, choosing a dental school, writing workshops and hands-on workshops. As an undergraduate student, I had searched diligently for quality information regarding dental education and practice. I shadowed providers and even took two dental-specific courses at my undergraduate institution. NLC provided me with this type of information at a completely elevated level. At NLC, you’re getting essential information directly from its source—dental students and dental professionals.

As part of the conference, we registered and took advantage of ASDA’s mentor-mentee program. I was carefully paired with mentors from my top dental schools of interest. These mentors were all very helpful and excited to meet me during the conference. As I had applied to many schools, I knew that I could have the opportunity to choose between several schools. One thing dental students always tell me is that it is extremely hard to transfer schools as a dental student. I knew that I needed to take full advantage of the variety of dental students attending NLC. I was also able to meet many of their classmates. Once you are surrounded by dental students, you have a better idea about what each specific dental school is like once enrolled. The students were candid and open. You quickly learn what you never even thought to ask. What is the student-to-faculty ratio? What are the differences in clinical experience? What is the school’s culture like? Does the school use emerging technology? Where will I live? The idea of dental school quickly becomes real and tangible.

Ultimately, the experience had a domino effect on my getting into dental school. By attending NLC, I learned detailed information about dental school and the dental profession. This allowed me to develop a perspective and collect a wealth of information that would have otherwise been impossible to realize as a predental student. I was then able to use the connections I had made to assist me during my dental school interviews. NLC had unlocked future personal and professional doors that I never even imagined existed. Once the acceptance notifications arrived I was able to again lean on my connections for advice on what school was right for me. It amazed me how fast the relationships I made at NLC paid off. Many of my connections became friends, mentors and colleagues. This was truly my favorite takeaway from the conference.

I couldn’t imagine having matriculated to dental school without joining ASDA or attending NLC. I caught what they call “ASDA Fever,” the feeling of pride and excitement gained from being a part of a reputable student-run organization. The experience was so significant that I also attended ASDA’s Annual Session and the ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day that same academic year. It was an amazing journey and I have ASDA to thank for providing me with a truly remarkable predental experience. Take my advice and join ASDA and attend NLC on Nov. 17–19 in Chicago. The experience will enhance your preparation for dental school and beyond. 

About David M. Walton:

David M. Walton

David M. Walton
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine

David M. Walton is a first-year dental student at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. He graduated as a valedictorian and summa cum laude from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and a minor in psychology. At BYU, David established a predental chapter as part of the American Student Dental Association and co-founded the Women in Dentistry Club. He is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies and is also a recipient of multiple scholarships and awards, including The President’s Lifetime Volunteer Service Award. David founded an international service organization and led two neuroregenerative research teams as an undergraduate student. Outside of dental school, he enjoys hiking, running, racquetball and travel. David and his wife, Sarah Katherine Walton, now enjoy living in New York City.