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.