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

Make Yourself a More Competitive Applicant During Your Predental Summers

Posted by Tommy Lau on March 17, 2021

By April or May, I’m sure predental students will want to take a break from studying and enjoy the nice weather outside in the spring and summer. While you should take a break, the summer is also the perfect time to gain more experience and exposure to dentistry and health care while conducting research to make yourself a more competitive applicant. Here are some of the things I would recommend all predental students explore, and it’s certainly not too early to start planning your summer now.

Summer Enrichment Programs

Many universities and dental schools offer enrichment programs in various professions within health care to recruit motivated students. In the summer after my freshman year, I participated in the Summer Health Professions Education Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The program was an “everything bagel”—I got a taste of many aspects of dentistry and picked up some great knowledge on how to get into dental school. At UAB, I attended science and professionalism lectures, shadowed dental students and specialty residents at the hospital and had a mock interview.

Before the program, my encounters with dentistry have always been from the patient’s perspective. After the program, I got an insider look, and it locked my interest in the profession. I would recommend similar programs to anyone who has limited exposure to dentistry and to those who want more guidance during their predental journey.


Shadowing at Dental Offices

Besides participating in the enrichment programs, you can focus on fulfilling your shadowing hours by reaching out to your dentist or local dentists for shadowing opportunities. It might be difficult during the pandemic, but be sure to shadow when it is safe to do so again because this is a requirement to gain admission to dental schools. Shadowing for 50 to 100 hours will likely satisfy the application requirement for most dental schools. You can verify what your target schools are looking for by visiting their admissions page. 

When you shadow, try to gain a deeper understanding of dentistry, and establish relationships with the dentists by asking questions. Feel free to ask about the procedures, talk to the dentists about why they chose this career and inquire about the recent changes in the profession. Furthermore, I recommend you focus your shadowing experience mainly on general dentistry.


Conducting Research

A research project might seem intimidating at first, but you may find yourself appreciating it after trying it out. Getting involved in research projects in any profession can challenge you to think in different ways and help contribute to something impactful in the future. It might be tough to commit to doing research during the school year, especially if you have a full course load to manage on top of other personal commitments like part-time jobs, so during the summer would be a great time to shift your focus to research if this is something that interests you.


Internships in Other Professions

If you’re passionate about another subject—such as political science, business or engineering, for example—you’re more than welcome to seek out internships in other fields of study during your summer too. Skills gained from experience in other fields can often be translated to your future career in dentistry. For me, I love sharing knowledge and see myself being a high school teacher if I had to choose a different career. I sought out teaching opportunities in the summer and was able to enhance my public speaking skills, along with being more empathetic with others. I became less intimidated to interact with kids and teenagers, too!

A lot of the activities are limited due to the current pandemic restrictions, but be sure to make the most out of your summer by doing activities you enjoy or trying something new when it’s safe!


View the ADEA GoDental Enrichment Programs Calendar to see what’s available. 

About Tommy Lau :

Tommy Lau_headshot

Tommy Lau 
Class of 2024
University of Michigan School of Dentistry

Tommy Lau is a first-year dental student at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. He received his B.S. degree in Biomolecular Science from the University of Michigan. He is currently serving as the Professional Development Chair for American Student Dental Association (ASDA) and a D1 Representative for American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) chapters at his school.