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
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
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
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.