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Thinking about dental school? Lyon students share tips

While the application process for dental school can be long and stressful, you don’t have to bite off more than you can chew.

Lyon College students achieved a 100 percent acceptance rate at top dental schools across the U.S. this year, and they recommend taking things one step at a time.

The first step is deciding if dentistry is the right career for you.

Keifer Hartwig, ’19, who will attend the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry, always had an interest in the dental field.

“Shadowing many dentists solidified my decision,” said Hartwig, of Corning. “I want to go to dental school to make a difference in people’s lives by giving them a reason to smile.”

Senior Vinston Van, who will attend the University of Florida College of Dentistry, was inspired by his own experiences with oral health.

“When I was younger, I didn’t take care of my teeth much,” said Van, of Batesville. “As I got older, I realized how important my oral health was to my overall health, and I started going to the dentist more.”

“It really changed my confidence levels.”

Senior Taylor Dale, who has been accepted to five dental schools, knew she wanted to work in healthcare and settled on dentistry while at Lyon. She shadowed her dentist, Dr. Thomas Bulmanski, to see what the job would be like.

“He was a lot of help and encouraged me to try it out first,” said Dale, of Batesville. “I really liked the patient interaction and have been shadowing since then.”

Senior Ayden Henry, who will attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, found dentistry a little late in college.

“I did a lot of shadowing in the medical field and couldn’t really find anything I liked as far as day-to-day jobs,” Henry, of Thayer, Mo., said.

When Henry shadowed a dentist, he found the job unique because the hours were similar to a standard 8-to-5 job.

“You could keep a good balance between family life and work life while maintaining that doctor-patient relationship like you would in the medical field.”

The next step is taking the DAT and applying.

Students begin the dental school application process as they near their senior year, and Hartwig said it takes a while to complete.

“You want to make sure you have everything correct on your application,” he said, “including courses taken, achievements, and the number of shadowing hours you completed.”

Henry said you first fill out a universal application that goes out to all the dental schools. Then you fill out supplemental applications for the schools you want to attend.

“It’s kind of a monotonous process with a lot of replication. You have to repeat a lot of things you already answered.”

“They want a lot of shadowing hours, and they like to see volunteer work,” said Dale. “Each school has their own set of requirements, like the average Dental Admission Test (DAT) scores and GPAs they accept.”

All of that information is accessible online, she said. 

“You can even buy an information sheet that has every dental school and see where you fit in best. I chose schools based on what I liked, what was close, and what student statistics resembled mine.”

Van said the stressful part is completing your statements and applications while studying for the DAT at the same time.

“You’re going to feel overwhelmed when you first start studying and applying,” he said. “Take it one step at a time, and eventually you’ll get there.”

While the DAT is difficult, Dale said a lot of her studying was just a review because she had already learned the material in her biology classes at Lyon.

“The rigorous courses prepared me well for the DAT,” Hartwig said, “and so did the professors in general. They are always there to motivate and encourage you to pursue your dreams.”

Henry said the Lyon College Career Center also helped him tremendously with communication and interview skills he needed for the application process.

Final advice:

Dale advises that students interested in dental school spend as much time as they can in a dental office.

“Some people find it boring when they actually spend time in the office,” she said. “It’s not for everybody. Dental schools really like to see that time spent in an office to make sure it is what you want to do.”

Henry agreed, recommending students start shadowing as early as they can if they know they want to attend dental school.

“The biggest thing that put stress on me was finding dentistry late in college,” he said. “There’s so much that goes into getting accepted. I had to get a lot of shadowing hours very quickly and had to balance that with studying for the DAT.”

The most important thing, Hartwig said, is to persevere.

“My advice for students thinking about dental school is to not give up,” he said. “This was my second time applying. I was very discouraged after I didn’t get in the first year.”

Hartwig concluded, “Never give up hope if this is something you truly want.”