Your Pre-Dental Planner
For the Summer...
School's out! It's finally time to get tan, lay around all day watching Saved by the Bell re-runs, and completely forget everything that has to do with school and learning. But don't trade books for beach, education for relaxation, and dentistry for complete debauchery!
The summer following your Sophomore year is a great time to gain some valuable experience in the field. Dental schools look very favorably upon students who take advantage of all the hands-on opportunities that they can. Former pre-dental students note that they learned the most valuable information from such activities as shadowing, volunteering, or carrying out research.
A summer job or internship in the dental field can help you see what dentistry is like on a day-to-day basis. In addition to getting a hold on terminology and general know-how, you will ultimately improve your people skills, an invaluable asset to success in almost any health field. Think resume by day and delight at night.
Dental Jobs or Internships for the Summer
If your college has a dental school, there are often summer positions, most often in research available. Visit the Career Services center at your school, contact a professor that you know works in the dental school, or go online to explore possible opportunities. This is a great way to get to know a professor outside of class...another potential letter of recommendation? An extra bonus—some research assistants get paid either via work-study, grants, or some other form of compensation.
If you aren't planning on staying on campus for the summer, look for research opportunities at universities or hospitals in your area. Career Services or your advisor (pre-dental or general) should be able to help you here as well. If you still can't find anything, try to contact local, state, and national dental organizations. The American Dental Association offers links to all of these.
Maybe you can't stand the thought of research. Don't worry; there are other possibilities. Contact some local dentists in your area and see if you could volunteer at their office. They most likely won't want you around all the time, but perhaps you could help out, or at least observe, a few days a week. It doesn't matter exactly what you do at their office, all that is important is that you gain some insight into the overall responsibilities and activities performed. But don't just sit back and watch—use this opportunity to ask questions and discuss career decisions. Someone who has gone through what lies ahead for you is probably your best resource for knowledge and advice.
Many colleges and dental schools offer summer programs for pre-dental students. They expose you to numerous options in the field, supplement what you have learned in school, give you hands on experience, and allow you to work closely with professionals and professors. In short, they give you a definite edge over your peers.