As a dental student, you’ll already be worried about the DAT, your GPA, and prerequisites, so do you need to be concerned about your extracurriculars as well? How important are extracurriculars for dental school? Read on to find out!
Under the blazing San José sun, you did what you could to support the local community. You handed out dental floss and taught the importance of flossing twice daily. You assisted with basic checkups, shadowed the dentist during consultations, and gained unique perspectives on dental care in developing countries.
This could describe your experience joining a dental mission trip this summer! Volunteering abroad is a popular extracurricular dental students pursue because it solidifies their decision to join the dental field and gives them invaluable perspective and experience to strengthen their dental school applications.
But, if you get homesick too easily or traveling isn’t for you, several other extracurriculars you can pursue will help you stand out as a dental school applicant!
While any extracurriculars that allow you to develop your passions, gain leadership experience, and demonstrate your commitment will look good on your application, here are some of the most popular and valued extracurriculars for dental school:
As previously discussed, one common type of extracurricular that students pursue is dental mission trips. These trips typically involve students paying to volunteer abroad for a set amount of time, helping low-income communities gain better access to dental care and education.
Several volunteer organizations offer dental mission programs online, and you may also find opportunities through your college. A large part of becoming a dentist is being committed to equitable health care, which is why this extracurricular is so highly favored on dental school applications.
These experiences demonstrate your cultural competency, adaptability, and commitment to improving oral health on a global scale! You’ll also get to travel and check off your bucket list destinations, as many of these trips take place in beautiful countries such as Costa Rica, Peru, and Guatemala!
You can also volunteer at dental clinics or community efforts locally, where you help educate underserved populations on dental care. Any other volunteer experience you’re interested in can bolster your application; it doesn’t have to be related to dentistry!
Whether you’re an animal lover who volunteers at a local shelter on weekends or an environmental enthusiast who participates in recycling programs, any service act that contributes to the greater good can demonstrate your sense of social responsibility and empathy.
It isn't easy to know that you want to become a dentist until you’ve experienced what this job entails daily, and admissions committees know this.
By shadowing a dentist, you’re confirming your continued motivation to join the field despite knowing the day-to-day challenges it represents. While pursuing this extracurricular can be difficult, contact your pre-dental advisors for advice and guidance.
It would help if you also did your research to find local dental clinics. Reach out to them and explain your interest in shadowing. Make each email personal, and don’t hesitate to contact dozens of clinics until you’re successful. Finding shadowing opportunities can be tedious and time-consuming, but it will be well worth the wait!
You’ve heard it a dozen times before – research is key to joining any medical graduate school. While research can certainly demonstrate your scientific inquiry skills and interest in advancing the dental field, it’s important only to pursue research you are genuinely interested in and stick with it for an extended period.
Participating in whichever research opportunity you can for a few weeks will not do you any favors. Find a project that intrigues you, dedicate your honest time and effort to it for several months or years, and try to be a meaningful collaborator on it.
Getting your name on the article published on this research will further substantiate your involvement and commitment to the research.
Teaching extracurriculars can also be viewed favorably on dental school applications, regardless of the subject and age you’re teaching.
Teaching demonstrates your ability to effectively communicate complex concepts to others, a vital skill in the dental field. As a dentist, you will need to educate and explain treatment plans to patients and provide oral health advice. Additionally, teaching shows leadership and the ability to take initiative.
By investing your time and energy into helping others learn and succeed, you also demonstrate compassion, empathy, and a genuine interest in positively impacting the lives of those around you. These qualities are highly valued in the dental profession!
Your extracurriculars should be enjoyable for you, which is why many pre-dental students pursue sports in their free time. While basketball won’t directly help you become a better dentist, playing on a sports team requires great teamwork and leadership skills.
Sports also require consistent practice, dedication, and the ability to handle setbacks – much like dentistry. Juggling your academic commitments with sports requires effective time management, and setting and achieving goals in sports can translate to a determined and goal-oriented approach to your dental education and future career!
Fortunately, schools typically have at least a hundred student-run organizations you can join, depending on your interests. By joining a passion club and consistently contributing to it over an extended period, you can demonstrate your ability to commit to your interests.
Becoming an executive member of these clubs can also portray your leadership skills and dedication. You may even start your own club if you feel your school does not have one that interests you! However, do not just start clubs and then not contribute to them.
Successfully starting an organization and garnering interest in it can certainly impress the admissions committee, but this will be time-consuming! Before starting this journey, ensure you know the potential challenges of starting your club.
Any personal hobbies you have that you dedicate your leisure time to can be considered extracurriculars as well, so long as they contribute to your personal growth, help you develop transferable skills, and require dedication.
For instance, painting in your free time can help you practice muscle control and precision while also providing a creative outlet! Foreign language learning and playing instruments are also common extracurriculars for dental school, as they are intellectually stimulating and require discipline.
Now that you have a better sense of some of the top extracurricular activities for dental school, you may still be hesitant about pursuing them on your own. These extracurriculars will add to your already busy student schedule, so you may need some further convincing they’re worth it!
While some experts argue extracurriculars for dental school are not as important as those for medical school, these activities can help differentiate your application.
With thousands of students with the same strong DAT scores and GPAs, the skills you demonstrate through extracurriculars can help you stand out and give you a competitive edge, especially if you’re applying to highly selective dental schools.
They can provide further insight into your character, abilities, and commitment to the dental field. With that being said, you don’t have to pursue 10 different extracurriculars to prove you’re a well-rounded candidate.
Admissions committees value the depth of involvement, genuine passion, and impact you have made through your activities rather than the number of activities listed on your application!
Hopefully, you’re convinced extracurriculars are important to have on your dental school applications, and your main inquiries have been answered. But, to address any remaining doubts, here are the answers to frequently asked questions about extracurriculars for dental school.
While there isn’t a list of extracurricular activities you should pursue as a pre-dental student, admissions committees value diversity, dedication, leadership, service commitment, collaboration, and personal growth and improvement. Any extracurriculars that allow you to develop these skills will look good on your application!
You should prioritize quality over quantity and consider your schedule when deciding how many extracurriculars to pursue. Never join an extracurricular simply because it will boost your application – you are more likely to drop it and less likely to make meaningful contributions.
That being said, having only a couple of extracurriculars can be enough to strengthen your application!
The biggest factors that dental schools will look at are your grades, prereqs, and DAT score. If you can score within or higher than the median scores of previously admitted students, your application will already be considered competitive.
However, to make it even stronger, participate in useful extracurriculars that demonstrate you already possess skills that will aid you in dental school and dentistry, craft a compelling personal statement, acquire impressive letters of recommendation, and ace your interview!
Hobbies that are intellectually stimulating or have demanding time requirements typically look the best on dental school applications. Popular hobbies for pre-dental students included creative writing, creating art, programming and coding, reading, language learning, and playing musical instruments.
Extracurricular activities play an important role in dental school applications. Beyond academic achievements, they provide a window into an applicant's character, skills, and dedication to the dental profession.
Pursuing extracurriculars you’re passionate about can add depth and distinction to your profile, making you a more compelling candidate for dental school!