By the time I had decided to pursue a career in dentistry, I had nearly finished my degree in civil engineering. It’s no secret that most predental students obtain degrees in science, such as biology or chemistry, so initially, my decision seemed a bit daunting. I wondered how my application would be perceived without a heavy science background. I had to consider the additional time it would take to complete the necessary prerequisites. On top of everything, some people doubted my decision, wondering if it made sense to switch paths after dedicating so much time to another field. If you are a predental hopeful with a non-science major, here are some points to encourage you to make the switch and how to use your non-science background to make your application stand apart.
1. Don’t worry about “lost” time. On several occasions, I have heard other students make statements such as, “I would love to pursue dentistry, but I have spent so much time in another field, I will be old when I finish” or, “I already chose computer science, I can’t change my major now.” Everyone’s path to dentistry is different. If dentistry is something you would truly enjoy, don’t walk away from it just because it will take longer for you to begin your career, or because you didn’t choose it right away. An extra few years now will allow you to spend many more years of satisfaction in a career you truly enjoy down the road.
2. Look at the bigger picture. While a good GPA and strong DAT scores are a crucial part of the application, do not underestimate the importance of demonstrating who you are as an individual and how your major has helped shape you. Having a background in a field outside of science gives you the opportunity to bring a unique perspective to dentistry, which you can emphasize in your application. For example, engineers tend to possess attention to detail, creative intuition and critical reasoning skills. Likewise, a dentist needs a combination of technical skills and artistry. Drawing parallels between your major and dentistry is an invaluable way to demonstrate the novel ideas and skills you will bring to dental school and beyond.
3. Build a connection to patient care. Besides seeing that you are able to succeed academically, application reviewers want to see that you are able to succeed with people. Your non-science degree will likely allow you to draw plenty of correlations between your field and health care. For example, in engineering, the most important part of any project is creating safe, efficient and comfortable solutions for all of society. Likewise, in dentistry, the safety and well-being of the patient is the number one focus. Therefore, an engineering major could make the case that they are dedicated to improving patient care by using or even pioneering innovative practices or techniques.
Not only am I no longer worried about applying to dental school with an engineering degree, I am excited about the story it will allow me to tell. Regardless of your chosen major, if you are dedicated to dentistry, be encouraged that your knowledge and your voice will benefit your peers in dental school and your patients in your future practice. Well-rounded professionals from various backgrounds are needed to carry the dental profession to novel depths which can advance and improve the profession as a whole.
~Will Kalout, Cleveland State University ’18