Molly McKenzie, Pre-Dental Advice

Hi, my name is Molly and I am currently a first-year student at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. My undergraduate major at Michigan Tech was Biology with a Pre-Professional concentration. I applied to the University of Michigan’s program largely because it is one of the best schools in the country, maybe even the world. It also happens to be in-state for me, so while dental school is never cheap, it was still the most affordable option. The city that it’s in, Ann Arbor, is also a beautiful place to be with a lot of great food, parks, and opportunities for young professionals. 

The first semester of dental school was made easier because of the biology and anatomy courses at MTU, the first semester of which leaning heavily on anatomy. Luckily, MTU helped prepare me well for the biology section of the DAT, as it turned out to be one of my highest-scoring sections. I also happened to take some engineering courses that were super helpful in perceptual ability in 3D space, which has been huge not only on the DAT but also in my first semester courses in dental school.

Having the opportunity to join several health-related clubs and honor societies definitely set me up for success. I found support in classmates who were working toward similar goals; maybe not dental school, but they were working just as hard to get into medical school or PA school. One honor society, in particular, Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED), gave us the opportunity to visit a cadaver lab, which is one of the first things you do in dental school. You’ll really get a feel if that is something you can handle. I also did a lot of volunteer work at Tech through these clubs. Volunteering is so rewarding, and it can be really fun to work alongside friends in something that will benefit the community! Lastly, make sure to talk with your pre-health advisor at MTU about study resources for the DAT. It is an expensive test, and any free resources or discounts on courses like Kaplan are a tremendous help to your wallet.

The biggest tip I have for students applying to dental school is to go further in dentistry than just shadowing. Most programs require a lot of shadowing hours, but you don’t really get a good idea of dentistry until you do something hands-on. Check out your local dental offices for opportunities; many of them are actively looking for assistants or infection control positions. They may even be willing to train you on the job like they did for me. Having that leg up in basic dental knowledge as soon as I started classes at U of M was such a huge help. Additionally, don’t forget that dentistry extends past the dental office. I worked for a dental consulting and research company before attending U of M, and not only did I learn even more about dentistry, I made some amazing connections with academics, researchers, and dentists alike. Do a little searching online and don’t be afraid to ask for help and for opportunities.

One set of courses that I highly recommend at Michigan Tech are their ceramics courses. We worked with a lot of fine tools to carve details into sculptures and had to design three-dimensional pieces. Talking with advisors and dental students, I get the feeling that dental schools like to see that you can work with your hands in clay, even if you don’t consider yourself to be “artsy”. Besides, on the DAT there is an entire section dedicated to testing your perceptual ability, and in school, you will have to turn objects around in your head to understand where structures are. Knowing how to bring a 2D image to life in your mind is a great skill to have when preparing for and attending dental school!


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