We've all heard it: volunteering can help land you an acceptance at a dental school. But what does that mean? What kind of volunteering? And do all schools weigh volunteering the same?
When it comes to getting your volunteer hours in, you should shoot for at least 100 hours, not including any dental-related experience like shadowing or assisting.
And when it comes to volunteering, it does not have to be dentistry-related. In fact, it'd be smart to volunteer in non-dental related activities to show your diverse interests and willingness to make contributions in other fields. Not only that, but by volunteering in other fields, you show that you're open minded and you'll adopt a better understanding of the real world by doing so.
This means that volunteering for the Salvation Army, at a nearby school, or at a soup kitchen all hold the same weight as going abroad to volunteer. So do something you're passionate about and enjoy. And try to be diverse in your experiences. Diversity in your experiences will provide you with more stories and experiences to talk about both in your personal statement and during your interviews.
Volunteering with a group of friends tends to make the experience a lot more fun. So gather a few of your friends, whether pre-dentals or not, and go out and do a beach/street cleanup or anything else. And don't forget to document each day you volunteer with the number of hours you put in!
A word of wisdom: be professional during your volunteer experiences, and try to make a connection with the advisor. When it comes time for letter of recommendations, you'll want to have multiple candidates who can write you great letters, so the more options and diversity you have in them, the better. By having a community service advisor write you a letter of recommendation, they're often able to highlight qualities about you that your professors may not, since this person doesn't perceive you through the lens of a student; they perceive you through the lens of a selfless human.
When it comes to how schools view volunteering, some schools weigh volunteering very heavily, like A.T. Still University (Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health also known as ASDOH), so the more volunteering experiences you have, the better if you're applying schools that really care about having students who understand compassion and the philanthropic aspect of dentistry. ASDOH even goes as far as recommending that one of your letters of recommendation be from a volunteer advisor!
Whenever curating your school selection list, be sure to understand what each dental school values and is looking for from each applicant. Understanding the school's mission and core values will make this a lot easier. And if that's something you need help with, please don't hesitate to schedule a free consultation so we can help make you a school list that matches your profile.
Now that you understand how important volunteering can be, be sure to share the knowledge with another pre-dental or pre-med student who may also find this helpful. As part of our mission to help 5,000 pre-dentals get into dental school each year, that's all we ask of you :)
Thanks for being a part of our mission and keep predenting!