Dentistry Success Stories

 Greg Polonsky

GregPolonskyMajor: Biochemistry

Overall GPA: 3.6

Graduation Year: 2018

Which school are you attending?

I took a gamble and applied to only 4 in-state schools since I did not have a lot of funds to spend applying to a lot of schools, and so decided to focus on staying in-state if possible. My four applications were to UCSF, UCLA, UoP, and USC. Out of those I ended receiving interviews to both UoP and USC, and chose to attend UoP for its clinically focused three year program and humanistic approach towards dentistry.

What drew you to this particular health field?

I have always been keen on using my hands to build and craft objects since I was a child. My draw towards the sciences and helping others made me want to pursue a healthcare field. Dentistry was the right fit as you get the opportunity to work with others one-on-one, and have a unique grasp on the arts and the sciences at the same time while still providing high-quality healthcare.

Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?

No

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

I had transferred from De Anza College after completing two years there, and so had very limited time to gain what I could from Davis. I had some help transitioning into Davis with HPA's Transfer Pre-Health Mentoring Program as well as other clubs like the Pre-Dental Society and MCB Club. My first year I was heavily invested in gaining professional experience and ended up working as a research assistant in the Chedin genetics laboratory for the better part of 8-9 months. During that time I also had an HRI internship at the Davis Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center.

Towards the end of my first year at Davis I rushed Alpha Epsilon Pi and applied for a job at the Fiehn Lab where I would end up working all my last year. That last year I also joined the Boxing Club and served as a Dental Programming Coordinator for the UCD Pre-Health conference, which I had volunteered for the previous year.

Apart from school-related extracurriculars I also worked as a photographer, played guitar, and spent time with friends.

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

It greatly varied depending on both my workload and how well I understood the material. In general, I always made it a priority to dedicate at least a few hours per day towards studying so as not to fall behind; about 30-40+ hrs a week during my hardest quarters.

Did you use a test prep course?

I didn't take a prep course, but I did buy the Kaplan DAT book to familiarize myself with the exam, especially the PAT portion. When I had 7-8 weeks to go before my exam date I purchased Bootcamp and used that as my main study resource alongside old class notes (take good notes in your classes they will pay off!!), YouTube videos, Khan Academy, my Kaplan book, and other books for particular subjects.

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

Undoubtedly my GPA and DAT helped get my foot in the door, but beyond that it was my personal statement and the way I approached filling out the rest of the application. Make sure you know why it is you're pursuing dentistry and reflect that same idea whenever you can in all parts of your application to make it cohesive.

Did you apply nationally?

No

How did HPA help you achieve your goals?

HPA was an excellent resourcing for gaining insight on how to be better-prepared for healthcare applications as well as getting assistance in writing my personal statement. If you have time I highly recommend being involved with the Pre-Health Conference; you will meet a ton of like-minded amazing people and have the chance to network with professionals from all over the country.

What advice do you have for others?

My number one advice to prospective applicants to dental schools or really any health-related programs in general: do not apply if you do not feel ready! Don't feel pressured to apply simply because "that's what your friend is doing". I did not take a gap year because I felt like my application was solid enough at the time, however I did take a risk in that I applied before I took my DAT. Though I did decently well on it that's not something everyone is comfortable doing so again, take your time in applying! There is absolutely nothing wrong with waiting a year or two to strengthen your application and make sure everything is in order before you click that submit button, so make sure you use the time of your gap year productively.

I would also say that taking UWP 104F the quarter before my application cycle was a great help in helping me start drafting my personal statement. It is a demanding class for sure but your professor will be a great resource for helping to draft your personal statement from a writer's point of view, and HPA will be a great resource for adding more of a healthcare flair to it. In a similar vein, I highly recommend having multiple people who may not know you well read your PS as that will tell you whether or not the story you are trying to convey makes any sense.

Overall make sure the extracurriculars you participate in are ones that you have a genuine passion for as that will show in your application and in your interviews. It may take some time to find what you really enjoy doing, but you once you do find it you will know, and don't feel the need to only focus on dental-related ECs.

Feel free to reach out to me for more help. I would be glad to answer any questions: gspolonsky@ucdavis.edu

Best of luck!


Soroush GhaffarpourSoroushGhaffarpour

Major: Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior
Overall GPA: 3.80
Graduation Year: 2016

Which school are you attending?

I will be attending University of Pacific in Fall 2016. I applied to Pacific, UCSF, USC, NYU, Columbia, and Harvard. I received an interview for each school except Harvard. I was accepted to UCSF and UOP in December and decided on Pacific for its clinical focus and strong preparation towards general dentistry.

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

I worked for the Educational Opportunity Program as an intern, adviser, and coordinator for the duration of my four years at Davis. I worked as a math tutor for the Student Academic Success Center during my second year. I helped start a pre-health org, called HOSA, and served as an officer for the club. I have been an active member of Pre-Dental Society and served as a Big Buddy for a few quarters. I am also currently a dental coordinator for the Willow Clinic serving the homeless population of Sacramento. I do a lot of volunteer work here and there. For fun, I like to dance and spend time with friends.

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

5-10. I study much less than most, but I believe that it's all about quality of your studying and knowing your learning style. 

Did you use a test prep course?

I didn't use a comprehensive test prep for the DAT but I used several resources in preparation. I strongly recommend Chad's videos/quizzes for chemistry. For biology, I read Princeton Review, Kaplan, some of Cliff's, and a lot of YouTube videos from groups like KhanAcademy, CrashCourse, and Bozeman Science. I really liked Crack the DAT and I purchased the full package, strongly recommend it for the Reading Comprehension and the PAT sections. Make sure you do a lot of math drills. I did search and destroy for RC because I'm a very slow reader but I know it's not for everyone. ADA 2007 and 2009 practice exams are a good indicator of where you might score. I think the key is to do as many full-length practice tests as you can afford (financially and time-wise). I did at least a dozen and much more if you count individual sections. 

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

My GPA, DAT, personal statement, disadvantaged statement, letters, extracurriculars and experience were all strengths on the application. Try to make every part of your application as strong as it can be, granted that this doesn't happen over night.  It takes a lot of work building your profile and just filling out the application itself but give this process the attention it deserves. Many of my mentors told me to only apply when I was ready and I can't stress this enough.

Did you apply nationally?

Yes, I listed my schools above.

What advice do you have for others?

It is never too early to start thinking about the application process. I came into undergrad with the mindset that I was going to dental school so every action (academically and extracurriculars) reflected that goal. Create a theme for your application, remember that admissions committees will only know you as a paper application so how can you make yourself shine on paper and connect the elements of your life to paint a unique picture of who you are? Try to get as much insight from those who have completed the process already and mentors that can help you discover yourself. The application process involves a lot of self-reflection and self-discovery so make sure you know yourself inside and out and why you are pursuing this field before you apply. Best wishes!
 


WilsonNgWilson Ng

Major: Microbiology
Overall GPA: 3.8
Graduation Year: 2015

Which school are you attending?

I applied to 13 schools in total and received 9 invitations to interview before Dec. 1st. After choosing five schools to interview at, I feel very fortunate to have received acceptances from those same schools on Dec. 1st. Those schools include the UCSF School of Dentistry, UCLA School of Dentistry, Western University of Health Sciences, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, and Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?
  • Vice President of the Pre-Dental Society at UC Davis (1 year)
  • Peer Adviser at the Biology Academic Success Center (2 years)
  • Biochemistry Tutor under the supervision of Dr. Kenneth Hilt (1 year)
  • Vice President of the American Society for Microbiology at UC Davis (1 year)
  • Peer Counselor for the Counseling and Psychological Services (1 year)
  • Liquid Hotplates co-ed a cappella at UC Davis (4 years)
How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

In truth, I studied as much as I could while juggling my extracurricular activities, academics, and wellbeing. This balancing act is still a work-in-progress for me, and I believe that each individual needs to discover their own unique approach to studying.

Did you use a test prep course?

The DAT is one of the most important exams any pre-dental student will take in his/her career. Keeping this in mind, I dedicated an entire summer to study for the exam and chose to attend a Kaplan DAT In-Person class. In hindsight, the ideal amount of time to study is approximately 8-12 weeks. Any longer and students tend to forget the earlier material learned. Other useful resources I used include Chad’s videos, DAT Bootcamp, DAT Destroyer, and Crack DAT PAT. If cost is a concern, consider only purchasing DAT Bootcamp (~$120), DAT Destroyer (~$150), and Chad’s videos ($50/month).

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

Undoubtedly, having well-rounded DAT scores and a competitive GPA was an advantage. However, I consider my personal statement and free-response answers to be the highlights of my application. The application process is a wonderful opportunity for some serious introspection. During this time, I sought the help of Ms. Joanne Snapp from HPA and other writing specialists on campus to craft statements that were both genuine and appropriate. You may also find the writing process to be excellent preparation for your interviews.

Did you apply nationally?

In addition to trying my luck with the California schools, I also applied to several fantastic east coast programs listed below:

  • Boston University Henry M Goldman School of Dental Medicine
  • Columbia University College of Dental Medicine
  • Harvard School of Dental Medicine
  • New York University College of Dentistry
  • Tufts University School of Dental Medicine
  • University of Michigan School of Dentistry
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry
What advice do you have for others?
  • Apply only when YOU are ready. For example, I applied during the June of my senior year (which resulted in a gap year) because I knew I needed more time to strengthen my application. It was worth it.
  • Apply early in the application cycle. This means you should be prepared for June 1st of the year you are applying, which is typically when the online AADSAS portal opens up.
  • Put the majority of your focus on keeping your scores competitive. This allows you to “get your foot in the door.”
  • Participate in extracurricular activities you genuinely enjoy doing. Your passion and interest will be apparent not only through the pages of your application, but also through your presentation during the interview process.
  • Most importantly, don’t be shy to ask for help. Having served as a peer adviser, I know the abundance of campus resources available to assist you in achieving success. If you have stumbled across this website, you are already on the right track! Make an appointment with HPA and learn more about how you can improve your application.
  • If you would like to know more, I am happy to answer your questions at wilng@ucdavis.edu. Best of luck to you!

VictoriaCervantesVictoria Cervantes

Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Overall GPA: 3.33
Graduation Year: 2015

Which school are you attending?

I will be attending Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona. I was accepted to 3 different dental schools in total. I received 9 different invitations to interview, but I declined 4 of them since I had already been accepted to the 3 and put on the alternate list for the other.

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

I was an officer for the Pre-Dental Society and the Student Alumni Association. I was a general member of the American Red Cross Club and the Draft Horse and Driving Club. I also got a job as a tour guide the beginning of my 2nd year.

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

I never had a set amount of time in mind. I would pay attention during lecture and review/go to office hours as much as I needed to in order to understand the material. I would look at a slide and ask myself "If they tested me on this, would I know how to answer?" If the answer was yes, I'd move on. If the answer was no, I'd review it again, ask people questions, or go to office hours. Sometimes it was helpful to try and predict what kind of questions I thought they'd ask me. However, it depends on the class/the person studying.

Did you use a test prep course?

To study for the DAT I took a kaplan course. I did the one that was on demand instead of in a classroom, it worked better for my schedule/style of learning. 

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

I feel that my major strength was my consistent involvement in community service and my summer job at an oral surgeon's office. They both gave me a lot more to draw from/talk about on my application and during interviews. 

Did you apply nationally?

Yes

What advice do you have for others?

My advice would be to get involved, both in and out of dentistry. A lot about the whole thing is knowing why you want to be a dentist, so it's a good idea to have some(a lot) of exposure to dentistry/non-dentistry related things. Also, enjoy what you're involved in! Your grades/test scores get you the interview, but how you can describe your experiences is what makes a big difference.