Submit questions and find previous responses here! Be sure to check out the video responses from our recent Q&A on Instagram!
Q: Which resources or study plans do you recommend for the DAT?
A: If you are in the early stages of your undergraduate education, the best thing you can do to prepare yourself for the DAT is to put a solid effort in your introductory biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry courses and make sure you really understand the content. When you revisit this material when studying for the DAT, it will be much less daunting if you are reminding yourself of the content instead of learning it for the first time. The biology section of the DAT covers a LOT of material, so it might be helpful to take some upper level biology courses, but this definitely isn’t a requirement for success.
I’m not affiliated with any test preparation company or organization. I found resources that worked well for me, but different people study in different ways so you’ll have to take time and find what works for you. I bought a Kaplan test prep book to help me both learn material that I had never been introduced to in my college courses and review material I had learned previously and needed brushing up on. Also, I used DAT Bootcamp to test myself on the material. I liked using DAT Bootcamp because it had many section-specific tests that you could do in 20 minutes as well as full practice tests that took like 3 hours. I also found that their practice tests were much more difficult than the actual DAT so it prepared me well. The downside to DAT Bootcamp is that it is expensive, however I think I got a discount because I bought the package when it was marked down. Periodically check their website to see if they ever offer the package at a discount. Also, once you buy the package, the subscription expires by a certain date so if you end up taking the DAT again or rescheduling your test for a later date, you may end up having to pay more to renew your subscription. I’ve heard other dental students talk about using DAT Destroyer and CrackDAT, but I don’t anything about those so I can’t speak to them. I’d invest in one or a maximum of two resources and make really good use out of them.
More good things about DAT Bootcamp: DAT Bootcamp also had a really good resource for studying organic chemistry called “Mike’s Videos”. These videos made studying orgo really simple and bearable. Mike distills the content down and teaches only what you need to know and explains it to you like you’re 12 (which I needed). Additionally, DAT Bootcamp also has an iPhone (and maybe Android?) app so that you can practice and study literally wherever you are.
My best advice is to be consistent with studying, especially for the PAT. Mastering the PAT is a learned skill that needs to be maintained. You cannot get comfortable with the PAT questions at the beginning of your studying, leave them alone to study other subjects, then revisit PAT practice a couple of days before your test. This is basically what I did and it was my biggest regret. PAT was by far my worst section. The PAT practice can feel frustrating in the beginning because it literally feels like learning how to walk all over again, but try to think of the practice questions in a more positive way like a puzzle, game, or a brain teaser. This will make them more bearable. Once you get good at the PAT questions, they’re quite fun to work through.
To make sure you stay on track and are ready for the DAT, I’d make a calendar of what you’ll study each day and stick to it. This is where the Kaplan book came in handy because I could write on my calendar “Thursday May 14 – study Biology page 40-60, Quant Reasoning page 220-240.” Also, make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating well during your months of studying. This will help you avoid burnout.
Taking the DAT is mentally draining and requires stamina. One or two weeks before your DAT, take a full practice test simulated as if you were taking the actual DAT. It is good to know what it feels like to sit in an exam for 4 hours before the real thing. It will also be good to make sure you know exactly what to expect on test day in terms of timing for each section, the order of the sections, when it is okay to take breaks, etc. A good practice test will have all of those factors incorporated into it. This will make you way less anxious and feel a little more confident.
Q: Can you guys could talk a bit about what experiences you were involved in your undergrad that you believe really helped you stand out in your application + interview?
A: Hello! A lot of my classmates at HSDM did a ton of research, volunteering, and many other amazing activities. Unfortunately, I was not that involved in many activities but I will try my best to answer. One of my most meaningful experiences was working as a TA for my organic chemistry lab professor. On the surface, it’s a pretty boring position of grading lab reports each week. However, it was a also a position of power that can be used to help others. This was really important to me as a first-gen student because I knew I would not have done well in college without help. I remember setting up extra office hours to help struggling students, especially one student who lost his mother to cancer. I also encouraged students from under-represented backgrounds to apply to pre-health programs, such as the summer health professions education program (SHPEP), even going as far as requesting my professor write them a letter of recommendation. Whatever experience you decide to talk about, make sure to articulate clearly what you did and why it is important to you.
Q: What are the qualifications the committee is looking for in students’ application?
A: We students can only speak to our experience on what they’re looking for. In my opinion HSDM is looking for someone genuine, who cares about other people and has a real interest in helping others through dentistry. Don’t be afraid to nerd out over your favorite dental procedure – and make sure that your passions shine through!
Q: Does HSDM offer any pre-dental activities to gain more knowledge about the school?
A: In the fall, we usually host a predental conference open to all predental students. This conference typically includes the opportunity to mingle with current dental students and hear presentations about HSDM and the application process given by faculty members and admissions directors. We always encourage local predental students to attend. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will likely be holding virtual predental events until it is safe to gather in large groups again, so predentals can attend whether they are local or not. Stay up to date on future predental events by following hsdm_asda on Instagram. If you have any suggestions for future virtual predental events, please share them with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any specific questions about HSDM, please send them in and we will do our best to answer them.