Previous questions and answers on these topics organized and compiled below:
2. Pre-Dental Extracurricular Activities
3. HSDM Admission
4. COVID Related Changes
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.
2. Pre-Dental Extracurricular Activities
Q: Can you guys 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: 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.
Q: I’m in junior year in undergrad. How do you highlight your strength through your extra-curricular activities when you apply?
A: In general, you want to talk about how your extra-curricular activities were meaningful to you. You can highlight your strengths by talking about what you did in them and what they taught you. For example, if you led a student volunteer group in college, you could highlight your leadership skill by talking about how you assigned people shifts and managed everyone’s schedule. You can also talk about how you managed when conflicts arose between volunteers. Overall, just talk about extra-curricular that were meaningful to you and show what you did in them.
Q: In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, extracurricular activities opportunities are very minimal to nonexistent, but no pre-dental student wants to submit their application with no volunteering experience. what can I do to enhance this specific section of the application?
A: Volunteering during the pandemic is definitely a challenging endeavour and dental schools will be cognizant of this in future cycles. However, a few ideas include socially distant volunteering at a local face mask making event or a local food bank. (There are a lot of produce distribution intiatives that occur outside to make sure workers are at least six feet apart.) Alternatively, you can also help your community in a virtual format! Some possible ways of doing so include getting your peers together to help tutor/mentor students over Zoom or create educational videos.
3. HSDM Admission Requirements Questions
Q: I was wondering how much my application might be hurt if I use AP credit for my Calc requirement.
A: I don’t believe your application will be hurt using AP credit for your calculus requirement. I used AP credits for calc myself. I went to NYU as a biology major for undergrad, and I needed 2 semesters of math to graduate. I used my AP credit for one class/semester and took Biostatistics for the other. As long as your undergrad accepts the AP credit for calc, you should be okay.
Q: Could psychological stats be accepted for credit instead of bio stat?
A: Generally, if a class is close enough to the actual prerequisite in material and rigor, schools will be flexible in accepting it. BUT every school is different! To be sure, I would recommend you contact the admissions coordinators of each school you’re applying to with the official course description from your school to get their approval.
As for HSDM, we were told this should be accepted, though biostats is preferred
Q: Does HSDM accept community college credits?
A: If your current four-year university recognizes your community credits, and they can be transferred onto your four-year transcript, I believe they will count them. However, we do not represent HSDM administration, and I encourage you to contact admissions directly at email@example.com for the most accurate information.
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: I just got accepted to _, _, and _ college but I don’t know which undergrad school will make me stand out the most among the other applicants when I apply to HSDM. Does going to a high-ranked undergrad school mean there will be more possibility to get into good dental schools in general including HSDM?
A: No. Most (if not all) dental schools just require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university. To have a strong application to dental schools, it’s not about where you go, it’s about what you do when you’re in school. Wherever you go, take advantage of the opportunities offered by your school. This can be research, internships, studying abroad, extracurriculars, volunteering, serving as a teaching assistant, taking classes outside of your comfort zone, earning a minor, attending conferences, working, etc. But, think quality over quantity. It is better to be deeply committed to a few activities that you are passionate about and excel in them than to be just peripherally involved in many activities. So, our best advice would be to choose an undergraduate institution or program that aligns with your interests and values and where you can see yourself succeeding.
Q: I have an upcoming interview with HSDM, and I wanted to ask a few questions about the interview and student experience. How would you suggest I prepare for the interview and do you have any tips/tricks? Also, what is your favorite part about attending HSDM?
A: A fantastic place to start in terms of preparation is to learn more about what our program has to offer on the HSDM website (hsdm.harvard.edu). From there, you can identify how HSDM aligns with your passions and goals as a future dental provider. On your interview day, don’t be afraid to share how your interests and experiences have led you on this journey to dentistry!
One of the best parts about HSDM is just how tremendously supportive the community is, from our peers to faculty. With a small class size of ~35, we are able to form a tightly knit family with our classmates (even in the virtual world!). In addition, all the faculty are more than willing, and happy, to work with you to help you succeed. As well, being part of the medical school the first year is such a unique opportunity and gives you great exposure to patient care! Best of luck with your interview!
Q: In your opinion, what’s the number one aspect of a pre-dental application that Harvard dental school is looking for? What do you think made you stand out in their eyes?
A: HSDM wants to see that you are a student with diverse interests, not only a bright student. An important aspect of the application is showing who you are outside of school, through your personal statement or your extracurricular activities. Don’t be afraid to write about what you love to do outside the classroom, be it community service, research, pottery, or baking!
4. COVID-19 Related Changes
Q: What are Harvard’s and other dental school’s policies as of now on pass/fail grading for the spring semester (of 2020)?
A: Harvard is pass/fail normally and will not be changing the grading system. For other schools, I would suggest reaching out to their ASDA leaders, who can provide the most up-to-date and accurate information.
If you’re asking about admissions during COVID, from the HSDM’s admission page:
We understand that many schools are offering students the option to take spring and summer 2020 courses for pass/fail credit, or have transitioned entirely to a pass/fail curriculum. HSDM will accept pass/fail credit for the spring and summer 2020 semesters, and remains committed to a holistic and careful review of every application during these uncertain times.
Q: How well has HSDM responded to the COVID crisis?
A: This is a great question, and it really gets at some of the often overlooked qualities of a school that can either make or break your 4-year experience. When the news first broke out, clinics were swiftly closed and didactics moved online. HSDM managed to get all of our 4th years graduating on time with minimal hitches. The rest of the classes have had their didactics front-loaded online. The situation is still evolving, but the school is focusing their efforts on mitigating disturbances in our education, both during the remote learning and after we return. There are planned changes to each year’s curriculum and clinic hours to ensure that students get the clinical experience they need. Through this extraordinary period, we’re reminded of the blessing of being a smaller school. Everyone’s situation is being taken into account, and decisions internal to the school can be made collectively and quickly.
Q: Is the school considering delaying when the application opens/when interviews are offered in response to so many DATs being rescheduled/cancelled?
A: The administration is still working on a DAT policy. One update HSDM will be making this admissions cycle in light of COVID-19 affecting applicants’ ability to take the DAT, is that we will consider unofficial DAT scores during the review process until official scores are verified and received through AADSAS. As far as admissions timelines, both ADEA AADSAS and HSDM are still considering different options and haven’t made any definitive changes past this yet. I suspect we will know more in the next couple of weeks so please feel free to check back in! We will also post any updates to our website: https://hsdm.harvard.edu/DMD-apply
– From the Office of Admissions
Q: Would the school look at our applications if the DAT score is not up yet? As you know that our dates keep moving.
A: From the School Website:
Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
We understand that some applicants’ plans to take the DAT have been impacted by test rescheduling to allow for social distancing or the temporary closure of DAT test centers due to COVID-19. If you have been affected, please do not delay the submission of your application materials. We are in the process of gathering more information about DAT limitations and will provide any policy updates here by the end of May. In the meantime, we encourage applicants to reschedule DATs as soon as possible and to email HSDM Admissions your unofficial scores to expedite the review process. Please note that the Admissions Committee will require official DAT scores prior to releasing admissions decisions. Admissions understands that there are aspects of the admissions process that are out of students’ control this year.
Stay well and take care!
– From the Office of Admissions
Q: What type of need-based scholarships do dental schools offer?
A: I am not aware of how need-based scholarships work at all universities. It can vary greatly from school to school. As I understand it, Harvard does have some need-based scholarship assistance available, and they assign scholarships based on information collected from students after admission. However, we do not represent HSDM administration, and I encourage you to reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more specific information. Additionally, while meant primarily for enrolled students, HSDM’s Financial Aid Manual(found here) provides the most comprehensive understanding of the school’s financial aid process and offerings.