To say that I wasn't the typical Health Professions student would be an understatement. I entered CSUF as a biology major, torn between wanting to pursue art and science. I grew up with a passion for science but also loved to work with my hands. Not having a clear-cut goal, I put school second, even third, behind my work and social life.
Throughout my college career I worked mostly full-time jobs in construction and had a hard time finding balance in my life. As a result, my grades suffered and I found myself in my junior year with a GPA below 3.0. Any Health Profession student knows that you can pretty much kiss your goal of a career in medicine goodbye if your GPA isn't up to par. I tried switching my major to Kinesiology in the hope that it would spark my interest. However, I missed the challenge that Biology and Chemistry classes presented and promptly switched back to Biology.
The key turning point in my life was when I decided to put my college career on hold to support my fiancée through dental hygiene school. It was then that I fully realized dentistry was my calling. As her “guinea pig”, I spent a lot of time in the dental chair and became accustomed to dental practices and procedures. Watching her learn how to use the various instruments and interact with patients was fascinating. I realized that dentistry was both an art and a science.
Two years later, as my wife began her career, I returned to school and took demanding classes while working part time in construction. A clear-cut goal allowed me to balance my time between the rigors of work and school. I took very demanding classes and was able to raise my GPA just enough to be competitive. During my second semester back at Fullerton, my son was born. Having a family gave me even more motivation to reach my goal.
In order to gain a realistic idea of the dental field, I shadowed several dentists and orthodontists. I participated in PreDental simulation courses at UCLA and UOP. I also spent as much time as I could volunteering as a camp counselor and at various church and elementary school functions.
Upon graduating from CSUF with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry minor, I decided to enroll in a two-year Dental Laboratory Technology Program. I truly believe that this is the best thing that I could have done to prepare for dental school. I learned a great deal about dentistry while increasing confidence in my manual dexterity. I will go into dental school with the full understanding of what a Dental Lab Technician (DLT) does and what their limitations are. This will help me immensely when I become a dentist as I will be a better communicator with my patients and the technicians.
Last year, I challenged the three-part National Board Certification Exam to become certified in Crown & Bridge. Most recently, after my third time applying to dental school, I have been accepted into my two top choices and will be attending USC this fall.
My Recipe for Success:
1) Get to know your Professors and utilize the resources available in the Health Professions Office – the Committee Letter is a big bonus. It takes a team of people to get you to where you want to be.
2) DAT – prepare like it's the Super Bowl... practice test, practice test, practice test (timing is the key, find a rhythm). I took Kaplan and Princeton Review courses; both are good for assessing your weaknesses. The DAT Destroyer is awesome.
3) Do something to show that you have an eye for detail and good manual dexterity (I HIGHLY recommend dental lab technology). Volunteer and shadow to show that you are committed.
4) Apply early!
5) The Interview: go in with confidence, gain confidence through preparation, and remind yourself that you belong and have what it takes.
6) MOST IMPORTANTLY, in the words of Winston Churchill, "Never, never, never, never give up."
- Phil Acevedo