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Part V: Community Service as a Pre-Dental Student

Community service is an integral part of a dental school application as it demonstrates a commitment to improving the lives of those who are less fortunate. Community service can be virtually any experience that improves the lives of others. Examples of community service include volunteering at a local homeless shelter, tutoring children from underserved backgrounds, and serving as a coach to children with disabilities. Here are a few important pointers about community service:

Show a long-term commitment to community service: Participating in a soup kitchen three times or serving at your local homeless shelter on Thanksgiving and Christmas does not do much to bolster the community service aspect of your dental school application. On the other hand, working at a local homeless shelter for an entire year and helping implement programs that improves the lives of the homeless population could make a difference in your application.

Traveling abroad to do community service counts:  If you spend a summer in another country working as a volunteer for an organization that is trying to improve the lives and livelihoods of indigent populations in the community, this experience will be considered valuable community service and will help strengthen your application to dental school. Students travel abroad with various organizations helping build homes, schools, clinics, etc.

Use your community service to demonstrate leadership: One of the most impressive attributes of a good dental school applicant is their ability to take initiative and be a leader. And one of the best places to show your ability to serve as a leader is in the community. Identify an issue that you are passionate about in your community and work on finding a way to address it. In other words establish your own program in the community. This may seem daunting at first, but its quite achievable if you believe in your own idea and have the courage to execute.  Do not be afraid of failing, just the fact that you try to take initiative will be impressive. Examples of community-based programs you can implement:

I. A program to provide dental health education for the elderly in your local neighborhood
II. A program to promote brushing and flossing among children from low-income neighborhoods
III. A program to help the uninsured in the community navigate free dental clinics

Dental work in the community can serve as community service:  One of the advantages of doing clinical volunteer work for the underserved is that it will help you become aware of the some of the challenges and issues that this community faces. You can use this information to more effectively devise a program to serve those in the community. For example, if you find that the patient population at your clinic does not comply with their medication or diet regimen as frequently, you can use this information to help develop a community-based program to promote good oral health habits.

One unique community-based opportunity, which allows pre-dental students to reach out and serve those in need, is Give Kids a Smile Day. This program is sponsored through the American Dental Association and provides dental services to children from underserved communities. Participation in this program can be a strong addition to your dental school application. For more information, please visit: