Volunteering may feel like a monotonous task that students only participate in to become a better applicant for dental school, but with correct research and choice it can be an eventful opportunity that you may even look forward to participating in. Do you remember receiving help from something in your childhood, and how much that meant to you? Volunteering is a mutual service that gives the volunteers a sense of purpose, and can truly change the lives of individuals that receive help.
How Many Volunteer Hours for Dental School?
Many schools will not require students to meet a minimum number of hours for acceptance, but will recommend at least 50-100 hours based on the school (COVID has changed these minimums lower). Students should understand the word “recommendation” should be synonymous to “required,” because their applications will be pinned up against students who will surpass these minimums. Volunteering can become one of the most joyful activities in a dental student’s career that may inspire their pathway into different fields of dentistry, and dental schools see it as an innately valuable and important task in your application.
What Volunteering Programs Should I Do to Get Into Dental School?
When it comes to looking for volunteer opportunities, there is no right or wrong answer to which programs “look better” on an application. Volunteering gives students a chance to find something they love, because this will encourage them to continue participating in the event. This does not have to be related to medicine, but it should be noted that finding opportunities related to dentistry will help you learn more about the career you are interested in pursuing. It will also show Dental Schools that you understand the whole scope of Dentistry beyond the clinic.
Every student has their individual path to dentistry, and it is important to highlight these reasons in your application to show the schools why you are so passionate about this career. For example, a student that grew up with financial uncertainties may want to volunteer at the food bank to help pack food for locals who have trouble making ends meet. Or a student that wants to provide care for children with special needs may look to volunteer at an autism center. It is recommended to provide continuous help for any program you chose because consistency shows commitment, rather than just checking boxes. Becoming a great dentist is more than just succeeding in your classes, and nothing builds character and compassion better than helping those who need it most. Every pre-dental student will tell you they want to help those in need, but actions speak louder than words! Furthermore, it is beneficial to start anything you do as early in your studies as you can. Trying to find 100 hours of service a month before applications open may become a little stressful, but imagine volunteering 1-3 hours a week for four years! This can add up to anywhere from 200-600 hours!
Why is Volunteering Important for Getting Into Dental School?
To become a great Dentist, it is important to become a great communicator. Having amazing hand skills is only half the job, patients want to understand the procedures being done to them and feel comfortable around the person providing the service. Volunteering can help those with poor communication skills practice with random groups of individuals from all backgrounds of life. You will not only serve people in need, but work with fellow volunteers who may even have the same goals as you.
Do not be afraid to start your own club or organization! These can turn out to be the strongest parts of an application because it shows a school you are passionate about a type of service, and also demonstrates sought after leadership skills. You may also be surprised at how many students share the same interests as you and will be eager to join your club. Programs such as Dental Buddies at UCSB sends volunteers to local elementary schools to educate students on various science topics! These clubs do not have to be driven by hundreds of volunteers either. Some ideas can be collecting clothes to provide to a local homeless shelter, or writing cards for special needs children in hospitals. These little actions can go a long way for those in need!
Different Types of Volunteering to Get Into Dental School
If there is nothing that comes to mind, there are many different types of volunteer opportunities that students can seek. For local settings we have provided a list of recommendations below. In addition, volunteering can be done on a global level with mission trips that provide care for underserved communities around the world. Trips such as Medlife help build infrastructure in low-income areas, while aiding local Doctors in providing care to those who do not have health insurance. Trips like these will only motivate you to pursue Dentistry even more because it will open your eyes to the value that care can do for the people who need it most.