Becoming a Dentist: Deciding On a College

    The path to becoming a dentist typically involves obtaining a Bachelor's degree from a 4-year university, followed by a 4-year Doctoral degree from a dental school.  Dental schools admit students from many undergraduate universities, so the question arises, does it matter where you go to college?  Well, colleges want you to think so, and they have representatives prepared to make their case when recruiting prospective students.

    So as a high school senior, already decided that I wanted to be a dentist, I embarked on the college search process.  Low on my initial list of potential schools was Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.  While on a scouting visit I met with Dr. Jerrald Lerum, Professor of Biology and adviser to pre-med/pre-dental students.  Recently I learned of 
Dr. Lerum's passing, causing me to reflect on how that meeting impacted future events in my life.

    Needless to say, Jerry made a good case for PLU.  In particular, he cited statistics that PLU had a far higher rate of student acceptance to medical and dental schools than any other college in the region, which strongly appealed to my pragmatic side.  PLU it was going to be.

    I didn't realize until later that Dr. Lerum had snookered me.  He didn't mention HOW PLU achieved these superior results.  It was accomplished in part by their student advising system.  Upon entering dental school 4 years later I learned there were a lot of universities who would grant degrees to people who, yes, they successfully completed their graduation requirements, but had GPA's or test scores that gave them no chance at being accepted into a doctoral program.  At PLU, if you had a marginal GPA or were doing poorly in Organic Chemistry as a sophomore, your advisor might request a meeting, where they might put their arm over your shoulder and say in effect, "Son, I think you should re-direct; you're not going to be a Doctor".

    That method may seem a bit heartless in quashing someone's dream, but is less cruel, looking back, than letting someone learn that reality on their own a couple of wasted years later.

    Validating this approach, every single applicant in my PLU cohort was accepted into medical and dental schools.  Three of us continued together on to the University of Washington School of Dentistry - not very many in a class of 100, but for PLU it was a 1.000 batting average.

 

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