High School Tips

So you want to be a dentist? – High School Edition #2

A high GPA lead to success in college and beyond
A high GPA lead to success in college and beyond

The greatest way to succeed in college is doing well in high school. Perfecting your study skills in high school will help you start college with higher grades and make it easier to maintain those grades. Doing well in high school has many benefits that are commonly overlooked and may help you get into your dream dental school.

Honors Classes

Taking honors classes is a great benefit towards your GPA. As a result I highly recommend taking as many honors classes as possible! Honors classes are an easy way to inflate a GPA and make you a strong applicant. In most high schools, nearly every subject in the “a-g” categories have honors courses. The benefit of taking these courses is that they are weighted equally to AP classes at a fraction of the difficulty. They are great classes to take before an AP course as they typically build a foundation that will give you an advantage over those who started learning the subject during the AP course.

AP Classes

While still in high school, many of my friends in college told me that AP courses and AP tests were a waste of time and money since in most cases, the class must be retaken to continue to the next series. Most of my friends at this time were computer science majors at various universities. However, this is NOT TRUE for pre-medical students. Taking these classes works as an advantage in the sciences and allows you to start off with a high college science GPA due to the familiarity of the material.

Just like honors courses, AP courses are also weighed on a 5.0 scale. This can inflate your grade making you a strong application, but this is not the main benefit of taking these classes. Material covered in basic bio, chemistry, math, and physics is very similar, if not identical, to that taught in AP classes. Scoring high enough on the AP exam will also earn you college units which in most cases still allow you the option to take the class in college. RETAKE THEM! Retaking these classes in a college atmosphere will help you do several things:

  • Recall the material that you once knew and spend more time understanding details that were unfamiliar. This is important because it will help you retain the information with make up the majority of the Dental Admissions Test (DAT).
  • Gives you an advantage in getting a high grade that will go towards your college GPA that dental schools will evaluate you by.
  • Gives you units towards your college degree and the benefit of registering for classes earlier.

With colleges accepting more students than ever before, science classes have now become difficult to get in. In college, units are an influential factor in deciding which students get to select their classes first. Fighting for one of the last few spots in a class every quarter can be a stressful experience and many times make the quarter more difficult since you have to resort to the more challenging, less experienced, or a less engaged professor. The conversion of AP classes to college units differ from college to college so be sure to do a bit of research on your top schools to know what classes will benefit you the most. For example I quickly found the UC Irvine AP Credit Chart by performing a simple google search for “University of California, Irvine AP Credit”. Focus on taking the AP courses that will benefit you the most in college as well as the AP courses that give you the most units like the language or history courses typically worth 8 units (quarter system conversion, equal to two college courses).

Many of my friends at UC Irvine began college with over 60 units even though they took the same amount of AP courses, but took the courses that were worth 8 units each. In the three years I have picked classes they have never struggled to get the courses they want while I have been fighting for the last few spots left in classes I want.

Automatic Acceptance to College

In California, there is a fantastic program called ELC (Eligibility in the Local Context) designed to help students get into the UC System.

Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) is a program by which the University of California identifies top-performing California high school students. Unlike the broader statewide eligibility pathway, which seeks to recognize top students from throughout the state, ELC draws qualified students from among the top 9 percent of each participating high school.

Check to see if your state has a similar program that automatically awards admissions to academic achievers.

Honors Programs

Doing well in high school also opens doors to university honors programs. These programs offer early admissions to college as well as many wonderful perks like private study rooms and early class registration. Students in these programs get to pick classes before graduating seniors which guarantees any class you want and the freedom to conveniently pick your schedule.

The honors programs do require a few extra classes, but in most cases the extra requirements are fairly minimal and are classes also taken by non-honors students.


High grades also open many doors for scholarships. Not many high school students take advantage of these opportunities and there are many scholarship opportunities available. PLEASE take advantage of scholarships during high school. There are many search engines for scholarships like that will notify you about new opportunities based on certain criteria that you specify on your profile.


Actually study for the SAT/ACT! I cannot stress this enough. I know many individuals who “winged” the SAT or ACT and scored decently. However, studies have shown that even a little bit of preparation dramatically increases one’s score. Join a coaching program or if you feel comfortable, self-study using the plethora of resources online and in books, and sign up for the free SAT question of the day email program.


Doing excellent in high school has a tremendous effect on your college experience and has the potential to make college easier to handle. Your performance in college is an important step in becoming a dentist and a high GPA really improves your chances of getting into dental school. Its never too early to plan ahead!

Advice High School Tips

So you want to be a dentist? – High School Edition #1

Over the years I have met many high schoolers who aspire to become a dentist. They ask me “I want to be a dentist. What should I do?” Parents also ask this question looking to give their child the best opportunity to become a dentist. For this reason, the series is dedicated to giving high schoolers every secret to succeed in high school, getting into college, and making college an easy experience. Over the next few publications I will go through every tip and trick that I wish I knew throughout this process.

The following excerpt is an experience I had in high school.

As a pre-dental student, my dream of becoming a dentist started in high school. During high school I was asked numerous times why I wanted to become a dentist. During this time, I didn’t have much to say that would defend my “dream”.  Because of this, people often brushed off my poorly developed answer and categorized me with every other high schooler with similar dreams of becoming a doctor/lawyer.

It took me a while to realize that my answer was a poor attempt at defending my career of choice. I was very fortunate to attend a unique opportunity touring the UoP School of Dentistry campus. This tour included areas that tour groups don’t usually see like the gross anatomy lab and the multi-million dollar surgical rooms. During this trip, a dental student from Stanford asked me why I wanted to be a dentist. Immaturely,  I corrected him and told him that I actually wanted to be a prosthodontist. He unnecessarily apologized and asked me, “why do you want to be a prosthodontist?”
I told him that it seemed like it would be something that would be fun. That was it;  the entirety of my answer. The puzzled look on the dental student’s face as he seemed dumbfounded by my answer. He changed the subject and shortly after doing so, the realization of how idiotic I sound began to sink in. This moment of my life is something I will never forget; one that is deeply engraved in my brain. This moment was the first time I asked myself if I EVEN KNEW why I wanted to become a dentist.
Up until now, this story has stayed close to my heart because I am horrifyingly embarrassed of it. However, it is time to share it because there is much good that can be learned from it. I learned that while it is good to dream about the future it is important to also account for everything in between. Before anybody should be concerned about specializing in dentistry they should be well on their way to dental school or in dental school.

The point of the story above is to get you motivated to start early in exploring the field of dentistry. Ask your dentist if you could shadow his office for a day since you are interested in becoming a dentist. I can guarantee you, that the dentist would love your company! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The first time I saw the back of a dental office, I asked the Dr. Paul Binon where his office ships instruments to to get cleaned and how long does it take the instruments to get it back. He chuckled, walked me to the sterilization room, and showed me the whole process. One day of shadowing will be enough to know if you are interested enough in dentistry to ask to visit another day. The sooner you do this the better! This will allow you to better structure your future plans.

Some high schools offer specialized programs like the Regional Occupation Program (ROP) in California for people interested in technology, medicine, dentistry, carpentry, business, etc. These programs are typically designed for those who are planning on working immediately after high school, however the dental assisting program is a great benefit to pre-dental students. Arrange a meeting with your counselor and tell them that you are considering becoming a dentist and have shadowed in an office. They will enlighten you on any programs they have to offer or a plan to help you as best as possible. These programs are often HEAVILY subsidized for high school students. The entire program cost me around $300 dollars which is absurdly cheap for all the experience I gained on top of the certifications I received like the legal right to take x-rays. You can find a list of programs in California by visiting the California Department of Education.

As always, if you have any questions, visit the Ask Elias page! The next few posts cover tips/tricks that I have never seen published so be on the lookout!

Have a great day!