Weaver scores in high percentile on Dental Admission Test

IN THIS PHOTO: (left to right) Joe David White, Natural Sciences Department Chair; Ashley Weaver; Dr. Santosh Parakkal, engineering, physics, and physical science instructor, and Dr. Troy Milliken, chemistry instructor.

Former Holmes Community College pre-dental student Ashley Weaver of Madison recently scored in the 95th percentile in the nation on her Dental Admission Test (DAT). On Nov. 16, she came and spoke to students on the Holmes Ridgeland Campus about preparing for professional school. An energetic, animated speaker, she kept the students' attention from start to finish as she doled out meaningful advice on how to follow their dreams.

Weaver, who is originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was a student on the Holmes Ridgeland Campus from 2014-2015, where she completed the majority of her prerequisites for dental school. Under the mentorship of Dr. Troy Milliken, chemistry instructor, and Dr. Santosh Parakkal, engineering, physics, and physical science instructor, Weaver excelled in all of her physical science courses and was elected as recipient of the Physical Science Award in 2015. She was also a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

"Ashley was a joy to teach in Organic Chemistry," said Dr. Milliken. "We are proud of her making a 24 out of 30 on the DAT, as with that kind of score, she can pretty much be accepted into a dental school of her choice. She gave an outstanding talk, which provoked a lot of questions by students about dental school."

Weaver graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in Healthcare Management in 2008. Upon graduation, she worked in a dental office as an operation manager; a position that correlated perfectly with her degree. She soon realized, however, that this may not be the right career path for her.

"I've always thought of myself as a people-person, so working at the front desk of a clinic seemed like a good fit for me," Weaver said. "But once I started working, I found myself back there with the dentists, more interested in the procedures than the front-end responsibilities. I was intrigued by the work they were doing, and how their {the dentists'} jobs still allowed for patient interaction."

Weaver decided that becoming a dentist, rather than an office manager for a dental clinic, seemed the more appropriate career choice for her, so back to school she went. She began taking classes at Holmes in 2014, quickly becoming an instructor-favorite amongst the Natural Sciences Department on the Ridgeland Campus.

"Ashley has a bright mind, strong intellect and good work ethic," said Dr. Parakkal. "She applied for admission to seven dental schools – including University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and Ivy League Schools like University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University - and got an interview from each one of those schools. That speaks volumes about her, and we are proud to have been a part of her journey."

Weaver began her presentation on preparing for professional school by emphasizing the importance of making good grades, getting involved in study groups, and getting to know the instructors.

"Grades are very, very important," Weaver said. "From Organic Chemistry II to Underwater Basket Weaving {she says with a laugh}, your GPA will stay with you and you really want to keep a 3.5 or higher if you plan to go to professional school. Making a C here or there won't kill you, but just try not to make too many."

Weaver gave a testament to how much her study groups helped her, and pointed out that "these days the world is at your fingertips and you can literally study with others all around the world who are on the same path as you."

She also hammered in the point that students should only take the graduate school entrance exam when they are truly ready.

"Whether it's the DAT, the MCAT, the PCAT or GRE, you can take practice exams to get a feel for the test, which helped me quite a bit."

Weaver continued giving sound advice to the students, reminding them to get to know their professors and only include positive, honest information on resumes and in personal statements.

"When the time comes and you need letters of recommendation, make sure to ask those who can speak highly of you, and make sure that you are making a good impression on your professors," Weaver said. "One bad letter of recommendation will get a door slammed in your face before the admissions personnel ever get a chance to even meet you. Also, don't forget to follow up with a thank you note to those who take time out of their busy day to write a letter for you. If you have an F on your transcript, be prepared to talk about it, and remember that depth in one organization is better than superficial membership in seven. The admissions representative would rather know that you really gave your time and energy and made a difference through one organization than that you attended a meeting one time for every club/volunteer group on campus."

Weaver also emphasized the importance of being present in class and really taking the time to learn the material being taught.

"I had Mr. Antoine Gates for Biology and he taught me something that has stayed with me," Weaver said. "He taught me not to memorize every step, but rather to truly gain an understanding of the basic concepts so that you can apply them across the board. This helped me tremendously when I took the DAT and came to questions I didn't know."

She concluded her presentation by sharing a few more words of wisdom regarding the professional school application process.

"Apply several places so that you have options and increase your chances of getting into a school," Weaver said. "The earlier, the better, as far as getting in your applications goes. And if you do get a rejection letter, don't give up: Go shadow someone in a position you want, gain volunteer experience, or take a class to bring your GPA up; do whatever you need to do to improve yourself. If the goal you are working for is truly a dream for you, keep working to achieve it."

Weaver is currently enrolled in the Biology Medical Sciences program at Mississippi College, which is for students who anticipate attending medical school or dental school. She intends to begin dental school in the fall of 2017.

IN THIS PHOTO: (left to right) Joe David White, Natural Sciences Department Chair; Ashley Weaver, former Holmes student who scored in the 95 percentile on her Dental Admission Test; Dr. Santosh Parakkal, engineering, physics, and physical science instructor, and Dr. Troy Milliken, chemistry instructor.