Fantastic advice can come from anywhere—even from 30,000 feet up in the air.
While on a flight, Jennifer Jacobson and a fellow passenger struck up a conversation. Talking about life in general, Jennifer mentioned that she was interested in attending dental school, but being accepted into one wasn’t coming as easily as she hoped.
While she had received her B.S. in physiological science from UCLA, her academic GPA wasn’t where she wanted it to be. “I found the transition to college somewhat difficult,” Jennifer divulges, “and as a result, my academic record suffered. Being on such a big campus was extremely overwhelming and I wasn’t always proud of my grades.”
Too embarrassed to seek out pre-health academic counseling, Jennifer’s academic GPA suffered. So by the time graduation rolled around and Jennifer began applying to dental schools, she received a number of interviews but no offers of acceptance. She quickly realized that her academic record was not on par with what was expected of a dental school applicant.
Disappointed yet determined to realize her dental career goals, Jennifer divulged this information to her fellow airline passenger. “I had never heard of a post-bacc, but the man sitting beside me told me about these types of programs in general and how they could be very beneficial in a way that a master’s program may not be,” Jennifer recalls.
“At that time, I was considering a master’s to boost my application. I began to research post-bacc programs and came upon UC Berkeley Extension, which was close to my hometown where I was then living with my parents. I realized that a post-bacc was the support I needed both academically to boost my GPA and general application support to ensure I could be successful on a subsequent application cycle.”
Indeed, Jennifer made the right decision. Our Academic Enhancer track is designed for students who hold a science degree and have completed the required science coursework but need to improve their GPA to become academically competitive for a career in the health care field.
We provide our students with a wide variety of both lower-division and upper-division courses in biology, chemistry, math and psychology. These diverse course options provide students with the opportunity to create individualized and accelerated tracks to become a competitive applicant to a health professions school—including Jennifer’s dream of attending dental school.
Accepted into our post-bacc program in the fall of 2014, Jennifer gave her all to successfully complete the program two years later and attained her goal: She was accepted into Touro College of Dental Medicine!
I realized that a post-bacc was the support I needed both academically to boost my GPA and general application support to ensure I could be successful on a subsequent application cycle.
My mother was a dental assistant, so I grew up around dentistry and always loved it as a career path. When I realized it was the perfect marriage of art and science, I fell even more in love with all the lives—and smiles!—you could change and enhance as a dentist.
Why did you decide to apply for the post-bacc program?
I had already taken the prerequisites I needed and thought the post-bacc would allow me to explore additional topics in more detail that I would encounter in dental school. It allowed me to focus on improving my academic record while preparing me better for the courses I would encounter in dental school.
The availability of night classes meant I could keep my job working in a dental office while taking classes.
How was your experience going through the post-bacc?
I had a great experience in the program!
The smaller class sizes allowed for more focused work, and it was amazing to be around students who are interested in a health care career. It felt collaborative: Everyone understood the struggle and was striving to achieve a shared goal.
Jennifer’s Path to Dental School
Are there any courses that stood out for you?
One course I think about often—and feel was something I never would have had the opportunity to learn about in my journey otherwise—was a class on public policy. It allowed me to learn about different models and global policies of health care. It gave me a knowledge basis that allows me to better understand my patients and the challenges they face in seeking and receiving care.
It made me a more well-rounded practitioner and even allowed me to ace an interview question for residency that is meant to stump candidates.
I also have to add that I met my husband in one of these classes, so I am forever grateful to the program for bringing us together. He, too, is now a dentist and is pursuing a residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery.
Taking classes in the post-bacc meant that almost no subject in the sciences that I encountered in dental school was for the first time. This allowed me to focus more on my hand skills and to develop as a clinician.
That’s incredible! And now you are both working toward your dreams! This includes completing the Touro College of Dental Medicine program for yourself. How did our post-bacc support you in this academic endeavor?
Taking classes in the post-bacc meant that almost no subject in the sciences that I encountered in dental school was for the first time. Many of my classmates would often remark that the subject matters came so easy to me, but in reality so much of what I was learning was a review from my time either at UCLA or in UC Berkeley Extension's post-bacc program. This allowed me to focus more on my hand skills and to develop as a clinician.
As a resident in prosthodontics, most days started with reviewing either classic literature articles dating as far back as the 1930s or reviewing current topics in seminar format. Then from nine-to-five I was treating my own patients, with certain hours set aside for teaching dental students about both fixed and removable prosthodontics.
My days often ended with lab work, where I would carve teeth out of wax—the artistry—in preparation for the restorations I was planning to make for my patients the next day.
I am so grateful for all those from whom I get to continue learning and being able to pass on my knowledge to others.
And now you’re a full-time faculty member at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine—from student to teacher!
I have only been in this job a few short weeks but I have already learned so much. I've always loved teaching and helping others to understand complex topics. There is nothing better than helping someone get the "a ha" moment.
I am doing a combination of teaching in the pre-clinical courses and overseeing treatment in the clinic. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching is the opportunity to constantly keep learning. Dentistry has so many aspects to it, and often from institution to institution there may be different methods to accomplish the same outcome. I am so grateful for all those from whom I get to continue learning and being able to pass on my knowledge to others.
What advice would you give somebody who is thinking about applying to our post-bacc program?
First: Never give up on your dreams. Second: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result.
UC Berkeley Extension’s post-bacc allowed me to make the changes that I needed to pursue a dream that I have had since I was six years old. This journey was not easy, but ultimately I love my chosen profession and I'm so happy I didn't give up after multiple failed attempts of acceptance into dental school.