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Funding your dental elective

Post date: 31/01/2023 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 07/03/2023

A 4th year dental student offers some support and guidance on how to fund your upcoming dental elective. 

Your elective allows you to experience dentistry like never before in a completely different social and cultural environment.

So, you've probably spent most of third year dreaming of where to go, now you're in fourth year it's time to start planning! With the summer of a lifetime ahead you want to pack in as much adventure as possible - and it usually comes with a hefty price tag.

The cost of an overseas elective can be high, as I have found out first hand. It all adds up, flights, project fees, accommodation, activities the list goes on.

In this article I hope to share my experience of how I applied for funding to help with the cost of my elective and provide you with some useful tips.

What do you want to gain from your elective?

Every elective is different; first you need to decide what it is you want to gain from your elective. Do you want to spend the minimal time possible observing dentistry and then escape on holiday? If so, this article is probably NOT for you! If on the other hand you are willing to spend time to fully immerse yourself in a project, then your elective is likely to leave a lasting impression on you.

Choose your elective project

If you are seeking funding for your elective you must pick a worthwhile project! You must think, if you were a charity/organisation or business would you be willing to help fund this project? I volunteered with Project Amazonas, which provided medical and dental treatment for communities in the Peruvian Amazon. There are numerous worthwhile projects such as Global Brigades, The Vine Trust etc. Carrying out a research project is also likely to make your elective project stand out.

Estimate your costs

You need to be realistic. Calculate your costs carefully. The number may be a little scary! It is unlikely that you will receive funding for your whole elective, so it is necessary that you are able to fund the majority of your elective yourself. Write a detailed budget of all costs, include flights, accommodation, project fees, spending money etc. as many funding applications request this information.

Start researching

You are now ready to begin searching for funding sources. There is a huge book called The Directory of Grant Making Trusts, which you should be able to check out at the library. It includes all grant-making organisations and lists what causes they support. There are numerous sections, check out grants for individuals, grants which support healthcare, and local organisations.

Also looking for local charities is a good idea, there may be charities set up in your local area for youths to expand their knowledge and education. You'll be surprised as to how many travel grants there are out there.

When in doubt, Google it. Try and make your searches specific, just typing in dental elective funding will give you hundreds of results which aren't often that useful.

And don't forget your university! Many universities offer bursaries and travel grants for electives, make sure you check out what is on offer.

Make a list of the trusts you wish to contact

Once you've completed all your research you have a list of the charities you wish to contact. Prior to contacting them ensure you meet all their requirements; most have strict eligibility criteria and they won't budge from them. If you don't fit the criteria, don't waste your time.

Start applying

Some trusts may have an application form on their website, others may require you to drop them an email or letter to show your interest. First things first, spell the charity’s name correctly! I made the mishap of misspelling the name of a charity and as you can imagine it was not met with a positive response.

Try to avoid generic emails; you want to ensure that you understand the ethos of each trust.

Ensure that you apply well before the deadline! Deadlines are often early in the year. I speak from experience; I left one application to the very last minute and had to pay for next day delivery of a letter to Scotland!

Overcoming rejection

Sorry to break it to you, not everyone is going to give you a cheque. It may not be possible to meet everyone's exacting standards and that's fine. Don't get disheartened when you receive bad news, just keep positive.


Be patient, you may get funding

It may seem like a long wait, but if you've applied to trusts and you meet their criteria, and your elective is of a worthwhile project that will benefit others in need, you may get some funding.

I can't guarantee how much funding you'll get, but if you're lucky enough to receive some funding then remember 'every little helps'.

Say ‘thank you’

Be grateful for any amount of funding you receive. Make sure you send a formal letter or email of thanks. Also trusts may ask you to fill out a trip report for them, ensure you send this back to them soon after your elective is complete.


Enjoy your dental elective, make the most of the opportunity and stay safe!

I hope I've managed to provide you all with some useful information to help you when planning your dental electives. 



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