7 Dental School Requirements That You Need To Know!
Getting accepted to dental school is not like applying to college right out of high school. The dental school requirements are much different than your ordinary admission process and should be prepared for well in advance of applying.
It’s never too early to start thinking about your career, even if you’re still in the process of preparing for college in high school. In this article, we’ll cover some of the minimum requirements for dental school admission to help you gain a competitive advantage over the competition.
Dental School Requirements for Admission
If you are reading this, hopefully you are not too far along into your college coursework. A few, key aspects we are going to cover here should be planned out and executed well in advance of you applying for dental school admission.
The first two points fall into that planning category…
1. Maintain a High Undergraduate GPA
Becoming a Dentist takes more than a 4-year college degree and once you graduate, you will have to apply for admission to the program. Your current college or university may or may not offer a school of dentistry. Either way, it will be to your advantage to maintain a high grade point average (GPA) during your undergrad work. If your college offers a dentistry degree, they may prefer “their own” students and admit you based on a minimum GPA.
However, if you decide to attend a different school for Dentistry, having a high GPA will only help you in gaining admission. Make sure your grades are especially good in any courses that relate to the field as well. Courses like pre-dentistry, zoology, biology and anything medical will be looked at during the admission process.
Also, having come from a high academic, reputable school will also help but is not necessarily a requirement. This is one of those aspects that is out of your control, but it won’t be a “make or break” factor.
2. Volunteer/Job Shadow
Much like undergraduate admissions, dental schools want to see some field experience and/or volunteer work. But don’t just go out and work at the Salvation Army taking in donations.
The key is to make your experience count by doing something that relates directly to your future profession. Contact some local dentist offices and inquire about a possible job shadow experience or anything else they may allow. Do not be discouraged if they say no, but instead, offer them your services as a volunteer.
Many dentists’ offices will be kind enough to allow you in to help w/the desk or clean up. Once your foot is in the door, they may become more open to allowing you to shadow or even assist the dentist, and this experience will not only open your eyes to what the profession is really like, but it’ll also impress the dental school admissions committee.
3. Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
Great grades, attending a reputable college and having outstanding field and volunteer work is only the start. In order to “level the playing field” amongst applicants, one of the dental school requirements is to take the Dental Admissions Test, or DAT.
According to the American Dental Association…
“The testing program is designed to measure general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information, and perceptual ability. While all dental schools require examinees to participate in the Dental Admission Testing Program, test results are only one factor considered in evaluating the admission potential of an examinee.”
Students interested in applying should plan to take the DAT in late spring or early summer between your junior and senior year of college. This will give you ample time to evaluate your score and decide if you want to retake the DAT. There is no penalty for retakes, so plan on taking it at least twice so you have more than one score to compare.
After 90 days, you can schedule a retake if you are not happy with your scores. Just like ACT scores, the admissions committee will look at the best set of scores, not the most recent, so don’t be afraid to take it multiple times if necessary.
4. Apply through AADSAS
Applying through the Associated American Dental Schools Application System (AADSAS) is your next task on the list of dental school requirements. Basically, the AADSAS is a centralized dental application service which the vast majority of dental schools use to process their applicants.
It is recommended that you should apply during the summer one calendar year before you plan to enter dental school. The application process is cyclical, so make sure you know when they open up the cycle for new applicants and try to be as early as possible!
5. Dental School Essay
Like with any college essay, you need to show a true passion for what you’re writing about. In this case, you will be writing about your passion for the dentistry profession.
This is where your job shadowing and/or volunteer experience in the field will come in handy. Make it a point to incorporate some specific activities that you performed into your essay. It’s equally important to explain WHY these experiences led you to pursue a degree and career in the dental profession.
Do not just write about whatever comes to mind. Make sure you are citing specifics and how they’ve molded you or reinforced your choice to apply to dental school.
6. Recommendation Letters
Just like applying for college as an undergrad, you will want to find some great references willing to write a recommendation letter on your behalf. Good choices for your letter are college professors in the medical or pre-dentistry department, a supervisor involved in your volunteer experience, or (if applicable) a dentist who you have job shadowed or worked under.
Recommendation letters go a long way and is one of the more important requirements for dental school admission. Make sure you choose wisely and try to avoid any less meaningful letter writers. This could make or break your chances of admission.
Also see: Who Should Write My Recommendation Letter?
The last of the dental school requirements is the face to face interview. This can be an intimidating task, especially for anyone who didn’t have to do an interview for their undergraduate admissions. However, this can also be good practice for “real world” application once you graduate and begin looking to practice dentistry.
Generally speaking, interviews require you to dress and act professionally, as well as being personable and not giving the standard, pre-practiced answers to their inquiries.
For additional help, see: 10 College Interview Tips To Get You Accepted
Again, the dental school interview is not to be taken lightly and is yet another factor that could be a make or break!
Meeting the requirements for dental school isn’t the difficult part of getting accepted. Your DAT score, combined with experience, letters of recommendation, interview and your essay will all be weighted together to give the admissions reps a holistic view. If you’ve prepared yourself well, it shouldn’t be overly difficult. Planning for admission ahead is the key so that you are ready when it comes time to take the DAT and apply for admission.