What are dental schools looking for?

Dental schools are looking for strong applicants who have prepared themselves academically, personally, and professionally for the rigors of dental school, who have demonstrated key personal and interpersonal competencies, and who have a clear interest and aptitude for the profession. 

  What are the course requirements?

Most dental schools require one year of biology with lab, one year each of general chemistry and organic chemistry with lab and one year of physics with lab. Many schools are also looking for a semester of biochemistry and microbiology. As for non-science coursework, a year of English composition is generally standard, and often some coursework in psychology and the social sciences is required. The list of recommended pre-dental coursework is designed not only to cover the requirements for most US dental schools, it is also intended to prepare students for material tested on the DAT exam. Overall, it is best to research each school  you plan to apply to in order to make sure you are have met all course requirements for admission.

  What should I major in?

Dental schools encourage students to keep an open mind and pursue their unique academic interests in their undergraduate education.  While certain science majors such as biology and chemistry  continue to attract many students intended for dental school, there are many pre-dental students pursuing degrees in the social sciences, humanities and business, just to name a few.   This is the perfect subject to bring up with a pre-dental advisor in the Pre-Med and Health Science Center. We can help you think through your options and make referrals to classes and departments that can help you explore.

  Do I need to earn a degree?

The best answer to this question is that since over 95% of the students who begin dental school have completed 4 years of college and 13% have graduate training, the completion of a bachelor’s degree is an expectation and is one of the ADEA suggestion guidelines for admission. While individual dental schools are free to develop their own policy regarding this expectation, you will be more competitive to a variety of dental schools if you have met this criterion.

  What kind of extracurricular experiences should I seek?

No two students bring the same profile of experiences with them to medical school. You should think about joining, or continue to stay involved with, activities, programs, and organizations that interest you and that you find rewarding and meaningful. This could be on-campus or in your community. The key is to be intentional about how you spend you free time and to choose things that reflect your values and interests. Regardless, dental schools do expect that applicants have experience in a dental office setting and pre-dental students are encouraged to seek out dental as well and other health-care related experiences to round out their experiences.

  What is the DAT and when should I take it?

The Dental Admission Test is a combined aptitude and achievement exam prepared by the American Dental Association. Information about the test and application may be obtained at ada.org.

The test is usually taken sixteen to seventeen months before the student hopes to begin dental school, but no later than September of the year of application. It should be noted that while physics is required for dental school, physics is not covered on the DAT. Therefore, the test can be taken after the second semester of Organic Chemistry has been completed.

To prepare for the DAT, you should review the topics and skills the test measures. This is also an excellent way to evaluate your undergraduate course choices. The sections of the test include:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences: The Natural Sciences section covers topics addressed in general biology, general chemistry and organic chemistry.
  • Perceptual Ability Test: Perceptual Ability Test assesses visual spatial skills. 
  • Reading Comprehension: Measures the ability to read, organize, analyze and comprehend scientific information. 
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Covers algebraic equations, fractions, conversions, percentages, exponential notation, probability and statistics, geometry, trigonometry and applied mathematics problems.
  How do I apply for dental school?

AADSAS is the online, centralized application services for dental schools in the US. Applicants fill out the application and designate the schools to which they would like their application to be sent. AADSAS does not render any admission decisions or advise applicants where to submit applications. Each dental school is completely autonomous in its admission decisions. AADSAS only provides the application processing service.

The AADSAS application usually becomes available in the first week of June and the earliest that applicants can submit the applications is typically also the first week of June.

Associated American Dental Schools Application Service

  When should I apply?

Due to the “rolling admissions” approach utilized by many dental schools, students are generally recommended to apply early in the application cycle. Applicants are recommended to be aware of the deadlines for the various dental schools to which they will apply and to plan to submit their application ahead of these deadlines (ideally several months ahead of the deadline.)

The AADSAS application typically becomes available in June. If you submit the application by the end of June, you are applying early in the application process. The appropriate timing for submitting your application depends on a variety of factors that are unique to each applicant; it is important to discuss the timing of the submission of your application with your pre-dental advisor.

  Who should write my letters of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation which indicate personal knowledge of your abilities in comparison to other students are extremely important. Most dental schools require at least three letters (usually one or two academic letters from a science professor and possibly one from either a non-science professor and/or a non-academic source.) Throughout your studies you should create opportunities for your instructors to get to know you personally. In addition, you should be engaged in extracurricular activities with professionals who are willing to write letters on your behalf. Work with your Pre-med and Health Science advisor to discuss and review your letter options.

  What if my grades are not good enough?

Many students find that they need to strengthen their grades after completing their undergraduate degree. They either take additional upper level undergraduate science courses as a post-bachelor student or they apply to a program like WSU’s Masters in Basic Medical Science. This gives them the opportunity to show that they can do well with a rigorous science program. 

If you are not getting the grades you like in your undergraduate science classes at Wayne, it may be smart to put your pre-dental coursework on hold, concentrate on subjects you like and do well in, then return to a science based curriculum once you have earned your degree. Please schedule an appointment with your pre-dental advisor to discuss whether or not this would be a good plan for you.

  What’s the difference between a D.D.S. and a D.M.D.?

Depending on the dental school you are admitted to you will pursue either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree. These are equivalent degrees that are awarded dental students and there are no differences with respect to the practice of dentistry.

Information on dental degrees including specialties in the field can be found here.