- Pick a major: Pre-dental students should consider a plan of study which will allow several classes in biology, physics, general chemistry and organic chemistry. Any major can be chosen; you should pick something you are passionate about. However, the science requirements would need to be met for a competitive application. Often dental schools also require or highly recommend additional coursework prior to or at the time of application. Be sure to look at individual school requirements. Examples are upper level biology courses, biochemistry, courses involving hand/eye coordination and behavioral science courses. Click here to see the recommended courses for dental school.
In addition to the coursework listed above, specific schools may choose applicants based on non-academic criteria such as being able to physically see patients, if the English language can be effectively used, and in areas such as professionalism and cognitive abilities.
- Earn good grades: Strive for a GPA of 3.5 or higher in your science classes and overall; the higher your GPA, the more competitive your application will be. Schools sometimes list minimum GPAs or report averages for accepted students in a given year. You should have no required course grade below a C. There are specific requirements regarding courses taken at a community college.
- Get dental-related experience: Develop a mentorship with a dentist and develop a consistent record of volunteering and shadowing. Dental schools want to see that you have experienced what actually goes on in a dental office, have developed a philosophy about dentistry and have volunteered for the underserved. Plan to spend around 100 hours in several dental offices in different specialties (shoot for 150 hours). Make sure most of your time however is with a general dentist. Be sure you are volunteering somewhere (not necessarily in dentistry).
- Be involved in activities outside of class: Research, showing leadership, and having extracurricular activities can all play a positive role in your application.
- You will take the DAT (dental admission test) after you have completed most of the requirements for dental school. The DAT tests in the areas of general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information and perceptual ability. Study for the exam like it is a class, beginning around 6 months before you decide to take it. Strive for an overall score of 19 as a starting point.
- Identify people to write recommendations: These should be people who will be able to showcase your strengths. You will need several recommendations for your application. One can come from Roanoke's Health Professions Advisory Group (called a committee letter) with one coming from a dentist, or several from science faculty, a dentist and perhaps one or more non-scientists. Schools require different combinations of letters, so be sure to decide upon what you really need prior to the end of the application process.
- Prepare for your interviews: You will want a practice interview with HealthPAG to work on your interview skills. In general, be able to really say why you want to be a dentist, and be able to give examples from your experiences in the office. Google "dental school interview questions" and start thinking about the questions you find.
- Apply to dental schools: You will apply for admission at least a year in advance of enrollment (for example, begin the application process at the end of your junior year). Many dental schools participate in the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS). For a fee, students can subscribe to this service which allows one application to go to multiple dental schools.