How to Get Into Dental School
If you want a career as a dentist, you have to attend dental school. For many applicants it is difficult to get reliable advice on the application process. Here are some tips to enhance your application:
- Become familiar with the dental profession. After all, you will be doing this for the rest of your professional life. Volunteer, observe, shadow and/or work in dental settings so that you are sure this is the right career for you. You can volunteer in private dental offices, public health clinics, dental laboratories, Veteran’s Administration hospitals, here at the UF College of Dentistry through the Shands Hospital Volunteer Center and the Pre-professional Service Organization (PSO).
- Do things with your hands that require fine motor skill, such as playing an instrument, sewing or sculpting. Choose something you will enjoy. Sports like basketball, football, baseball, and soccer require skill, talent, training, good coordination and large muscle skills, but are not particularly good demonstrations of the sorts of fine motor skills needed in dentistry.
- Seek out sources of information about applying to dental school early in your college experience. Talk to the pre-dental advisor at your school. Visit the American Dental Education website, www.adea.org and read the Official Guide to US and Canadian Dental Schools. You can find free excerpts of the guide on their website. Get the facts to avoid making costly mistakes. http://explorehealthcareers.org is another very helpful website. At UF, students should visit the Pre-Health Advising website to keep up-to-date with UF courses, advising and professional development activities.
- Complete all required prerequisite courses at a competitive four-year college or university. Make mostly “A” grades in these courses. Take most of these courses before you apply to dental school. You do not have to have completed all of these course, but most of them should be taken in order to show the admissions committee your level of performance.
- Take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) in late spring or early summer between your junior and senior year of college. If you are not currently a student, take the DAT during late spring or early summer a year before you plan to enroll as a dental student. You can retake the DAT after 90 days if you are not happy with your scores. The admissions committee will look at the best set of scores, not the most recent (we cannot combine scores).
- Apply through AADSAS, a centralized dental application service, during the summer a YEAR before you plan to enter dental school.
- Think carefully and write reflectively in your dental school essay. Proofread your essay before submitting it.
- Send all of your letters of evaluation and transcripts to AADSAS when you complete your online application. Do this early in the summer.
- Apply to several schools (the average applicant applies to about seven). Select at least one “safe” school you know you will be admitted to, several comfortable schools and one “stretch” school.
- Prepare for your interview by doing your homework on the school. Dress and act like a future professional at the interview. Ask questions. Talk to dental students. Be honest. Be yourself. Try not to worry about the interview. Your job is to just be who you are. Don’t try to fake it.
- You’ve done your best to prepare yourself for a dental education. Focus on completing your undergraduate courses. On December 1, AADSAS schools will begin contacting applicants about their admissions status.