What major should I select?Pre-dentistry is NOT a major and there is no "correct" major for pre-dentistry. While most students major in a science area like biology, chemistry, or math, a major in science is not required. Dental schools seek candidates with diverse interests who are capable of handling rigorous science courses. So the best advice is to select a major in an area in which you are interested and in which you can do well and can balance with the science and math courses required for application.
What classes do I need to take?Every dental school has a specific list of pre-requisite courses. It is important that you identify the schools in which you are interested and determine the coureses required by each of them. The common set of required courses typically includes:
20 hours of Biology including:
Comparative Anatomy or Histology (Biol 342 or 442)
Physiology (Biol 333)
Microbiology or Immunology (Biol 375/376 or Biol 422)
Cell Biology, Biochemistry, or Molecular Biology (Biol 334, Biol 434, or Biol 482)
16 hours of Chemistry including:
8 hours of General Chemistry (Chem 261 & 262)
8 hours of Organic Chemistry (Chem 353 & 354)
Chem 431 and/or 432 can meet the Biochemistry requirement
8 hours of Physics
3 hours of Social Science (Communication or Psychology)
3 hours of Humanitites (English, Literature, Phylosphy, History, or Foreign Langauge))
Do I need a 4.0 GPA?The grade point average (GPA) is an important component of the requirements for admission to dental school. It is not necessary to have a 4.0. Instead, you want a minimum of a 3.5 overall GPA and a 3.3 GPA in your Math and Science courses (on a 4 point scale) and participation in extracurricular activities to demonstrate interests beyond academics. If you have a poor first year but steadily improve in the following semesters, you still have a good chance of admission to dental school. However, if you start strong and then fade, your chances for admission could be diminished.
The best advice is to start calculating your application GPA early. From your first semester in your undergraduate studies, you should be keeping a log of your GPA as it will be calculated by AADSAS. you can find a description of the AADSAS calculation here. You can also access an excel spreadsheet set to calculate your AADSAS GPA here.
How do I apply?Applications ot dental schools are made through the American Association of Dental Schools Application System (AADSAS); information can be obtained at www.adea.org. The application cycle begins in May and should be completed early in the summer preceding the Senior year of undergraduate work.
What is the DAT?The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a computer-based admission test that should be taken in Spring after the Junior year of undergraduate study. Topics covered on the DAT include:
Survey of the Natural Sciences
Do I need shadowing experience?Shadowing experiences are an important part of your pre-dental training. Exposure to your chosen field is an important way for you to learn what Dentistry is truly like. Indiana University School of Dentistry requires 30-40 hours shadowing general practice Dentists.
Tips to Remember
Be sure all of the information you enter on your AADSAS application is accurate. This includes the grades of every course taken at the college level and any courses in which you plan to enroll within the year.
Request a transcript from all of your academic institutions and allow plenty of time for the institutions to process your request. All transcripts must be sent to AADSAS.
The personal statement is important. This is your chance to begin to portray who you are and to distinguish yourself from the thousands of applications each institution will review.
Begin the process early! Many schools have rolling admission policies, which means slots are filled beginning in late summer to early Fall, until the slots are filled. If you wait until October or November to complete your application, you have missed opportunities for several slots. You should plan to submit your application as soon as the system opens.
Give careful consideration before asking individuals to write letters of evaluation. Then allow plenty of time for them to write the letters so you aren't waiting until the deadline to receive them. When you ask for letters of recommendation, provide a C.V. or resume so the person writing the letter can reference what you have done outside of their contact with you.
Knowing the specific requirements of the dental school(s) to which you plan to apply is also very important. Dental schools profess that they want well-rounded individuals, not just one-dimensional students. That means get involved, balance school with other activities, because it is true that all work and no play makes you a dull individual!