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Pre-dentistry

The major steps in the application process are taking the DAT, submitting the generic (primary) AADSAS application and sending supplementary application material to individual dental schools upon their request.

Many dental schools require a year, with laboratories, of biology, general chemistry and physics, and either a year or two quarters, with laboratories, of organic chemistry. Your biology and chemistry sequences should be completed before you take the DAT (Dental Admission Test). While not required, courses in biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and the humanities are often strongly recommended.

You will find many activities on campus that interest you. An organization that many "predents" join is the Predentistry Club. In addition, to gain a realistic view of the profession, you should acquire some experience in a clinical setting. Ask your family dentist if you can observe him or her at work.

Overview of the Application Process
The DAT, a computerized exam, is offered throughout the year. The four parts of the DAT are:
  1. natural sciences: biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry;
  2. perceptual ability (PAT): two and three-dimensional problem solving;
  3. science reading comprehension;
  4. quantitative reasoning: math.

Students hoping to enter dental school in the fall following graduation should plan to take the DAT in spring of the junior year or in the summer, rather than the following fall. This will allow you to complete your application sooner and, if necessary, retake the exam. You can obtain registration material for the DAT in the Pre-professional Advising Office or by calling (312)440-2689. Sample DAT questions are included in the registration brochure. Your DAT preparation can be supplemented with a commercial preparation course, review books or software. This important test is required by every dental school. Take it seriously and prepare well.

For 51 of 55 United States dental schools, you must submit a primary application form, a fee and other supplementary material to AADSAS (American Association of Dental Schools Application Service). AADSAS is a central collection organization that checks, duplicates and distributes the information on the primary form to your designated dental schools. AADSAS has introduced a web-based, electronic application. If you prefer, you may download a paper application. We recommend that you try the electronic version, since it should be less troublesome to fill out. Both applications may be found at AADSAS's web site. You may send your recommendations to AADSAS or you can submit them directly to the dental schools.

After they have received your application material from AADSAS, individual schools may send you their own (secondary) application, along with requests for supplementary material such as fees, DAT scores, transcripts or recommendations. When all application material has been received, selected applicants will be invited to visit the dental school and interview with members of the admissions committee. After the interview, the committee either accepts or rejects the applicant or places him/her on an alternate list. Note: It is your responsibility to be accessible if you are on a dental school's alternate list. If you are traveling, you should give the school the name and telephone number of a dependable person who can contact you. If a school finds that there is no way to reach you, it may offer the position to the next person on the list.

AADSAS primary applications for September 2001 become available in spring 2000. Submit all your application material promptly. If you expect to include recommendations with your primary AADSAS materials, you should speak to the professors whom you hope will be writing on your behalf early in spring quarter, so that the letters can be ready by June.

Time is an important element

While schools may post deadline dates of, for example, December or January, this does not imply that a last-minute applicant will have the same chance for acceptance as earlier applicants. In fact, many dental schools will have filled a large proportion of their next entering class by December. In this process, sooner is definitely better. To make sure that you will have satisfied all requirements for graduation, have your course work checked by the College of Arts and Sciences early in your senior year.

The Competitive Applicant

Normally, your GPA, DAT scores, letters of recommendation and your dental school interview will be the most important factors in a school's decision to admit you. Other considerations may be your interpersonal skills, extracurricular activities and evidence of manual dexterity. Some schools suggest that you take courses in psychology, interpersonal communication and art. The Ohio State University requires a minimum of 20 hours of observation in a general practice dental office.

Nationally, in 1998 the average new student entering dental school had a G.P.A. of 3.33, a DAT academic score of 18.2 and a PAT score of 17.2. Admission to dental school is competitive, so every applicant should have a backup plan. Consider some of the alternatives, such as graduate study in biotechnology or public health. Other possibilities include reapplying to dental school after retaking the DAT or taking additional course work to strengthen your science background and GPA. While it is possible to enter dental school without completing four years of undergraduate preparation, most schools prefer students with a bachelor's degree.

School Selection

Because admission to dental school is competitive, we urge you apply to several schools. Admission Requirements of U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools is a very helpful resource that provides information about each school's admissions criteria, average GPA and DAT scores and tuition. This book also contains general information concerning financing your education, the application process and dentistry as a career. It is available for use in the Pre-professional Advising Office. You may also order your own copy from the American Association of Dental School web site, by phone, (202)667-9433, ext. 155, or by e-mail, aads@aads.jhu.edu. The cost is approximately $25.00.

Wherever else you may decide to apply, you should also apply to the public dental college in your home state. State residents receive preference for admission to their state schools and pay much lower tuition. Conversely, before you apply to public schools outside your home state, remember that most of them accept relatively few out-of-state students and that tuition is high. If you are applying to schools outside of your state, private schools may be your safest bet. Consult Admission Requirements of U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools for information on a school's proportion of in-state to out-of-state entrants.