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Preparing for and Applying to Dental School

Application Procedures

General Considerations

The initial step in the application process is to select the schools to which you will seek admission. The selection process should take into consideration the following:

  1. School requirements. Dental schools have varying requirements for organic chemistry, elective science courses, and even some nonscience courses. School catalogs should be consulted to ensure that you will be able to meet all the requirements prior to enrolling (see also school profiles, page 532).
  2. Financial status. The cost of dental education is high. The best means of keeping costs down is to attend a state school in the state where you are a legal resident. Also, transportation costs will be less if you go to school as close to your permanent home as possible.
  3. School curriculum. There are different perspectives in dental education as reflected in the various types of curricula currently in use. These are defined in Chapter 23, and the individual school curriculum is identified as part of the profiles given for each dental school in that chapter.
  4. Alumni admission ratio. Admissions Committees give careful consideration to the undergraduate school the applicant attends, and this can influence the chance of acceptance. By applying to schools that have consistently accepted a significant number of students from your college, you will automatically improve your chances.
  5. Admissions criteria. The four factors determining admission are academic performance (both overall and in science), recommendations, DAT scores, and interview performance. Schools place varying degrees of emphasis on these factors, as shown in Tables 18.1 and 18.2. By applying to schools where your weaknesses may be less significant, you can possibly improve your chances for admission. As to the total number of schools to which one should apply, this depends on your basic admission potential (academic average and DAT scores) and the amount of money you are prepared to spend as part of the admissions process. It should be realized that being called for out-of-town interviews can substantially increase the costs of applying. Generally, the number of applications can vary from 5 to 15 for A to C students, respectively.

How to Apply

There are two methods of applying: either directly to the school or through an application service. In the former case, the application must be secured from the dental school and the applicant will have to have all transcripts and recommendations sent to each dental school he or she is applying to. When applying to one of the 50 (out of 54) schools participating in the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), the Application Booklet of the AADSAS must be used. This can be secured from your predental advisor or from AADSAS, 1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

As part of the AADSAS application, an essay dealing with your career motivation is expected. A sample essay is reproduced on the following page, to give you an idea of what may be submitted.

In addition to the completed Application Booklet, AADSAS receives copies of all transcripts and the processing fee ($95 for the first school and $15 for each additional school). AADSAS processes the information provided, computes GPAs, and sends a screening copy to the applicant for approval or correction. AADSAS then sends each of the dental schools selected a copy of the approved screening copy and copies of transcripts. Also, the applicant is sent a confirmation copy. Thus only one set of transcripts is needed when applying through AADSAS, but letters of recommendation and photographs must be sent directly to each of the schools. The school usually will have its own application fee that may be required either at the time you apply through AADSAS or at a later date.

Sample Essay for AADSAS Application

My interest in dentistry is the result of the inspiration of two people: my maternal grandfather and my family dentist. My late grandfather lived in our home and thus was personally aware of my ability, already as a child, to assemble kits and, more generally, to fix things around the house. He graduated from the New York School of Mechanical Dentistry in 1941, and understandably channeled my interest toward the dental profession.

When I entered college, I enrolled as a pre-dentistry major. Nevertheless, I wanted to be certain that dentistry was the profession to which I wanted to devote my life. My family dentist allowed me to watch him at work. He patiently explained to me the basic problem of each patient and how he went about treating it. Each patient required a different type of therapy and the variety of cases thoroughly fascinated me.

My reason for preferring dentistry above any other health profession is that the former allows me more eye contact and friendliness between doctor and patient. A good dentist must be concerned with more than just the patient's oral health; he must consider the patient's physical appearance, comfort, and ability to properly maneuver his teeth. The teenager's teeth must be straightened for esthetic reasons. The older patient must be fitted with dentures that will serve him well in both speech and mastication. And the young child whose permanent teeth are now appearing must be observed, to prevent the development of speech impediments, as a result of abnormal tooth growth.

The first year of college represented, for me, an induction period in my academic growth. Since I entered college on early admission at the age of 16, I have gotten progressively better adjusted to the work load. This change is reflected in my gradually improving index. The transition from only three years of high school (which I finished with a 94 average) to the more intense pressure and heavier workload, on the college level, explains my unimpressive performance in my freshman year. This is despite the fact that I was as conscientious then as I am now and as I have always been.

Besides understating my scholastic potential, my college transcript cannot reflect my interest in a highly specialized area of chemistry. During the Spring Semester of 2002, I presented a seminar on catenanes and knots (i.e., cyclic molecules that are mechanically linked or interlocked), which have been shown to be the basis of certain viral infections and cancers. I am currently investigating the possible role of catenanes in oral pathology.

As a result of my consistently improving academic performance, I was named to the Dean's list with high honor at my college. In an effort to gain experience toward my intended profession, I worked at a local dental hospital in New York, during the 2001–2002 academic year. The preceding year, I worked as a volunteer dental assistant at a dental clinic affiliated with a New York dental school. I am currently volunteering at another local dental clinic, while completing my undergraduate studies. My extensive dental exposure and academic work has provided me with both the motivation and background to successfully complete a program of dental studies and develop into a competent and empathic practitioner.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesGuide to Medical & Dental SchoolsPreparing for and Applying to Dental School - Educational Preparation, Application Procedures, Admissions Criteria