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Deciding Where to Apply to Dental School

When deciding on which dental schools to apply to, ask yourself two questions:

1. Am I competitive at this institution?

The application process for dental school can be arduous and expensive. Therefore, it is important you apply to schools that you actually have a chance of gaining admission. This means paying attention to average DAT scores and GPAs as well as the types (and amount) of volunteer/extracurricular activities accepted applicants usually have.

Another thing to consider is where accepted applicants are coming from (i.e., in-state vs. out-of-state). Private out-of-state schools are often a better bet compared with state schools.  For instance, as a Georgia resident, the likelihood of gaining admission into the University of Texas School of Dentistry is very low, as they accept very few out-of-state applicants. Similarly, a Texas resident would have a difficult time gaining admission into the Dental College of Georgia. 

Some dental schools are completely private and receive no funds from the states where they are located, e.g., Tufts University, Midwestern University, or Harvard University.  These schools have no affiliation with the residents of the state where they are located; therefore, tuition is the same for 'resident' and 'nonresident.'  

Other dental schools receive private support and also receive funds from the state in which they are located, e.g. NOVA, which might be called state affiliated though private. Schools like Pitt and Temple categorize themselves as ‘private, state-related.’ Some states have more than one publically supported dental school, e.g., Kentucky.  Understanding these distinctions can help you determine which schools are right for you. Also, you may see trends in the costs of schools when you consider these factors.

  • Click here for the video discussing general factors to consider by the ADEA.
  • Click here for factors from the American Student Dental website.

Making a sound decision will require gathering as much information as you can about the schools.  Take advantage of opportunities such as meeting dental schools at our Health Professions Fair each spring, attending events with the Predental Society, possibly scheduling campus visits to schools that interest you most, and visiting with schools displaying at the Hinman.

2. Would I feel comfortable attending this institution?

Dental school is an incredibly strenuous (though rewarding) experience. Therefore, it is also important to consider whether you would be happy attending a particular dental school. If you prefer warm weather, a dental school in Michigan may not be the best choice. If you have to be home for the holidays, attending dental school 3,000 miles away may not be the best choice. Moreover, living in Chicago or DC will certainly offer a different experience than living in Athens or Charlottesville.

Curriculum and the structure of a particular dental program should be considered as well when deciding which schools to apply to. Do you prefer lecture-style classes over small-group activities? Do you hope to conduct research?

Additional factors to consider:
  • Tuition/Cost of Living Expenses
  • Research opportunities
  • Specality and Advanced Education Programs
  • Dual-degree programs

The best resource to use when deciding where to apply is the ADEA Guide to Dental Schools handbook. Admission statistics, requirements, and applicant data is compiled every year for each accredited dental school in the US and Canada.

Why should I limit my choices?

Be cautious to apply only to a school where you would go, especially if it is the only school where you were accepted.  Why?  Because if you turn down an offer, the next year, if you reapply, you will be asked if you have previously applied and have previously been accepted?  Imagine how that information might influence admissions committees:  Are you certain about the profession?  Will you turn down another  (dental school) offer of acceptance?  Do you exercise good judgment?  Are you immature? There are many potential red flags here.