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Deciding Where to Apply to Dental School


Perhaps you have been thinking about where you want to attend dental school for many years or maybe you’ve just started to sort through the information.  Schools vary in mission, location, size, program/curriculum, and countless other variables.  Below you will find two discussions of some general factors to consider.

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

Of all the factors, tuition will be a significant consideration for most students. Dentistry is an expensive education to offer as equipment and technology go well beyond a standard classroom.  Tuition costs go up every year and some schools estimate total costs including living  expenses beyond $400,000.  You may find a report of the costs for the last entering class in the most recent ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools.

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

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.

Categorize Schools   

Before you apply, consider the schools more thoroughly.  Although they are different in many ways, you may see certain categories that help you organize what you know.  Consider how the school is supported.  If there is a state supported, public, dental school in your state of residence that school offers you the greatest opportunity for acceptance at the least possible cost. For Georgia residents, it is the Dental College of Georgia.  Other states (though not all) offer the same opportunities for their residents, e.g., University of Alabama, Birmingham, offers seats to residents of the state of Alabama and some to residents of other states. These schools report tuition as 'resident' and 'nonresident.'  When evaluating a state-supported school in another state consider the tuition costs, number of out-of state students who have been offered seats in the past, and your own possible funding sources.

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.'  These schools may also be referred to by some as 'for profit.' 

Other dental schools receive private support also receive some funds from the state of their location, e.g. NOVA, which might be called state affiliated though private.  NOVA states that it is also ‘not for profit.’  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 help illuminate the number of in-state and out-of-state students accepted.  Also you may see trends in the costs of schools when you consider these factors.

Consider Your Possibility of Acceptance

State Supported Schools in Other States   If you choose to apply to state supported schools in other states, the numbers reported in ADEA Official Guide as the averages/statistics of their previous entering class include their own state residents.   As an out-of-state applicant, you must be well above their averages and/or offer extensive positive credentials in order to be selected for one of those seats.  There may even be a formula based on your GPA and DAT, for example, to determine if your file reaches the admissions committee at all.  Generally, the states surrounding Georgia (or the Southeastern states) may enroll  4-5  (or fewer, varying from cycle to cycle)  Georgia residents.  Many UGA students apply to these schools; therefore, competition for limited number of seats is intense.

Other private schools will not carry an affinity for candidates from any state, but the competition for seats will be national.

Don’t allow these considerations to rule out your dream school; however, be practical.  Consider a ‘back-up’ school that you would attend  if selected.

Certainly the amount of tuition, fees, ancillary educational costs and living expenses must be considered.   The amount of debt you incur from your dental education will affect your later life decisions.  Is there an amount of debt that you and your family believe is reasonable for you to incur?