Building your credentials
Students prepare for a career in dentistry by building credentials in scholarship, leadership, humanitarian/community service, and shadowing (largely with a general dentist) in the various settings of the profession. Many students do not get into dental school the first time that they apply. The traits that predict success in the profession include, high academic aptitude, hard work, the ability to work well with others, good hand-eye coordination, and good judgment.
There is no “best” major for pre-dental students nor are there majors that will make a student “stand out.” Students are encouraged to pursue majors in which they are most interested.
The Numbers Matter and so do Grade Trends
Students who wish to enter a dental program will require strong science and overall GPAs. Admissions committees also look for trends on a student’s transcript—so all is not lost if a student stumbles in their first semester or two, but then shows substantial improvement each subsequent year. However, they will also notice negative trends such as if a student is consistently withdrawing from or performing poorly in hard sciences or is completing them away from their home institution. While an instance or two is not a deal-breaker, a pattern of behavior will be. Students must demonstrate the ability to handle difficult scientific content.
What are dental schools looking for?
Dental schools consider the following credentials when evaluating applicants for admission:
- Academic record (both overall and science GPA)
- DAT scores
- Letters of Evaluation (including faculty and a general dentist letter)
- Exposure to dentist-patient interaction ("shadowing")
- Volunteering, as well as charitable/altruistic endeavors
- Research experience (only if you are interested)
- Leadership abilities
- Interpersonal communication skills
- Evidence of manual dexterity ("are you good with your hands?")
If a student is strongly motivated toward a health science career, enjoys working with people, possess good manual dexterity and is willing to apply the self-discipline and hard work necessary to maintain a competitive academic record, then the student has a realistic expectation for admission to dental school.
Note: Dental schools may also require background checks of applicants before matriculation.