If you’re applying/applied to dental school, I don’t have to describe to you the craziness of TMDSAS/ADEA AADSAS applications, collecting letters of recommendations, and constantly refreshing your email in hopes that this cycle may be the lucky one! Since I’m in the midst of my second year of dental school, studying for the DAT and applying to dental school seems like a distant memory.
But if there is one thing that I do remember, is the lack of resources other than Student Doctor Network to calm my nerves about the whole process. I can recall scouring the web for any website that would give me even a glimmer of insight or tips for getting through the application cycle as successfully as possible.
As a current dental student, I get a lot of questions from hopeful applicants around the world about everything from when to take the DAT to what to wear to an interview. So with that being said, I’m going to do my best to give 5 pieces of advice that may help you get the upper hand in applying to dental school.
1. APPLY EARLY!
This may seem like a given, but a lot of people underestimate the impact an early application can have on your chances of receiving an interview. For dental school, TMDSAS applications open for Texas schools at the beginning of May with a deadline at the end of September. While this sounds like a long amount of time to get your whole application together, dental schools work under a “rolling admission” system- meaning that that they will start looking through applications and handing out interviews as they receive them. So you may have all of your material and applications in a week before the deadline, but most schools will have invited the majority of applicants to interview already. Schools will also not entirely look at an application or offer you an interview unless your application is complete. So try and get all of your Letters of Recommendations AND have your DAT completed BEFORE June of the cycle you’re applying.
2. RULE OF 5 SCHOOLS
When I was in undergrad, my pre-health advisor told me to apply to at least 5 schools:
1 Dream School
2 Reasonable schools
2 Schools that are a “shoe-in”
Now, I know what you’re thinking, ANY DENTAL SCHOOL IS A DREAM SCHOOL! I felt like no schools were a shoe-in, but if you’re not sure where to apply and have the credentials to be a competitive dental applicant, then why not! I always recommend that you apply to more than just your top choice because what may seem like your perfect school, may not be a great fit when you interview there.
Not sure how to figure out what schools are “reasonable” or a “dream”? Visit sites like:
These websites show the trends of GPA, DAT Scores, and seats available for each school. But even if you may not fit exactly into any of the schools trends, don’t give up- those are the averages! I was once told by a dental admissions member that as a school, they try and accept people with immaculate perfect grades and people who may have struggled and have average grades. Once you get into dental school, you’ll learn very quickly that every student has a different set of skills and weaknesses.
3. BE HONEST IN YOUR APPLICATION
This last year, I was one of the interviewers for Pre-Dental Day and got to meet and interview potential dental candidates for the upcoming cycle. It was an great experience for applicants to see what dental schools were looking for and the best advice I can give, is BE HONEST. It was so apparent when the applicant added events and jobs that were very clearly fabricated. The last thing you ever want is the start your application/interview out with a lie. Dental schools don’t forget and in the long run, you don’t want to be the type of health provider that lies. Plus, if you’re taking steps to apply to dental school, there’s a good chance you’re already pretty awesome, so highlight that in your application!
4. STUDY FOR YOUR DAT
The DAT, or the Dental Admissions Test, is the standardized test that you are required to take to apply to dental schools. While it varies what a “good score” is, it is important that you do well enough. Each year, it seems that the average DAT score that is accepted gets higher and higher and with good reason. The amount of people wanting to become dentists are increasing and the level of competition follows suit.
I get a lot of questions about what the right amount of time to study is and, to be honest, it just depends. If you paid a lot of attention in college, got great grades, and are a fast learner- then maybe two weeks. If you’ve been out of school for a while, didn’t pay that much attention in school, or are just a slower learner- then maybe allocate a month. It’s different for every person. Just be honest and realistic with yourself and how much you are actually studying.
Also make sure you schedule you’re DAT ahead of time. As a ~$400 dollar test, you need to make sure you’re ready when you take it. Give yourself a realistic timeline. Plus, you have to wait 90 days to retake the DAT so if you’re not smart about it, it could cause you to have to apply the next cycle.
5. MAKE THE SACRIFICE
Applying to dental school is NOT CHEAP. Heck, staying in dental school is not cheap by any means. The application itself will run you a couple of hundred bucks depending on the amount of schools you apply to, secondary applications, prep classes for the DAT, taking the DAT, and even flying out to all your interviews definitely cost a pretty penny. And while it may seem impossible or something you don’t have the money for right now, I urge you to find a way. If that means not going out, not buying new clothes, or maybe not taking a vacation that year, it’s worth it. Because the one thing I believe in, is investing in yourself and your education. Dentistry, if you’re passionate about it, will be the hardest and best decision you’ll ever make. I can’t even begin to describe the growth I’ve undergone in the last year and a half but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Additionally, it will be a HUGE mental and emotional sacrifice. Applying to any competitive program is a lot highs and even more lows. So despite every doubt and failure, remember that this is a journey and not just an end goal.
“When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place.”
So that’s it for my tips for applying to dental school! If you have any questions or are curious about anything I may have left out, please feel free to comment below! I’ve been wanting to write more posts about dental school and the academic part of my life so I hope this helps!
GOOD LUCK AND STAY POSITIVE!