Pre-dental Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What courses should I take in high school to best prepare for a college pre-dental program?
A. Take as much math, science, and writing coursework as possible.
Q. What should I major in?
A. You may choose any major you find of interest. Dental schools will look for completion of specific requirements, which must be met regardless of your choice of major. A broad educational background is encouraged, and should include course work from humanities, social sciences, and arts in addition to the sciences. Many pre-dental students choose the interdisciplinary Science major (advising for this major is available in M305 SMSU) or the Biology major (advising for this major is available in 246 SB2). The requirements for both majors fit nicely with the dental school requirements. Other students wishing to major in sciences often choose the Biochemistry option within the Chemistry major (advising for this major is available in 262 SB2). There are plenty of non-science majors to choose from as well; for example, pre-dental students might choose to major in Spanish, Psychology, or Health Studies: Health Sciences. The majors offered at PSU, along with their requirements, can be found in the PSU Bulletin. To discuss your choice of major with a pre-dental adviser, please call 503-725-3822 or stop by M305 SMSU to schedule an appointment with a pre-dental adviser.
Q. Does it matter to dental schools where I earn my undergraduate degree?
A. Dental schools do not have a preference for one undergraduate institution over another; they consider applicants from any accredited college or university that satisfy the dental school prerequisites. However, when students select an undergraduate institution, it is important to consider whether the institution has pre-dental advising services and relevant coursework and to consider how much opportunity there is to learn about dentistry in the area where the institution is located. Access to such services and opportunities helps to facilitate your ability to become a competitive candidate.
Q. If I repeat a course, will the grade I receive the second time replace the grade I received the first time I took the course?
A. Although PSU has a Repeated Course Policy that says if one earns a D or an F in a course the first time and then repeats the course, only the second grade will be calculated into the GPA, the dental school application (AADSAS) disregards the repeated course policies of undergraduate institutions. Applicants to dental school must report every grade earned, regardless of the undergraduate institution's policies. Every grade is then calculated into the grade point averages generated by the AADSAS application.
Q. What additional upper division courses are recommended beyond the minimum?
A. Some possible choices for extra science courses are Anatomy & Physiology, Histology, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Micro Biology, and Neurophysiology. It is also useful to take relevant non-science courses from departments such as Art, Public Health Education, Psychology, and Communication. To learn more about recommended classes, see the pre-dentistry worksheet at the Pre-professional Programs page and meet with a pre-dental adviser.
Q. What kind of things should I get involved in outside of or in academics?
A. It is important to pursue activities that complement your interests and passions. Activities that demonstrate service to the community are strongly encouraged. Dental schools also expect that applicants have experience in a dental office setting.
Q. How do I apply to dental school?
A. Students apply to dental school by completing and submitting a primary application through a central application service (AADSAS). This service verifies and standardizes the information from the application and forwards it to the dental schools indicated by the applicant. The next step of the application process is the secondary, or supplemental, application. Some but not all dental schools require applicants to complete supplemental applications, in which dental schools request additional information, such as responses to additional essay questions. Some dental schools automatically invite all applicants to complete supplemental applications, while others only invite applicants who meet minimum GPA and DAT score criteria to complete them.
Students typically send their evaluation letters to dental schools by using PSU’s Health Sciences Advising (HSA) Letter service. See the “Health Sciences Advising Letter Service” link at the left menu to learn more.
Q. What is AADSAS?
A. AADSAS is the online, centralized application services for dental schools in the US. Applicants fill out the application and designate the schools to which they would like their application to be sent. AADSAS does not render any admission decisions or advise applicants where to submit applications. Each dental school is completely autonomous in its admission decisions. AADSAS only provides the application processing service.
The AADSAS application usually becomes available in the first week of June and the earliest that applicants can submit the applications is typically also the first week of June.
Associated American Dental Schools Application Service
Web site: https://portal.aadsasweb.org/
Q. When will I interview at dental schools?
A. Interviews normally take place between September and approximately March for acceptance the following fall (although some schools continue to interview into the spring). Most admissions offers are made during fall and winter terms but some schools, including Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry, continue to make offers through spring term (and even later in some cases for applicants who are pulled off of wait lists).
Q. What GPA and DAT scores do I need to be competitive?
A. Competitive applicants typically have a GPA of 3.6 or higher and DAT Academic and Science Averages of 20 or higher. However, there is no set of magic numbers that guarantee acceptance to dental school. See the “Student Success” link at the left menu to learn more about what makes an applicant competitive for dental school.
Q. How do I get letters of evaluation?
A. Letters of evaluation are an important part of your application to dental school. Since the admission committee members at the dental schools do not know you personally, they rely heavily on the comments from people who do know you and are in a position to comment on your potential to complete the dental school curriculum and become a competent and caring dentist.
Most dental schools require a Committee/Adviser Letter or a minimum of three letters of evaluation. Committee or Adviser letters are intended to provide additional insight into the applicant's preparation and also demonstrate their engagement in advising while preparing to apply. If a student opts to obtain individual letters of evaluation, it is advisable to include at least two academic evaluations (at least one from the sciences) and at least one non-academic evaluation (employer, volunteer coordinator, a dentist for whom you have volunteered or worked, or whom you have shadowed). To learn more about PSU’s Health Sciences Advising Letter Service, see the “Health Sciences Advising Letter” link at the left menu.
Q. What is an “application cycle”?
A. The application cycle for dental school begins in June and runs approximately through the June of the following year. For example, a student who wishes to begin dental school in 2014 is applying in the 2013-2014 application cycle and it runs from June 2013 to approximately June 2014 (however, sometimes students are pulled from wait lists as late as July or in rare cases, August). During the application cycle, applicants submit their applications for review and dental schools review applications and make interview offers; they then make offers of admission, deny admission, or waitlist applicants. Some dental schools will make these decisions rapidly, while others might take a long time to notify you about decisions. For example, one dental school might notify you about whether you have been denied or invited for an interview within a week or two of receiving your application, while another might take months to notify you of this decision. Similarly, some dental schools will notify you within two weeks of your completed interview about whether you have been admitted, while others will continue to consider you after the interview and might wait months before notifying you of your admissions status.
Q. What is rolling admissions?
A. Rolling admissions is an approach used by many dental schools wherein they review applications and make decisions about whom will be interviewed and admitted as applications are received. In other words, they do not wait until their application deadlines hit to review applications and make admissions decisions. Rolling admissions means that spaces in a dental school’s incoming class begin to fill early in the application cycle and as the application cycle progresses, the available spaces become fewer and the competition therefore greater. This is why it is not recommended to apply to dental school late in the application cycle, even if you will meet a dental school’s application deadline.
Q. What are the important dates and deadlines?
A. For fall matriculation at US dental schools, here are some important deadlines:
Deadline for DAT: It is ideal to take the DAT by May or June of the year in which you are applying to dental school (or even better, in the year before your application year), but some applicants take it later in the application cycle in July, or even August in order to study more. The latest you can take the DAT for a given application cycle is September, though applicants are recommended to take the exam prior to September due to rolling admissions.
Deadline for AADSAS application: Deadlines for applying vary by dental school (there is no uniform deadline for submitting the application). Due to the “rolling admissions” approach utilized by many dental schools, students are generally recommended to apply early in the application cycle. Applicants are recommended to be aware of the deadlines for the various dental schools to which they will apply and to plan to submit their application ahead of these deadlines (ideally several months ahead of the deadline).
The AADSAS application typically becomes available in June. The earliest you can submit the applications is typically also the first week of June. Most PSU students wait until spring term grades post (third week of June) to submit their application. If you submit the application by the end of June, you are applying early in the application process. The appropriate timing for submitting your application depends on a variety of factors that are unique to each applicant; it is important to discuss the timing of the submission of your application with your pre-dental adviser.
Deadline for Health Sciences Advising (HSA) Letter Service: Health Sciences Advising Letter Service packets are available as a PDF on the CLAS Advising website by clicking the "Health Sciences AdvisingLetter Service" link in the left menu above. All eligibility requirements and required materials outlined in the HSA packet, including all letters of evaluation, must be completed. Click on “Health Sciences Advising Letter Service” at the left menu for more information.
Q. How do I choose the dental schools to which I will apply?
A. Information regarding specific US and Canadian dental schools can be found in the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, a book you can purchase by visiting the “Publications” section of the ADEA Web site.
You can utilize the ADEA Official Guide to develop a long list of schools, and then visit the Web site for each school on your long list to shorten it into your final list of dental schools. We recommend that applicants apply to approximately ten or more dental schools. When considering dental schools, here are some of the factors you should consider:
Residency: Public dental schools give significant preference to residents of that state. Residents also pay lower tuition rates. However, it is important to note that it is strategic to apply to some state schools, even if you are not a resident of that state. This is because even though they give preference to their own residents, some state schools still rely upon non-residents to fill their classes. In contrast, other state schools give exclusive or near-exclusive preference to residents of their own state and it would not be strategic to apply to these schools as a non-resident.
Location: Where are you willing to live?
Curriculum: Curricular approaches vary among institutions. The focus and approach of the curriculum should be investigated to ensure it matches your philosophical views and learning style.
Cost: The cost of dental school can vary a great deal.
Religious Affiliation: Some schools give preference to applicants of particular religions.