Last Updated on December 18, 2021
What are the requirements for dental school?
Becoming a dentist takes time and patience, but with the right expectations, you’ll know exactly what lies ahead and how to achieve your goals. Much like other medical professions, dentistry takes years of schooling and hands-on experience. Preparing for the appropriate college courses and internships will help increase your outcome for success. Here are the requirements needed for dental school:
1. Complete a bachelor’s degree
As you work toward getting your four-year bachelor’s degree, enroll in courses that count as pre-dental coursework. Many of the courses you’ll need to take in college are prerequisite science courses. Depending on the dental program, you’ll likely need eight credit hours of physics, biology, general chemistry and organic chemistry. It’s best to meet with your academic advisor to make a plan that will guide your graduation plan.
2. Job shadow dentists
As you continue to fulfill the obligations of your degree, you’ll eventually need to job shadow a few dentists before applying to dental school. Most dental programs require applicants to have 100 hours of experience job shadowing many dentists so that you can see how different offices operate.
Start by asking your dentist for this opportunity. From there, see if you can get the names of other dentists who may be interested in helping you accomplish this pre-dental school requirement.
3. Get involved in extracurricular pursuits
Enhance your dental school application by signing up for student clubs and other endeavors that show you’re a well-rounded and dedicated student. Research your local options and consider joining any biology or health-related clubs. In addition to this, you may even contact your professors in the science realm to see if they need research assistants.
The opportunity to participate in scientific research provides a hands-on, rewarding experience that you will always remember. Plus, it looks great on your application. Just remember that life is all about balance. Only take on what you feel comfortable doing.
4. Become a member of the Student National Dental Association
In addition to other student-based organizations, you may benefit from joining the Student National Dental Association. Besides bolstering your dental school application, it also enables you to meet other dental students and practicing dentists at chapter events.
Networking with other professionals in the field is a great way to share your career goals and interests. Industry associations provide beneficial resources you can use as a student, such as insight into the application process and general tips for future success.
5. Take the Dental Admission Test
Once you’ve dedicated time and commitment to the process of admission, you’ll be better positioned to take the DAT after your junior year of college. You’ll need to receive a special personal identification number to register for the DAT exam.
You’ll use this PIN via email. Then, you can proceed with registering for the exam on the official website. Passing the exam is a dental school requirement and encompasses four of the following sections:
- Survey of the natural sciences: 100-question section on biology and chemistry
- Perceptual ability: 90-question section on spatial reasoning
- Reading comprehension: 50-question section containing specific passages of general topics
- Quantitative reasoning: 40-questions section about statistics, data analysis, algebra and probability
To successfully pass your DAT, you’ll need to properly prepare ahead of time. Devote at least three months of study before taking the exam. It helps to create consistent study habits that are not too hard to follow. Here are a few tips to increase your chances of passing the exam:
Prioritize the most difficult sections
If you’re worried about statistics and math-related problems, now is your chance to improve your knowledge of these subjects. Addressing the tougher topics first will give you a great sense of accomplishment and help you relax later as you are studying the easier topics.
Research the perceptual ability test
It is a notoriously difficult section that warrants some attention before the exam. You may want to take practice exams to see how well you do and get a feel for the structure of this section.
Study complex passages
You can count on seeing complex sentences and arguments in the DAT exam. Increase your chances of success when answering these questions by studying complex material. Test prep guides provide examples of what these look like.
Take practice tests
Many online resources offer free practice exams. You can go even further and pay for a more detailed version of the exam. Either way, taking practice tests will help you know what to expect and how long it takes you to get through the questions.
Get to the exam early
Once you’re ready to take the test, arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes early to give yourself plenty of time. You’ll need to show two forms of ID (one that is government-issued). Consider bringing a snack to help you get through the four and a half hours it takes to complete the exam.
If you don’t pass the test on the first try, you’ll have two more chances to take it after 90 days have passed. A DAT score of at least 19 appeals to most dental schools.
6. Create a competitive application
Another huge part of the requirements for dental school includes crafting a competitive dental application. Spend time researching the schools you want to attend. Consider the location and the cost of the program when you’re choosing your top schools.
Your advisor should be able to provide you with a list of reputable schools. You may want to think about touring the school, if it’s within a reasonable distance from you. Many students start their application process a year before graduation. If you want to attend school in the fall, you’ll need to have your submission in by February of that year. Here are some things you’ll need to include in your application:
- The application form
- An official college transcript
- A personal essay
- Four letters of recommendation
- A resume or CV
- Your DAT scores
- Proof of your job shadowing hours
- An application fee of $245
Since it takes time to complete the requirements and gather the appropriate materials, it is vital that you prepare well ahead of the time you want to start attending dental school.
7. Complete an admissions interview
Once you’ve applied to dental school, you may be contacted for an interview. Prepare for your interview by thinking about your personal strengths and communication skills. Interviewers tend to ask questions about your personality and desire to help others. Practicing your responses with a friend beforehand may help you relax better during the interview. You should find out if you were accepted into the program following this interview.