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Getting Into Dental School

A Parental Overview of Requirements and Realities

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Getting Into Dental School By Koichi Kamoshida, Getty Photos

Dental school is becoming an increasingly popular post-college option, which means that an already competitive admissions market is becoming even more so. So here's a look at what's required to get in, along with a peek at the statistics fueling dental school competition.

In a nutshell, dental schools consider grade point average (and they break out the science GPA separately), recommendations and test scores for the DAT, or Dental Admissions Test. Despite the obvious science emphasis, dental school applicants don't have to hold pre-dentistry or even science degrees. Technically, they don't even have to hold, or be about to receive, a bachelor's degree. But students coming straight out of intense, science-centric disciplines will have a definite edge when it comes to the exam. Liberal arts majors would be well-advised to take an intensive test prep course to get up to speed on the science material, and frankly, that's something most applicants do, even the organic chem geniuses.

Like the medical school process, most U.S. dental school admissions are funneled through a central organization, AADSAS or the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service, which serves as the conduit for 59 dental schools. (The exception: Texas schools have their own service, TMDSAS.) So the first step in applying to dental school is to register with AADSAS and get a personal ID number or DENTPIN. Your 20-something will need it to register for the DAT and apply to schools.

He should start planning early, especially if he intends to go to dental school straight out of college. The admissions cycle begins June 1 for the fall of the following year - and that's the date to pay attention to, not the deadline. Schools start looking at applications as soon as they come in, so it pays to be early, especially given the statistics. The number of dental school applicants nearly doubled between 2001 and 2007, a leap from 6,378 AADSAS applicants to 11,365. Strong academics, test scores and recommendations are key, but it's all for naught if stronger applications come in first!

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