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Top 10: Ways to Get Into Dental School

Honestly, getting that acceptance letter to dental school is a difficult process and sometimes you may feel like giving up. There are a lot of hoops you have to jump through, but once you gain acceptance, it's a refreshing feeling to say the least. This is especially true if you can secure yourself a scholarship as well! Here is a list of those things you should be focusing on in your difficult journey. It is this difficult journey that we focus upon, and so Top Ten Nation writers will continually write more about this topic now and into the future.

Most of the following information may seem like common sense, but be sure to read through this, as there may be something you have not encountered before. Where did we derive this information from? As dental students and faculty, we have sat on admissions interviews for incoming classes. The process isn't as mysterious as some would make it out to be.

Top 10 Ways to Get Into Dental School (Admissions Advice for the Pre-dental Student)

1. Keep Your GPA High (+ how high should it be anyways?)
This is probably the most critical aspect of your application to medical or dental school. Your GPA is analyzed in many different ways, including pre-requisite GPA and overall GPA. Try to keep it as high as possible at all times. This should have priority above everything else. This means that if you are sacrificing grades because of a part-time job - think about quitting! How high should your GPA be? What kind of GPA is average enough to gain admission into a dental school? Opinions can vary, but we would say that most people agree that it falls within a pretty tight range. Greater than 3.30 for US dental schools, and greater than 3.60 for Canadian dental schools. [Canadian schools are difficult to get into because of the fewer seats available and a strong preference for in-state residents.] If your GPA is higher than what we've stated, please understand that it still requires effort to gain admission. It just means that your GPA is not going to hinder your application as much. Try to follow everything else in this list too! If your GPA is less than what we've stated, try to work hard to do well on the DAT, and as evidenced, the DAT is #2 on this list.

2. Ace Your Admissions Test (DAT)
This is an important indicator to level you out with all the other applicants. It is factored in quite heavily by a lot of dental schools! Think about it - some undergraduate colleges hand out higher average GPA's to all of their graduates in comparison to other colleges. As such, you can imagine that dental schools would like to account for applicants that have a 4.00 from a school that hands out 4.00's to everyone! Admissions committees know this happens. It is the DAT's job to level out all of the applicants based on an equally hard exam that all applicants have to take. This standardized test can make or break you if you have a 'sub-par' GPA. I didn't have a great GPA myself, but I killed the DAT, and here I am now, a dental student. So how do you go about doing well on this type of an exam? Check out our advice on Top 10 Ways on How to Ace the DAT.

3. Attend a University, Not a Community College
Universities are viewed as proper preparation for the rigors of medical and dental school. Community colleges are viewed as being easier in the eyes of admissions committees and so the amount of time spent at a community college needs to be limited. Try to limit a community college to about 2 years maximum. Certain schools will tell you this outright. Other schools will simply disqualify applicants if they have spent too much time at a community college for their pre-requisite courses.

4. Complete Your Pre-Requisites/Preparatory Degrees With a Full-Time Course Load
Being a part-time student, or not carrying the maximum amount of courses per semester reduces the likelihood that your GPA will be viewed as being an accurate indicator of your potential. Think about it, a person with a part-time load will obtain A's in their courses easier than a person who is taking the maximum load of courses that they can take. Dental schools want to accept students who can handle the tough cirriculum that they will face, and students with full-time course loads are viewed as being more prepared to handle the environment of a dental school.

5. Conduct Biomedical or Clinical Research
Before we begin, let's make clear that you can get into medical or dental without doing research (*phew*). Okay, research is an integral part of medical and dental sciences. Without research, there would be no progress in these fields and progress is critical to helping people achieve better and more useful lives. Conducting research allows you to reap the benefits of being a part of such a valuable community. But don't fret if you didn't do research. I dipped into it myself, and I didn't enjoy it at all. If you don't like research, try other extra-cirriculars which make make you look just as good as someone who sweated over small vials of urine all day.

6. Obtain Great Reference Letters From Your Professors
This is important. Start to build good relationships with your professors in undergraduate university. It's hard to do especially if your undergrad university is huge like mine was. Our advice? Ask lots of questions early on in your classes and try to make the professors at least kind of remember you. It is also best to ask professors in classes in which you got an 'A' to write you a letter. So listen, I finished undergrad before I realized I wanted to go into dentistry. How did I go about getting reference letters? Well, I ended up flirting with one lady professor... I volunteered in another ones lab for a while, and the last one? Well I went from office to office (of old professors that I had) until I came across someone cool enough to just write one without giving a shit.

7. Job Shadow
This will give you insight into what the occupation you are pursuing is all about. Plus it's a good opportunity to get another reference letter. Honestly, you should do this anyways, since it is a good idea to know what you're getting yourself into. A lot of dental schools are beginning to require this before applying as well.

8. Volunteer and Obtain a Job in a Related Field
Give back to the community and obtain skills in the field that you are pursuing. Build your knowledge base in the medical or dental profession and see what happens in the day to day life of these professionals.

9. Perfect Your Interview Skills
Being honest about your intentions is the best advice that you could receive regarding interviews for dental schools. I found that a lot of schools just did the following: they took my application and sort of reworded questions that were on the application. They were looking for the exact same answers that I had written down on my original application. It is a way to catch small embellishments. Other methods included group questioning methods. Just don't let other applicants intimidate you... Some of them will seem smarter or more sharp than you. Who cares? People will always be smarter (and some more stupider) than you! Again, just tell the truth. Here's an example of a type of question that you may get: "If you were to walk out of a bank, and you quickly noticed that you took a pen from the bank, what would you do?" Well... most people end up saying, "I would return it." That's a bad answer, because in reality, most people would just keep it and move on. In fact, the best answer for this question is to say, "Most banks have their pens chained to the desks!" So what's the motto of the story? Don't try to impress your interviewer(s). Just tell the truth!

10. Be Well Rounded
Continue your participation in whatever you enjoy! Simply being a book-worm will detract from your social skills. Social skills are important in medicine and dentistry because you guessed it - you will be working with people! So what does "well-rounded" mean? It does not mean that you have to save the world. It just means that you should participate in a socially beneficial way outside of your school environment. Join clubs, recreational leagues, and do things that you enjoy! Guess what? Sometimes if you are only a book-worm, it can be "sniffed out" during the interview. Our society does not want socially inept doctors!

BONUS: Manyak222 reminded us that we should include the following:
This should technically be somewhere at the top of this list. Applying early to US dental schools is important because schools employ rolling admissions. Simply said, the earlier in the process that you apply, the greater the chances of admission. Note that it is recommended that you apply the first day that the application is available (which is usually online for dental schools via AADSAS). Honestly, the sooner you apply, the higher your chances of getting in! THIS IS PROBABLY A LOT MORE IMPORTANT than you may initially think. Applying early can easily mean the difference of getting accepted or not getting accepted.

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