Timeline: Applying to Dental School in the US

July 29, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Getting into dental school is a big deal. It involves more than filling out some applications and waiting for your acceptance. There is a lot of planning and organization that is needed to help you stay on track. Having a plan in place can help the application process go smoother and may improve your odds of getting accepted. Below is a general timeline to keep in mind.

Freshman and Sophomore Year

It may seem like you just got to college, and preparing for dental school this early may seem crazy. But before you get too stressed out, preparation in your freshman and sophomore year involves general things, which may help you whether you go to dental school or not.

Do well in school: Start your undergrad career off right by doing your best. If you apply to dental school, you’ll need good grades, and you don’t want to have to make up for a poor freshman year. Even if you change your mind and don’t go to dental school, good grades will help you in the future.

Start taking required science classes: Although you can major in anything you like, you do need to take certain sciences classes to get accepted into dental school. It makes sense to take some of them during your freshman and sophomore year.

Learn more about the profession: Volunteering at a dental clinic will give you a little hands-on experience and help you become more familiar with the dental field. In addition to volunteering, learn as much as you can about the dental profession. Dental school is a big commitment. Not only will you spend four years of your life in school, but you will also spend a lot of money. You want to be sure it is the right career choice. Consider shadowing a dentist and talking with people in the field. Your own dentist may be a good place to start. A shadowing program can also offer great opportunities to observe dentists in action.

Research schools: It is not too early to start considering which dental schools you like. Luckily, lots of information can be found online to help you with your search. Look for information on the curriculum, class size, faculty and cost.

Junior Year

Hopefully, once you start your junior year, you have made up your mind about going to dental school. If that’s still your plan, you’ll need to get a little more serious to get through the process.

Attend dental school recruitment presentations: By now you may have some interest in certain schools. But learning more about different programs can help you narrow your search. Dental schools often participate in recruitment fairs and workshops, which are held at different universities. If your school is not participating in a recruitment fair, contact the American Dental Association for a list of upcoming recruitment fairs.

Review the dental school application process: Before you know it you will be submitting your dental school applications. It is helpful to become familiar with the process before you get started. During the early part of your junior year, review the application process including important dates, such as deadlines.

Think about who will write your letters of recommendation: Although you don’t need your letters of recommendation just yet, you may want to consider who to ask. You want to avoid scrambling for letters as the application deadline approaches. Former or current teachers may be a good choice. If you volunteered in a dental clinic, consider asking your supervisor.  A recommendation from a dentist who knows your strengths is also a good option.

Study and register for the DAT: Before you get into dental school, you need to take the dental school admissions test (DAT). It may be a good idea to take the DAT soon after you complete most of your science classes, such as organic chemistry. If you wait too long, the information may not be fresh in your mind. Even if you are planning on taking the DAT over the summer before your senior year, start preparing beforehand. Sometime during your junior year, buy a study guide and carve out time to prepare.

The summer before Senior Year

The summer before your senior year is a busy time for dental school prep. Consider the following:

Submit applications: You are almost ready to start your senior year, which means, it’s also application time. Plan on submitting your dental school applications in June, before you head back to school in the fall. The application process can be lengthy, so pay close attention to make sure you are completing everything accurately.

Take the DAT: If you have not already taken the DAT, now is the time. You can retake the test a second time if you are unhappy with your score. But you are required to wait 90 days in between tests dates.

Brush up on your interview skills: It’s always a good idea to brush up on interview skills before actually heading to you dental school interviews. After all, a lot is riding on your interview, and you want to be well prepared. Consider doing mock interviews with a classmate. School career centers and pre-dental clubs on campus may also be able to help you with your interview skills.

Senior Year

By the start of your senior year, your applications are probably already in. You have taken the DAT and are almost ready to graduate. But you still have a few things to do.

Finish all degree requirements: Don’t slack off on your grades. You still need to finish all you degree requirements.

Go on interviews: If a school is interested in you, you will be invited to an interview.  You need to buy a professional outfit and plan you transportation. Arrive early and try to relax.

If accepted, submit a deposit: Although it can vary, most dental schools start notifying students of their acceptance after December 1st. Once you get an offer, you will likely need to submit a deposit to hold your spot.

Stay out of trouble: Congratulations, you made it! You’re on your way to dental school. Just one more thing – make sure you graduate and don’t do anything that would prevent you from starting dental school in the coming months.


Remember – whatever stage of the game you’re at, you can strengthen your application and enhance your CV by completing one of our work shadowing placements overseas.



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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.