Pre-dental students are preparing to apply to graduate programs in dentistry at the same time as completing an undergraduate degree. They are not only taking prerequisite coursework for their intended graduate programs, but are also pursuing experiences to develop themselves as strong applicants.
What type of education is required?A plan to prepare for a graduate health professional program.
Minimum coursework required for most dental schools
- 1 year general chemistry with labs
- 1 year organic chemistry with labs
- 1 year introductory biology with labs
- 1 year general physics with labs
- 1 year English (Combination of English Composition & English Literature)
Although this coursework will meet the requirements for many schools, students should research the prerequisites of the schools to which they hope to apply.
Note: Schools have differing policies for accepting AP, IB or CLEP credits to meet program prerequisites. Students should contact the schools to which they would like to apply to find out that school's policy. Since most students will not know what schools they will apply to when they are planning their schedules, many students choose to retake the science prerequisites or take the honors version of the course. The decision should be made on an individual basis and it is recommended that students speak to an adviser when making this choice.
Recommended undergraduate coursework
Most dental schools require that you complete 1 year of English. This can be a combination of literature and writing requirements. Some schools will not consider writing across the curriculum to meet this requirement (for example a philosophy course that meets the UW Writing requirement). To be on the safe side we suggest you plan on completing three English courses. It is also a good idea to take them prior to taking the DAT, as taking writing courses can be a great way to prepare for the verbal section.
The amount of math needed depends upon your choice of major and selection of dental schools. We recommend MATH 124, 144, or Q SCI 291 as a beginning course. We also recommend that students complete a statistics course in addition to calculus. Math 111-112 are not sufficient mathematics preparation.
Because of high demand, some students are not able to enroll in BIOL 180 in Autumn quarter. The BIOL 180 sequence can be started in Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Students doing a physical science or non-science major may prefer to take physics in Year 2 and biology in Year 3, as juniors should be able to register in BIOL 180 even in Autumn quarter.
Although many schools don't require biochemistry, all students should plan to take biochemistry as preparation for the first year courses. The UW offers two biochemistry sequences, both starting in Autumn quarter: BIOC 405, 406, and BIOC 440, 441, 442. Note that the UW School of Dentistry requires 2 quarters of Biochemistry for application.
The UW School of Dentistry requires that students take 2 quarters of Microbiology. Microm 301, 410 are recommended, however, many general microbiology courses, including Microm 412, 442 are acceptable.
Courses in ethics, diversity, language and other ‘good' classes to take – Dental schools are not just looking for students who are strong in the sciences. It is imperative that future dentists understand how society works and are well-rounded academically. You should choose your general education coursework and electives carefully to round out your education.
Example four-year schedule (in advance of entering a professional program)
Dental schools do not select or give preference to any particular majors; therefore, you do not have to major in a science area. You should be thinking of alternate future careers in the event you change your mind, or are not accepted to dental school. Choose to major in something that you enjoy and where you do well. Although most dental schools don't require a bachelor's degree, it is highly recommended that you have plans to complete an undergraduate degree.
Actively participating in student groups can be an invaluable experience. The student groups not only offer services that predental students find helpful, such as hosting dental student panels, informational interviews and group volunteering events, but they also provide a community of students who have similar interests and goals. By taking on an active role, students can also develop their leadership skills.
UW Dental School's Pre-Dental Club (DDS)
The UW Dental School sponsors a pre-dental club, Delta Delta Sigma (DDS), with meetings and activities throughout the academic year. Students are strongly encouraged to get on the club's .
Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS)
MAPS, sponsored by the UW School of Medicine Office of Multicultural Affairs, is open to all and focuses on the specific healthcare issues of underrepresented and underserved segments of our population. For more information, contact Victoria Gardner.
Teaching Ethnic Empowerment Toward Healthcare (TEETH)
Websites to visit
Here are some helpful websites to learn about the dental field, the application process and more:
- American Dental Association
- American Dental Education Association
- UW School of Dentistry
- ExploreHealthCareers.org Career Overview
- Student Doctor Network
The ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, published by the American Dental Education Association, is available at the University Bookstore or by ordering from the ADEA website. A copy for student use is available at the Undergraduate Advising office.
Applying to dental school
Dental Admission Test (DAT)
The DAT is offered only by computer at Prometric Testing Centers and students sign up through the ADA website. The test is usually taken by October of the senior year. UW DAT deadline is October 31 for the year prior to entry. The test covers four areas: survey of natural sciences (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry), reading comprehension, quantitative ability, and perceptual ability. In the future there may be a section on the DAT to assess critical thinking skills. Physics is not covered on the DAT.
The average DAT score in each area for students admitted to the UW Dental School is between a 19–22.
Students can prepare for the DAT in a variety of ways, including taking a test preparatory course, or by purchasing study materials individually. Students can be successful using either strategy, so you will want to consider your personal needs as you decide on an approach. Do you study well individually? Or should you try to form a group? Will you benefit from additional tutoring sessions?
Application to dental school begins the summer of the year before the year of entry. For example, you would apply in summer of 2008 to enter dental school in autumn of 2009. Most dental schools belong to the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS); students apply to these schools through the online application. The AADSAS application is available in late May, and can submit the form in June.
The timing of your application is important! Many schools use rolling admissions, which means that they will review applications as they are submitted. Students who submit well before the deadlines may receive earlier interviews and consideration for admission! We recommend that your primary application is complete by July 4th for early consideration.
If a school is interested in you after reviewing your primary application, they will send you secondary applications that are specific to that school. Secondary applications typically include further essays and an application fee for the school. These are not usually due until Winter, however, you should plan to submit the secondary application as soon as possible to secure an interview.
Letters of Recommendation
Most admission committees require academic and character recommendations. The minimum UW Dental School requirement is for letters from one science teacher, and two character references (one of whom must be a member of the dental profession). It is a good idea to have at least two letters from science faculty and one letter from non-science faculty to meet the requirements of many schools. You will normally gather letters of recommendation during your junior year in order to meet application deadlines early in your senior year. You can send 4 letters to all schools through the AADSAS application and additional letters can be sent with the secondary application.
Experience in a dental setting, such as a dentist's office or clinic, is an admission factor. (There is also a course DPHS 201--Planning a Career in Dentistry, offered each Spring quarter at the UW.) It is assumed that a qualified applicant will have a clear understanding of the profession, a demonstrated interest in the field, and knowledge of what dentistry is about. You should be prepared to answer such questions as, "Why do you want to be a dentist?"
If a school is considering you for admission after reviewing the primary and secondary applications, you will be invited to an interview. Interviews vary in length and method. The Student Doctor Network is a great resource to research a school's interviewing process.
The best preparation for the interview is practice! Delta Delta Sigma (see student organizations above) offers practice interviews. The Center for Career Services also offers a Mock Interview Program to help you prepare. In addition, you can attend a health interview workshop hosted by the Center for Career Services and Undergraduate Advising in the Autumn quarter.