^^ It’s a great question. (This post was updated on 01/01/17 to include screenshots from the new AADSAS interface.)
First of all, I’d recommend you purchase a copy of the 2017-2018 (or -insert year here-) ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools here. No, like really, STOP. DROP. And buy the book. Both a print and online (usually) version are available for a pretty nominal sum compared to the information you’ll ultimately get out of it. Or, better yet, ask your pre-health advisor if he/she has it in their office and if not, try to convince them to purchase a shareable copy for everyone! The Guide is a pretty comprehensive resource that profiles all American and Canadian dental schools, providing demographic information, average DAT scores and GPA of matriculating class, in-state vs. out-of-state tuition information, and will overall streamline your school selection. Even getting your grubby hands on one that’s a year or two old will be immensely helpful.
Applying to professional school, especially medical or dental school, is vastly different from applying to college. At least when I applied to undergrad, I applied to schools that fell into one of three categories: Safety Schools, Middle Ground Schools, and Reach Schools. Unfortunately, dental school doesn’t quite work out in this same way, as with dental school, only about 50% of applicants are actually invited to enroll. Certain assets of an applicant will make them more attractive to one school over another. For example, a brief glance at the Official Guide reveals that state schools tend to enroll higher numbers of in-state residents compared to out-of-state residents, largely due to state government education grants and state-specific statutes of residency. However, for certain states without public dental schools, programs like WICHE exist to help subsidize out-of-state tuition costs for students that reside in a state without a public dental school. I can post separately on that later.
Think about it – where might you see yourself living for the next four years? Where might you want to practice after dental school is all said and done? Geographic location matters, as does living in an urban or rural environment and the patient bases in each of those places. Consider rising rent costs and the cost of living around each dental school, not to even mention the sheer price of tuition and fees alone. What are equipment rental fees? Does the school offer scholarships? All are factors to ponder when the cost of a four-year dental education can easily topple a quarter-million dollars.
Think about what type of dentistry you’d like to do – is community service a pillar by which you live your life? What is the school’s focus – clinical skills, research, etc.? What is the school’s teaching style? What type of technologies exist at individual schools and how are those technologies integrated into the curriculum? When are Part I and II* (this will change soon with the integrated NBDE written exam) of the NBDE taken? Think about continuing education, the student:faculty ratio, and the alumni network that exists.
The search for a best fit school is a lengthy process involving extensive research: scour the website, talk to students and alumni to see what they liked about the school they attended, contact the admission committee, and tour the campus.
A school everyone should apply to:
Edit 06/01/17: AADSAS does something really cool now; when you select the schools you wish to apply to, they link to a sweet little webpage that integrates the school’s values, goals, and prerequisites on a single page – basically, a nice comprehensive information sheet that explains what the school is about. Wish we had that when I was applying, would’ve made school research (hey!) infinitely easier. Another tip is if you’re reading this blog and you’re a pre-dental who won’t be applying to d school for another couple of years, go ahead and make an ADEA AADSAS account and open an application. You’re under no obligation to submit it and you can use this “fake” account to familiarize yourself with the application and, with this new feature, with specific dental schools and their programs.
Do you see those three beautiful faces in the header? Those are my classmates (Matthew, Kasey, and Clarke, from left to right), they’re achieving next-level fame!
*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA
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