Dat DAT: When to Schedule & General Pre-Dental Planning

I started off writing this blog post specifically detailing when to schedule one’s DAT exam in preparation for applications, but it turned into a more general timetable for the dental school application process.

In short, you need to schedule your DAT well before your intend on opening your AADSAS application. If you are planning on opening your AADSAS application and submitting for the current 2017-2018 cycle, you should’ve taken your DAT sometime during fall 2016 or spring of 2017. It takes time for your DAT scores to be sent to AADSAS and I assure you, applying early is key! To break it down, I recommend taking the DAT at least four months prior to opening your AADSAS application on June 1st. Why four months? In the dark instance you do poorly on your DAT, you must wait at least 90 days to retake the exam.

Oh no! I am just now reading this and am scheduled to take my DAT in June and then apply! What do I do?
That’s still fine, your application may not go out in the earliest wave sent to your designated schools, but get it in as soon as possible to hear back from schools earlier. But APPLY EARLY. Still eSubmit your AADSAS at the beginning of June, because again, it takes several weeks for AADSAS to receive and process your DAT scores.

Personally, I had scheduled my DAT for the fall of my junior year, hoping to study for it the summer before. Haha, not without summer research, my job(s) as an RA and an Admission Fellow getting in the way! Originally, my scheduled date to take the DAT was September 26th, having scheduled it in advance on May 26th. I thought I was being proactive, scheduling three months to study intensely. I ended up paying a $25 rescheduling fee to Prometric to take the exam in November, over my Thanksgiving break. I personally felt that three months was far too long to study, dragging out the cramming process and giving me an excuse to be lazy. It also didn’t help that I took a rather unnecessary online DAT preparatory class (IMHO), but that’s a different post. I didn’t begin actively studying for the DAT until the beginning of September, ironically enough when my classes began again. Now that I’m studying for NBDE Part I, I know myself a little better and have given myself less time to study to amplify pressure and up my study habits. Neat!

Traditional Timetable for Applying to Dental School

Though a “traditional” timetable may exist, plenty of applicants and accepted students deviate form the norm. In fact, the so-called “norm” is regressing, as schools begin to select for more diverse classes from greater pools, as more non-traditional students are applying. In my dental school class alone, there are a couple students over age 40 and several students for whom dentistry will be their second, or even third career. Your future dental school class will arguably be one of the more diverse and compelling groups of people you will ever be exposed to. However, the following timetable below will outline the dental school application process for the traditional student, but will also be pertinent to a non-traditional student, as you too will need to complete all of the following steps, in a similar order.

*Recently, it has become popular to take a gap year (or two) between graduation and dental school. In this case, you would actually begin the AADSAS application the summer after your senior year. In other words, the June right after you graduate. I personally did not take a gap year, I didn’t feel like I needed time off prior to beginning dental school, as I took a pretty light senior year schedule. Perhaps we can discuss gap years and nontraditional routes of applying in a different post – so many ideas!

Freshman & Sophomore Year
You should be completing prerequisite courses during these years. Prerequisite courses will vary across dental schools, but generally, they will require introductory biology, physics, inorganic, and organic chemistry courses with corresponding labs. During this time, one should also be gaining healthcare, specifically dental experience. Said experience can be through paid positions as a dental assistant to volunteer positions. Look for positions in which you have the opportunity to build a professional relationship with the doctor or director, but more on that in a future post. Summertimes should be spent with gainful employment, research, or something dental-related. *I personally took classes the summer after my freshman year – this helped me get ahead of the game for classes during my sophomore and junior years. Working a summer job is helpful, as applications (and the DAT!) are pricey.

Sophomore & Junior Year
By this point, you should definitely have completed all prerequisite basic science courses. You should take all of your math and English courses during your freshman-junior years to preserve precious time during your senior year to devote to applications and interviews. Begin planning out your DAT study schedule – when will you take it? What resources will you use?At the close of junior year, most specific prerequisite courses should be complete, as should your DAT. Begin thinking about your personal statement. You should continue to gain professional experience in dentistry: volunteer and shadow.

Junior & Senior Year
The final two years of your undergraduate career will be the busiest, application-wise. You must complete your degree* (or at least all of the school’s require prerequisite courses) prior to matriculating to dental school. You will need to obtain your letters of evaluation and/or a committee letter (see future post). Complete your personal statement. The AADSAS application will open June 1st, the summer in between your junior and senior year and you must have your application and its full components ready to eSubmit (DAT scores, transcript & transcript-matching/request forms, letters of recommendation).

Senior Year
Your hard work is paying off. Complete your degree with additional, final classes. Many schools will begin extending interview invitations as early as July. Relax, enjoy the ride, and take advantage of as many free meals as possible. Interview travel is expensive, as are secondary application fees. Interviews will occur from July through the March of the following year for most schools. Graduate in May, yay! Use May-July to enjoy your final tastes of sweet, sweet freedom (and maybe find a place to live around your new school).

Sometime soon, I’ll try to make a nifty graphic that details the general timeline for preparing for dental school, through prerequisites and the AADSAS itself. Stay tuned, but for now, here’s one that at least details the application timeline, as seen on my general post on the AADSAS:
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~ Colleen

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

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