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Dental School Application Timeline: The Complete Guide

February 21, 2022
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Introduction How to Become A DentistUnderstanding the Main Steps of the Dental School Application ProcessThe Dental School Application Timeline: Key Dates Optional Steps to Strengthen Your Dental School ApplicationFAQs: Dental School Application Timeline


If you’re thinking of applying for dental school but are unsure of where to begin, look no further! Keep reading for a complete dental school application timeline with detailed steps on how to apply. 

Introduction 

As you begin to apply for dental school, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of application materials you have to gather. Much like medical school, applying for dental school requires a lot of planning and preparation. Luckily, we’ve got all of the details on the dental school application process to help you on your journey to becoming a dentist.

In this timeline we’ve included what to do in the two years leading up to dental school, prerequisites for dental school, and when to complete and submit crucial application materials. Let’s get started!

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How to Become a Dentist

Before diving into specifics of the dental school application timeline, let’s brush up on what it takes to become a dentist. Before applying to dental school, applicants must have completed high school and a full or partial bachelor's degree.

A partial degree is accepted by some dental schools that allow applicants to complete the final years of their bachelor’s degree during dental school. To find out if your choice schools accept a partial degree, look up the application requirements on their website. 

Once you’ve successfully completed your bachelor’s degree program and dental school you’ll need to obtain your state license to start practicing dentistry. You can also choose to continue your education in a specialization. There are currently twelve dentistry specializations that are recognized by the ADA, each of which takes between two and four years to complete. 

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Understanding the Main Steps of the Dental School Application Process

There are seven main steps to take when you’re applying for dental school – eight if you count the celebration! 

Step 1: Dental School Prerequisites

During the final years of your bachelor’s degree or the years leading up to your dental school application, make sure to complete all of the necessary prerequisite courses. Although the specific course requirements vary between dental schools, the general prerequisite courses are:

Most US dental schools are taught in English, and may require English courses or a proficiency test. Some dental schools also require additional upper-level science courses, and strongly encourage taking arts and social science courses as well. 

Step 2: Build Your Dental School CV

Throughout your bachelor’s degree, you should also consider volunteerism and extracurricular activities that you can add to your dental school CV. Your volunteer work, internships or jobs do not have to be dental related, but should relate in some way to public health. This will demonstrate your passion for healthcare in and out of school, and help your application to stand out from others.

Step 3: Take the Dental Admission Test (DAT)

The Dental Admission Test is a computer-based test used in the US and Canada taken by potential dental school students. The test is administered year-round, although it is recommended that students take the test during the “second semester of their junior undergraduate year, or during the summer between junior and senior years.” 

The DAT is 4.5 hours in length and includes material on the natural sciences, perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning. You should plan to take the test after you’ve taken courses on the appropriate material. 

Step 4: Acquire Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation (or Evaluation) are letters written by superiors who can endorse your work or academic performance. Most dental schools require at least two letters of recommendation from science professors, one from a dental professional, and one from an advisor as part of your application. 

You should begin networking with professors and dental professionals well in advance of your application to ensure you’ll have good references. For more information on the kinds of letters you’ll need to provide, check the American Dental Education Association’s website. 

Step 5: Submit Your Application

Once you have gathered all of the appropriate application materials according to your individual institution(s), you can submit your application. The ADEA AADSAS application cycle typically opens around June 1st.

Step 6: Complete Supplemental Essays or Secondary Applications

Certain dental schools require you to complete supplemental materials as part of a secondary application. Typically, you’ll need to write one or two supplemental, or “secondary,” essays. These essays are typically brief, and are a chance to get to know you beyond the application materials they’ve already seen. Often, these essays help admissions committees decide if you’ll be invited for an interview.

Step 7: Interviews

Your interviews are the final step in the dental school application process. Make sure to do thorough research on your school and practice answering questions with a friend, family member, or partner before your interviews. If you’re concerned about performing well in your dental school interviews, you can always seek the help of an experienced dental school consultant

Step 8: Celebrate!

Congratulations! You’d completed the dental school application process. Now is the time to relax. If you’ve been waitlisted, make sure to keep in touch with waitlisted schools and update them on any new relevant accomplishments. If you haven’t been accepted in this round, consider hiring an admissions consultant to help you during the next round of applications. 

The Dental School Application Timeline: Key Dates 

Now that we’ve broken down the main steps of the application process, let’s dive into the dental school application timeline. Here are the key dates for your dental school application, and a basic breakdown of when you should begin preparing for dental school. We’ve based this timeline on the assumption you’re beginning school in the fall, although you can aim to begin school at other times if your school provides that option.

Important note: This timeline is two years long; it starts two years before you plan to begin dental school. It also assumes you’re in a traditional four-year undergraduate program. If you’re in a non-traditional program with a different timeline, you’ll need to adjust these dates. 

Year One

November-December, Junior Year: About two years before you plan to begin dental school, you should make sure you’ve finished or are on track to finish all of the necessary prerequisite courses. This is also the time to build your dental CV with volunteerism, extracurriculars, jobs, or register for pre-dental programs. (See steps 1 and 2 above)

January-March, Junior Year: This is the time to acquire your letters of recommendation, continue to build your CV, and take the DAT if you haven’t already. Taking the DAT at least a year in advance gives you time to retake it later if you’re unhappy with your score. (See steps 3 and 4 above)

April-June, Junior Year: During the spring, you can begin writing your application as AADSAS applications become available online in early May. By this time, you should have completed all of the necessary materials so you can hand them in with your application. You can submit your application when the cycle opens, which is typically around June 1. (See step 5 above)

July-September, Junior/Senior Year: During the summer months after you’ve submitted your application, you may be asked to complete secondary essays. Some schools begin conducting interviews during this time as well. (See steps 6 and 7 above)

Year Two

October-December, Senior Year: About a year before you begin school, interviews continue into the winter months. Some schools may begin sending their first acceptance letters in early December. You may also learn if you have been waitlisted during this time. (See step 8 above) 

January-August, Senior Year/Summer: During the months before the school year begins, make sure to stay in contact with waitlisted schools. Most students will be notified if they’ve been accepted to a school during this time period. 

Fall: Begin dental school!

Optional Steps to Strengthen Your Dental School Application

There are some additional, optional steps you can take to further improve your dental school application. Here are two of the most common. 

Attend a Pre-Dental Program

Some dental schools offer pre-dental summer programs to better prepare students for dental school. In these programs, students often get to work alongside professionals and gain clinical experience. Pre-dental programs are an excellent way to strengthen your application, and give undergraduate students an idea of what to expect from a career in dentistry. 

Here are a few pre-dental programs to check out as an undergraduate student:

You can attend a pre-dental program at any point during your undergraduate degree. These enrichment programs are often under two weeks in length, and are a great way to show passion and commitment for the field of dentistry.

Volunteer

Volunteer experience looks excellent on a resume, especially if you’ve volunteered in a clinical setting. The ADA offers a thorough list of volunteer opportunities through their website, all of which have good reputations in the dentistry community. The AAMC also provides a list of volunteer opportunities in clinical settings that serve as valuable experience for future healthcare workers.

Dental School Application Timeline FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the dental school application timeline.

1. How Do I Know When To Apply For Dental School?

ADEA AADSAS applications typically become available in early May, while submissions open around June 1st. You should give yourself at least a year before applying to dental school to gather all the appropriate application materials. 

2. What Is Dental School Rolling Admission?

Most dental schools have rolling admissions, meaning that you can apply at any time during their designated application cycle. However, you may want to apply earlier since spots can fill up during the rolling cycle. 

3. How Can I Prepare For Dental School?

To prepare for dental school, ensure you’re taking all of the necessary prerequisite courses. Work on developing a strong CV, give yourself plenty of time to study for the DAT, and take a pre-dental summer program. You can also enlist the help of an admissions counselor to guide you through the application process.   

4. When Should I Take The DAT For Dental School?

Most students take the DAT at the end of a spring semester during their undergraduate years. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to retake the DAT before applying to dental school if you are unhappy with your score. 

5. How Early Can You Apply To Dental School?

Most dental schools require applicants to have completed an undergraduate degree before applying. However, “a few dental schools will admit select students through early admissions programs with two to three years of undergraduate preparation.” 

6. When Will I Know If I Got Into Dental School?

Dental schools begin sending letters of acceptance in early December. You should have a final decision from your school by spring at the latest, with some exceptions for waitlisted students. 

Final Thoughts 

When applying to dental school, it is important to follow a strict timeline to ensure you’re completing all of the necessary materials. Applying to dental school is a lengthy process, so it will serve you well to begin gathering application materials around two years before applying to dental school. This will give you ample time to complete prerequisite courses, take (and potentially retake) the DAT exam, gain experience, and acquire letters of recommendation. 

If you begin gathering application materials two years ahead, you’ll be able to devote all of your focus to completing your personal statement, applying for financial aid, and preparing for essays and interviews come application season. If you’re ever stuck on a particular area of your dental school application, you can always turn to an admissions counselor for professional help.

Good luck!

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