Dental School Application Timeline: The Complete Guide

April 1, 2024
5 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 10/11/23

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

As you begin to apply for dental school, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of application materials you have to gather. Like medical school, applying for dental school requires a lot of planning and preparation. Luckily, we’ve got all of the details on how to apply to dental school.

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

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The Dental School Application Timeline: Key Dates 

While we will break down how to apply to dental school, let’s dive into the application timeline first. Here are the key dates for your dental school application and a 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 that’s an option.

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

dental school application timeline
dental school application timeline

How to Apply to Dental School: Steps to Take

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

Step 1: Build a List of Schools

It’s a good idea to narrow down your options before you start applying. Create a list of schools based on factors like location, size, program length, and more. This will help you zero in on the schools you really want to spend time applying to. 

To help you get started, use our interactive dental school selection quiz down below! You’ll get personalized results tailored to your specific school preferences.

Step 2: Dental School Prerequisites

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

  • Biology (with lab) — two semesters
  • General Chemistry (with lab) — two semesters
  • Organic Chemistry (with lab) — two semesters
  • Physics (with lab) — two semesters

Some U.S. may require English courses or a proficiency test. They may also require additional upper-level science courses and strongly encourage taking arts and social science courses. 

Step 3: Build Your Dental School CV

Throughout college, you should consider volunteerism and extracurricular activities that you can add to your dental school CV. Not all of your volunteer work, internships, or jobs have to be dental-related, but many should relate to public health. This demonstrates your passion for healthcare in and out of school and helps your application stand out.

Step 4: Take the Dental Admission Test (DAT)

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

The DAT is 4.5 hours long 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 5: Acquire Letters of Recommendation

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

You should begin networking with professors and dental professionals before your application cycle 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 6: Submit Your Application

Once you’ve gathered the appropriate application materials, you can submit your application. The ADEA AADSAS application cycle typically opens around June 1st.

Step 7: Complete Supplemental Essays or Secondary Applications

Certain dental schools require 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 8: Interviews

Your interviews are the final step. Ensure you thoroughly research your school and practice answering questions 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 admissions consultant

Step 9: Celebrate!

Congratulations! You’ve completed the dental school application process. If you’ve been waitlisted, keep in touch with schools and update them on any new relevant accomplishments. 

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 schools offer pre-dental summer programs to better prepare students for dental school. In these programs, students often work alongside professionals and gain clinical experience. 

Pre-dental programs are an excellent way to strengthen your application and give you an idea of what to expect from a career in dentistry. Here are some pre-dental programs you can check out:

You can attend a pre-dental program at any point during your college years. These enrichment programs are often under two weeks long, and participating shows your passion and commitment to dentistry.


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, 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 experiences for future healthcare workers.

Dental School Application Timeline FAQs

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

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

ADEA AADSAS applications cycle opens on or 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 you can apply at any time during the 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 take the necessary prerequisite courses, work on a strong CV, study for the DAT, and pursue meaningful experiences.

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

Most students take the DAT at the end of the spring semester during their junior year. 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. How Long Does it Take to Hear Back from Dental Schools?

Dental schools begin sending acceptance letters 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 submit your application on time. Applying to dental school is a lengthy process, so it will serve you well to begin gathering application materials around two years before applying. 

You’ll be able to devote your focus to completing your personal statement, applying for financial aid, and preparing for essays and interviews come application season. Good luck!

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