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Why Dental School Admissions is so Competitive

Introduction to Dental School

Dental school is an opportunity for students to earn a higher education degree to be a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD). Both degrees require students to undergo four years of challenging coursework which is separate from the optional additional years spent to specialize. However, dentistry is still an attractive career to many. According to the U.S. News Rankings, dentistry is currently ranked #4 in healthcare jobs. The ranking is based on salary, job market, future growth, stress, and work-life balance. Dentists also make over $200,000 annually, in most states, which makes dentistry an even more sought-after career. Also, the field of dentistry is safe to pursue a career in as it’s expected to grow in the future. The job itself is rewarding for most dentists as many continue their careers well into their 60s. What makes dentistry different from medicine is the better work-life balance, the ability to own a business, greater manual dexterity, technology advancements, and more. Most dental clinics are open from Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm which means most dentists take weekends off. Furthermore, dentists who own their dental practice are able to create flexible work schedules.


With such attractive features tied to career in dentistry, getting accepted to dental school has become more competitive over the years with more applicants applying. Therefore, it is important to discuss the competitive nature of dental schools to bring awareness to this so students can better prepare for admissions. In fact, dental school has been almost as competitive as medical schools recently and far more competitive than other graduate programs like pharmacy and law. In this article, we will explore the factors that contribute to the competitiveness of dental schools including limited spots, high demand, and rigorous requirements.


How Competitive Is Dental School Admissions?

According to applicant Data by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), about 50% of applicants get accepted to dental school per application cycle. For instance, the 2022 data shows that only 6,328 students were accepted out of 11,180 total applicants to U.S. dental schools. Furthermore, each dental school only accepts typically 4-8% of applicants based on the holistic review of their application. That means out of 1,500-2,000 applicants, about 120 students are accepted into the entering class. The high competition level is derived from various factors that contribute to dental admissions.


Factors that play a major role in acceptance into dental schools include academic performance (GPA and DAT score), dental school essays, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation. Over the years, there has been an increasing trend in both GPA and the DAT score which has contributed to the increasing competition. ADEA’s data shows that the Grade Point Average for U.S dental schools in recent years was near a 3.5 GPA, which is significantly higher than the 3.2 GPA in the early 2000s. Similarly, the average DAT score of admitted applicants has been near a 20 in recent years, which contrasts the 18 DAT score of admitted applicants from the early 2000s. However, there is more to consider than the GPA and DAT as dental schools holistically review each application.


Many pre-dental students are aware of the fact that there are many other admissions criteria that dental schools use to decide who gets accepted and who gets rejected, beyond GPA and DAT scores. For example, factors like extracurricular experiences play a significant role in dental school admissions. Committing to extracurriculars is a great way to connect with people, improve your professional experience, and get letters of recommendation. Such experiences can also be discussed in your dental school application and essays to make them more compelling.


Given that most applicants perform well in academics and partake in extracurriculars, dental school admission is undoubtedly bound to become more competitive. Another factor in this is the increasing number of nontraditional applicants each year. Nontraditional dental school applicants are applicants who took a gap year, or gap years, to pursue another career, interest, or a master’s degree. With additional schooling or work experience, these applicants bring new insights and skills to dental admissions which can be favorable.


How to Improve Your Chances of Getting Accepted to Dental School

Given the highly competitive nature of dental school admissions and the benefits of a career in dentistry, it is important to submit the best application possible to gain acceptance into dental school. It is even more important to excel in categories of the application that are high priority for dental admissions.


One way to improve your chances of gaining admission is to show academic excellence. While this is easier said than done, maintaining a high Grade Point Average (GPA) and scoring well on the DAT exam can make you stand out among applicants. It also demonstrates to the

admission committees that you are capable of succeeding under high academic pressure and can handle the rigor of dental school. However, having a high GPA over 4 years of undergrad requires persistence. Similarly, scoring well on the DAT exam means preparing and studying for at least 2-3 months. Therefore, proper planning and commitment are necessary to succeed in both.


Another way to stand out among applicants is to gain experience in dentistry. While the typical route to accomplish this is to shadow and volunteer in local dental clinics, you can also look into employment in dentistry. Working as a dental assistant, sterilization technician, or laboratory technician provides excellent experiences to pre-dental students in the field of dentistry. This includes learning about dental instruments, procedures, technology, patient care, and more. Lastly, you can also enhance your dental school application by taking on leadership roles, joining organizations, and conducting research. These are great ways to additionally grow your knowledge, skillset, and experiences.


The last part of the dental school admission process is acing your interviews. Receiving dental school interviews is a big accomplishment as many applicants fail to make it that far. The best way to prepare for interviews is through interview coaching and preparing your responses ahead of time. This doesn’t mean you have to memorize your responses, but it is recommended to plan how you want to answer certain questions beforehand. Hundreds of pre-dentals have used our dental school interview coaching service to work through high-yield interview questions asked at specific dental schools, and to be able to work with former dental school interviewers and admissions officers to perfect their interview skills. As you practice for your interviews, be sure to practice for the correct interview style (e.g. MMI, one-on-one, group, etc.) and format (e.g. closed-file vs open-file). Lastly, it is important to be your authentic self during interviews and demonstrate proper etiquette. Following these tips, you can increase your chances of gaining admission into dental school.


Conclusion

As demonstrated earlier, dental admissions is a highly competitive process with multiple requirements. Although perfection can never be obtained, it is highly recommended to improve each aspect of your dental school application as best as you can. This doesn’t mean you must have a 4.0 GPA, 27 DAT, and hundreds of volunteering hours. Instead, it means that you should aim slightly higher than the average statistics. You may also consider researching the matriculation stats for schools you are interested in so you are aware of what specific schools are looking for. Additionally, you should go into your dental school interviews with utmost preparedness and confidence.


While the process of dental admissions is overwhelming and competitive, it is important to remind yourself of your passions and the goal to become an accomplished dentist. With a strong commitment and hard work, one can surely pursue their dream of becoming a dentist. Not to mention, this career choice has multiple attractive features that makes choosing this journey worthwhile!


Did you find this article helpful? Be sure to read more articles from us for valuable advice and information! Also-consider connecting with us through our services so we can help you get accepted to dental school your first time applying!



Meet one of our Predenting authors: Nidhi Tanwar!

A photo of Nidhi, the author of this article.

Since her shift to the U.S. from India at just 7 years old, Nidhi’s passion to study grew. Eventually, she graduated with a degree in STEM and discovered her love for dentistry. After receiving multiple dental school interviews and acceptances, she hopes to help pre-dental students find success by sharing advice, knowledge and experiences through articles on Predenting and her dental Instagram page. Follow @teethbytanwar to connect with Nidhi and join her journey at Texas A&M School of Dentistry.

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