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Frequently Asked Questions

Pre-Requisites, Courses, Choosing a Major

Do I have to be a science major to go to dental school?

No. Your major is not important as long as you complete the pre-requisite course work to satisfy the admissions requirements and prepare for the standardized admissions test in your field of interest. However, you must have a mastery of science and do well in your science pre-requisites to be a competitive candidate.

Will majoring in science give me an advantage in applying to dental school?

Not necessarily. Most medical schools are looking for well rounded students who have an aptitude for science. They do not give preference to science majors. Taking additional science courses may be beneficial in preparing for standardized exams, but the questions in standardized exams are based on knowledge found in introductory level science courses. The additional science background may also be especially helpful for preparation for the first two years of classes in medical school.

Should I minor or take a double major?

Only if you are truly interested in another field of study. There is no evidence that those students who have a second major or minor have a better chance of acceptance into dental school than those who do not.

Should I take a commercial prep course before taking the DAT?

There is no hard evidence that commercial courses produce significant gains in test scores. These courses may benefit students who need the extra motivation to buckle down and study. They do provide the opportunity to take multiple full length practice test in real time situations. Prep assistance for the DAT is available to all C of C students. There are plenty of practice materials available and practice exams are even offered by the AADSAS. The Director of the Center for Student Learning at C of C provides works with students to prepare for the DAT.

Can I take required courses in the summer and/or at another institution?

In general, it is best to take your required courses at your primary academic institution and during the regular school session. Professional schools want to know that a student can handle science courses while taking a normal academic load. If you have a compelling reason, for taking a course during the summer, for example to be able to get the proper course sequence, then do so. You should try, at least, to take the course at your primary institution or one with equivalent academic rigor. Taking your science courses in a piecemeal fashion and at a two-year institution may be looked on with suspicion by health professions schools. You should also check with the appropriate department to see that the credits from another institution will transfer.

Can I get into dental school in less than 4 years?

Yes, however, this is not the norm and is not recommended for most students. The dental school at M.U.S.C. requires a minimum of three years of undergraduate work or 90 hours to matriculate into their programs. However, this requires students to squeeze all their required courses and take the DAT exam by the end of their sophomore year. Four years of undergraduate preparation allows time for students to explore, grow, mature, and have experiences that enrich their lives and make them better dental school candidates. Applications for dental school are at an all time high, so it's important to be well-prepared when applying.

Grades and Standardized Test Scores

If I didn't do well my freshman year, have I ruined my chances for dentall school?

Not necessarily. Dental schools often look at trends in grades. If you can show a turn around in subsequent years, a poor showing in your first year may not have a significant impact on your candidacy. Professional schools may put more importance on your science GPA and DAT scores in your overall academic evaluation.

If I drop a class will it look bad?

Not if it is an isolated incident. However, routinely dropping classes may evoke suspicion that you are not able to handle a rigorous academic load.

If I got a "C" in a required class, should I repeat it?

In some programs, the minimum acceptable grade for a required course is a "C". An isolated "C" isn't the end of your medical school career, but consistent "C" work will result in a GPA that is not competitive. If your overall knowledge in the subject is satisfactory, then you may be better off taking and earning a better grade in another science class to show you are capable of handling upper division science courses.

What grades (GPA) and DAT scores do I need to get into dental school?

Your grades and DAT scores are often used to assess your academic potential. There is no magic cut-off for either score. The two may offset each other, that is, a high GPA can somewhat compensate for a lower DAT and visa versa. To be competitive your scores should be about the same as the average scores of those of the last years entering medical school class. In general, a combination of a GPA of 3.5 (or above) and a total DAT score of 20 (or above) is competitive.

Can I take the DAT multiple times?

Yes. Dental schools have different policies on which scores they will use in calculating your academic profile score (a mathematical calculation involving your GPA and DAT scores). Some schools will use your highest score or most recent score, while others will average all your scores. You should not take the DAT lightly. You should go in fully prepared the first time and hope that it is the only time your will have to take it.

The Application Process

When should I take my DAT and apply to dental school?

Students who want to enter dental school immediately after undergraduate school, should take their DAT in the spring of their junior year and apply to dental school in the fall of their senior year. Dental schools start accepting applications in June, and the earlier you apply the better your chances are. Many schools have rolling admissions, meaning that schools start accepting students as soon as the interview process starts and continues accepting until the class is full. This means the later you apply, the fewer the number available seats there will be. If you do not take the DAT until August your scores will not be available until September. Dental schools will not evaluate your application until they have your DAT scores. Therefore, depending on your August DAT scores can diminish your chances of acceptance.

Who should I get to write letters of recommendation?

You want to ask for recommendations from people who know you well and can express with concrete example your intelligence, academic ability, character and potential as a health professional. Obviously, to get such recommendations you must first establish a strong relationship with your evaluator. Early in your academic career it is important to get to know your professors and maintain contact with those who may be potential letter writers. Most professional schools will ask for at least 3 letters of recommendation. Some programs specify from whom the letters should come. It is a good idea to have 2 letters from science faculty. Also, when exploring career possibilities, you want to establish at least one long-term quality experience. It is far better to have one or two quality experiences then to have a long list of superficial exposures to the health profession.