What do Dental School Admissions Committees Look for in an Applicant?
- Can the student handle the academic rigors of dental school?
- Why does the student want to be a dentist? Do they want to be in the profession for the “right” reasons and know the dedication the career entails?
- Do they have a diverse set of skills necessary to be a dentist?
How can Penn State Behrend help the student succeed?
There is no particular undergraduate major required for dental school. Most dental programs require a specified set of pre-requisite coursework that we offer at Penn State Behrend. Due to the advanced biology requirement at many dental schools, a biology or biology-related major is often pursued. Prerequisite courses for most dental programs include:
- General Biology: BIOL 110 and BIOL 240W
- Microbiology: BIOL 230W
- General Chemistry: CHEM 110/112
- General Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 111/113
- Organic Chemistry: CHEM 210/212
- Organic Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 213
- Biochemistry: CHEM 472 and B M B 402
- Anatomy BIOL 421
- Physiology BIOL 472
- Physics: PHYS 250/251
- Calculus: MATH 140/141
- Psychology: PSYCH 100
- English (3 -6 credits): ENGL 15, 202C
- Humanities and social science classes (6-9 credits is typical)
Our Pre-Health Option of our Bachelor of Science degree in Biology covers all of these pre-requisites. However, other biology, chemistry and physics degree programs can easily be customized to meet these requirements. At Penn State Behrend, you will have a dedicated, personal Pre-Health Advisor who will guide you through the process!
Helpful information on dental school requirements:
The more rigorous the academic preparation in the sciences, the more prepared students are for advanced coursework in a dental school program. The student must demonstrate a consistent and high GPA as well as perform well on the DAT.
A strong candidate for dental school:
Applies to 4-7 schools with a mean GPA >3.3 and a minimum DAT score of 17 or better. The candidate also has 100+ hours of shadowing or work experience in a dental setting. The student should have a demonstrated capacity for manual dexterity.
The minimum GPA considered on average is 3.0.
Shadowing and Volunteering
To answer the question of “Why do you want to be a dentist?” it is necessary to observe a dentist at work for as many hours as you possible. Most dental programs are taking a holistic “whole candidate” approach to admissions. Simply having a high GPA and DAT score is no longer sufficient for acceptance.
You should also try to shadow different dentists that work in the various specializations in the dental profession. Most schools are looking for at least 50-100 hours of shadowing/clinical experience. Contact your local dental society for more information:
Volunteering is a great way to show your dedication to helping people! Opportunities at local hospitals, nursing homes, and schools for special needs children require some research on your part, but can really set your application apart.
Opportunities for Leadership and Scholarship
To determine if the candidate has a diverse set of skills necessary to be a dentist they look for evidence of leadership, involvement in professional organizations and participation in scholarly activities like research.
- Penn State Behrend is one of the few schools that combine the small class size of a liberal arts college with the research facilities of a larger university. You will have opportunities to conduct research with a faculty mentor who is an active researcher in his or her field of expertise. Many of our students who participate in undergraduate research present their work at local and national conferences.
- Our campus has a vibrant and diverse set of student organizations that offer leadership opportunities. We have the Scrub’s Club and the Behrend Chapter of the American Medical Students Association for students interested in health degrees. These and our other clubs and organizations organize and participate in may philanthropic activities that you can become involved in.
To start your journey to dental school, you should visit the American Association of Colleges of Dental (AACP) and PharmCAS websites. Here you will find free guides to the over 100 dental programs, statistics on application rates and acceptances, and information on the many dental career opportunities. PharmCAS is the application service for most dental programs.
- American Dental Association
- Dental Admissions Test
- Official Guide to Dental Schools
- ASDA Handbook
- Listing of American Dental Schools
Most new students underestimate the breadth of the dental profession. It may be helpful to research the various specialties within dentistry to see which one interests you:
- American Association of Public Health Dentistry
- American Association of Pediatric Dentistry
- American Association of Endodontics
- American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
- American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
- American Association of Orthodontists
- American Academy of Periodontology
- American Board of Prosthodontics
Pre-Health Advisor for Dental: Beth Potter e-mail, Behrend Pre-Health
Coordinator of Pre-Health Advising: Michael W. Justik, Behrend Pre-Health