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Building a Dental School List

Building a Dental School List

Building a list of schools that you will apply to is important.
In this article, we will discuss the best way to build a list of schools to apply to.

When looking to apply to Dental School, strategically building a proper school list is a major factor in gaining admission. Here, we will discuss several important considerations for choosing which schools to apply to. The list of factors is presented in order of importance, and we will elaborate on each. The list is as follows:

  1. Would you go to this school if it were the only one you got into?
  2. In-state Public Schools
  3. GPA/DAT Stat Coherence
  4. Cost
  5. Clinical Experience
  6. Specializing
  7. Social Life & Location

🤔 Would You Go to This School if it were the Only One You Got into?

The answer to this question should be “yes” for every school you apply to. Turning down an acceptance to apply another cycle is a huge red flag for admission committees. When you apply to a school, imagine you are committing to that school as if it is your only acceptance. If you would turn down a school if it were your only acceptance, you should not apply.

🌍 Public In-state

Ideally, you should apply to every public school in your state of residence. In general, programs subsidized by the state mostly accept students from their own specific state. Therefore, your best chance of admission is at your state schools. Also, your in-state school is most likely the cheapest option. Therefore, it is a no brainer to apply to all public schools in your state.

📊 GPA/DAT Stat Coherence

Your GPA and DAT stats should be competitive relative to the averages of most of the schools you are applying to. Your stats match well with a particular school if you are at or above their mean/median of acceptance. You can add a couple of schools where your stats below average, but this should only compose, at most, 1-3 school. Your best bet for acceptance is the schools where your stats are competitive with the current first year class.

💰 Cost

We all know that becoming a dentist means incurring a large amount of debt that takes years to pay off. In fact, this debt burden has led to the common piece of advice of choosing the cheapest school you get into, regardless of all other factors. This piece of advice has much merit, but when building a school list, you want to prioritize your chances of acceptance. Once you have done that, consider the cost of each school. If the debt burden of a school is too daunting, it may be worth not applying to that school. This is especially true for some private schools that can cost up to half a million dollars. Ultimately, becoming a dentist is our goal, but the financial reality of dental school still needs to be at the forefront of our attention throughout the entire process.

🦷 Clinical Experience

After taking into consideration everything from above, the next important factor in choosing a school is clinical experience. We are applying to programs that will train us to be general dentists; therefore, we want to attend programs that will be prepare us for practice immediately upon graduation. In general, you will want to prioritize programs that have the most clinical experience and that graduate the most competent dentists.

🎯 Specializing

A significant percent of applicants know they want to specialize even before entering school. If this is you, it is worth factoring match rates with your specialty of interest. Some school act as a pipeline into specialties while others are primarily focused on producing general dentists. If you know you want to specialize, you will want your school list to reflect this desire. However, remember that you can specialize from any US school; therefore, this consideration should be lower on the priority list.

For more information, check out our other article that discusses why school matters especially for specializing.

🍷 Social Life & Location

Up until now, we have focused on factors surrounding one’s career and financials. In my opinion, these should be the most important considerations when building a school list. However, you will be spending four years at the school you end up with and much of your success can be attributed to how well you thrive in your environment. Therefore, it is important to consider the location and social environment of the schools you will be applying too. Some of you may thrive in a city while others will do best in a rural setting. Also, consider how important social events and class culture are to you as all school social cultures differ.

If you feel you will not enjoy the location or environment of a particular school, it is worth considering not applying there. However, keep in mind that your goal is to become a dentist. If you find a school that meets the majority of the other six criteria but is less than favorable socially or geographically, we strongly recommend applying anyways.

👉 Conclusion

This is by no means an exhaustive list of factors to consider when building a school list, but rather some general guidelines. Take what is useful your list and discard what is not. In general, and depending on your stats, you will want to apply to around 10-13 schools to give yourself the best chance of getting in somewhere. Good luck!

Written by Davied Sanchez
UNC School of Dentistry

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