Category: Pre-Dental

What you should read the summer before dental school!

“What should I read the summer before dental school?” I am not sure why I get asked this question all of the time but it is probably because pre-dental students hear how much work dental school is and they want to get the “edge” in the class.

What should a pre-dental student read before dental school? I would read any and all instructions sent to you by the dental school you were accepted by, especially information sent to you by the financial aid office. I would also read the contract for your new house or apartment.

I would NOT read anything pertaining to your upcoming classes! First off, each teacher is very diverse in the way that they teach and test. It is difficult to study for a subject without any kind of direction. Secondly, the amount of material covered in a few weeks will be more than you will want to cover during your summer break (Check my post out about material on a single test and see for yourself ). The class will be caught up with you in no time. The only difference is that you are now going over a fourth of the material, for your first test, for a second time and they are going over it for the first time with memories of the best summer vacation ever!

Does this mean you shouldn’t do anything. No, like I said make sure you have all your paperwork turned in, immunizations done, housing set up and anything else you need to do before you get too busy. I would also recommend getting yourself organized. Figure out your schedule and contact an upper classman or two that can give you some advice (someone at the school should be able to hook you up if your class does not have a Facebook group). Maybe he/she will even give you some notes on a thumb drive that you can download and get organized. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time on this but maybe just a few hours.

Spend as much time as you can golfing, water skiing, wakeboarding, relaxing and having fun as possible. There is going to be time for some fun in dental school but not quite to the extent of a summer vacation.

Prerequisites for Dental School


Each Dental School Has Their Own Prerequisites

Does this mean that you are going to be in school, the remainder of your life
trying to complete the prerequisite courses for all the schools you want to apply to? Of course not! However, because each school does have slight variations of the requirements it is important that you check with each school to see the exact requirements. Preferably, you will want to do this sooner than later so that there will be no surprises when you decide to put in your application. There is no need to call every school asking for these. Each school has them posted on their website so that they are easy to access. The following is a list of general requirements including needed courses.

General Prerequisite Courses

2 Semesters (3 quarters)- English

2 Semesters (3 quarters)- Physics

2 Semesters (3 quarters)- General Biology

2 Semesters (3 quarters)- General Chemistry with a Lab

2 Semesters (3 quarters)- Organic Chemistry with a Lab

Depending on the school there may be other courses required such as; Biochemistry, Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Biochemistry, Psychology, and Microbiology just to name a few.

Some schools will also have a separate list of recommended courses. Taking those courses will help prepare you for dental school. It is not that feasible to complete all of them but taking some of them may help increase your chances of getting an interview.

Along with the prerequisite courses most dental schools look for someone that has or will be completing a four-year degree. They may also list a minimum credit limit such as 120 semester credits.

Letters of Recommendation

Most schools require 3 letters of recommendation that may come from science professors, dentists, or community/religious leaders. Some of the schools will require at least two letters from science professors while others will have a different combination that is required. Check with each school in order to be certain of how many of each letter you need.

Dental Admissions Test (DAT)

The DAT is required for all schools and will play heavily on whether you are a competitive applicant or not. The DAT is scored on a scale from 1 to 30. The average score according to the ADA is an Academic Average (AA) of 17. This does not mean that 17 is the average score for students getting into dental schools. Each school’s average is different but generally, a competitive score is a 19.

What is included on the DAT?

Subject Number of
Time per
Tutorial 15 minutes
Survey of Natural Science 100 90 minutes
Biology 40
Perceptual Ability Test 90 60 Minutes
Keyhole 15
Top/Front/End 15
Hole Punch 15
Optional Break 15 Minutes
Reading Comprehension 50 60 Minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 40 45 Minutes
Post-Test Survey 15 Minutes
Entire Test 280 5 Hours

The following link to the ADA has resources posted that will help you to orient yourself to the DAT. I highly recommend reading the sources before beginning to study. A few important ones include DAT User’s Manual and Reference Texts.

Dental Schools Ranked by DAT Scores

seal-of-dentistryMany students wonder what dental school suits them the best according to their DAT scores. This was a question that I definitely had when I was trying to decide which schools to apply to. Remember, the DAT is a very big portion of your application and should not be taken lightly. However, this does not mean that if you earned a 19 academic average (AA) that you cannot apply to a school that has an average AA of 21. The statistics are just that, statistics! There are many prerequisites for dental school to keep in mind, and if a school accepts someone with an AA of 23 that means that they must have accepted several others with lower scores. 

When scores are reported they are seen in three general categories including Academic Average (all of your scores averaged together except perceptual ability scores), Total Science (average of the biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry sections), and Perceptual Ability. Each of these general categories along with each individual section must be taken into account when choosing schools to apply to. 

Some schools will put a high emphasis on the science sections while others may put more weight on reading comprehension or the perceptual ability section. 

Other factors that you will want to consider while choosing schools to apply to include but are not limited to overall GPA, science GPA, extracurricular activities, leadership experience, volunteer experiences, and shadowing.  Your personal statement is a great opportunity to showcase this experience.

For your convenience, I listed the dental schools in order of highest Academic Average to lowest Academic Average. Below that, I also included a list of the schools as they ranked in 2010 along with how they ranked according to their perceptual ability scores, for those who may be interested in that comparison to see how things have changed.

Dental School Rankings 2010 (Academic Average)

  1. Columbia 21.7
  2. UCLA 21
  3. Harvard 21
  4. Stony Brook  21
  5. Alabama 20
  6. UCSF 20
  7. UoP 20
  8. Connecticut 20
  9. New York  20
  10. Pennsylvania 20
  11. Minnesota  19.63
  12. Nova 19.58
  13. Maryland  19.5
  14. New Jersey  19.45
  15. Buffalo  19.42
  16. Pittsburgh 19.4
  17. Washington 19.39
  18. Boston University  19.35
  19. Temple  19.3
  20. Houston  19.15
  21. Louisiana State  19.1
  22. Illinois at Chicago  19.1
  23. UNLV 19.01
  24. USC 19
  25. Colorado Denver 19
  26. Florida  19
  27. Iowa  19
  28. Kentucky  19
  29. Tufts 19
  30. Detroit Mercy  19
  31. Michigan  19
  32. Chapel Hill  19
  33. Case 19
  34. Ohio State 19
  35. Oklahoma  19
  36. Baylor  19
  37. San Antonio  19
  38. Virginia Commonwealth  19
  39. Indiana  19
  40. Loma Linda  18.79
  41. Oregon  18.71
  42. Southern Illinois  18.6
  43. Midwestern  18.5
  44. Creighton 18.48
  45. Missouri – Kansas City  18.02
  46. Western U. 18
  47. Georgia 18
  48. Louisville  18
  49. Mississippi  18
  50. Nebraska  18
  51. South Carolina  18
  52. Tennessee  18
  53. Marquette 18
  54. Arizona  17.84
  55. Howard 17.7
  56. West Virginia 17
  57. Puerto Rico  16
  58. Meharry 16

Dental School Rankings 2010 (Perceptual Ability)

  1. UCLA 21
  2. UoP 21
  3. Harvard 21
  4. Stony Brook  21
  5. Minnesota  20.74
  6. UNLV 20.24
  7. Loma Linda  20.15
  8. Creighton 20.11
  9. Washington 20.02
  10. Buffalo  20.01
  11. UCSF 20
  12. Indiana  20
  13. Detroit Mercy  20
  14. Michigan  20
  15. New York  20
  16. Case 20
  17. Ohio State 20
  18. Pennsylvania 20
  19. South Carolina  20
  20. Virginia Commonwealth  20
  21. Oregon  19.93
  22. Temple  19.7
  23. Pittsburgh 19.6
  24. Maryland  19.3
  25. Houston  19.25
  26. Georgia 19.2
  27. Boston University  19.15
  28. Southern Illinois  19.1
  29. Alabama 19
  30. Midwestern  19
  31. USC 19
  32. Western U. 19
  33. Colorado Denver 19
  34. Connecticut 19
  35. Florida  19
  36. Illinois at Chicago  19
  37. Iowa  19
  38. Kentucky  19
  39. Louisville  19
  40. Tufts 19
  41. Mississippi  19
  42. Chapel Hill  19
  43. Marquette 19
  44. Oklahoma  18.98
  45. Louisiana State  18.9
  46. Nova 18.85
  47. New Jersey  18.73
  48. Arizona  18.34
  49. Missouri – Kansas City  18
  50. Tennessee  18
  51. Baylor  18
  52. San Antonio  18
  53. West Virginia 18
  54. Howard 17.4
  55. Nebraska  17
  56. Puerto Rico  16
  57. Meharry 16

*NOTE: The statistics that have been listed were taken from the “2010 ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools”.

Don’t forget that the admissions staff is open to persuasion, so really doing a great job on getting quality letters of recommendation and, if you get an interview, being well-prepared to answer interview questions goes a long way.