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Professional School Information


Students interested in becoming dentists have numerous obligations including the development of a strong science foundation and involvement in diverse extracurricular activities such as shadowing, patient exposure, service, leadership, and research. It can be a bit daunting, however, it is possible to do everything you need to do by starting now and working consistently throughout your undergraduate years.

Please read the basic information we have provided while recognizing that the majority of support the Prehealth Advising Office provides students is through face-to-face advising appointments and our Canvas Pre-Dental Advising pages. To gain access to the Canvas pages please e-mail either or with your name and A-number. As always, we would encourage you to make an appointment with us to discuss any questions you may have.

Academic Planning

An undergraduate degree may be required for admission to dental school, but not all dental schools require you to have a degree prior to matriculation. Regardless, most dental students have completed four years of college and have an undergraduate degree. Dental graduate programs do not require ANY specific major. We encourage you to consider a major that interests you and will provide you an alternative pathway if you change your mind about dentistry as a career. Keep in mind that there are many aspects of dentistry. Ideally, your undergraduate degree will prove functional regardless of what career choices you make. No matter what you choose to major in, you will be most prepared if you counsel with both your major advisor and your health professions advisor.

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The most common question we get asked is “what classes do I need to take to prepare for dental school?” This question is complicated to answer because each school varies slightly in their prerequisite requirements. Below are two tables of common requirements. Please note: these tables are NOT all encompassing. When you get closer to applying, you will need to investigate specific schools to see what courses they require.


Below is a table showing other classes that might be required or recommended as prerequisites, but will depend heavily upon specific schools. Make sure to thoroughly do your research on schools that you are specifically interested in!


Extracurricular Activities

A common misconception students have is that Dental schools focus only on your GPA and DAT score. While those metrics are certainly an important part of your application, they are not enough on their own to get you into dental school. Your extracurricular preparation is a vitally important aspect of your application. To help you best prepare, we have broken down extracurricular activities into the four areas listed below.

Exposure to the dental profession can occur via shadowing or through gaining dental experience through work and volunteer exposure.

How do you efficiently handle patients with unforeseen dental emergencies when you still have a full day of appointments? Can you handle the sights/sounds/smells associated with practicing dentistry? Do you know what kind of problems face dental professionals? Shadowing provides you with important and realistic exposure to the dental profession and can help you answer some of the important questions listed above- plus, it’s required for admission to dental school.

Many students ask, “How do I get started with shadowing?” Here are some of our tips:

1. Start with people you know. Do you have any family members or friends that are dentists? Use your connections.
2. Start by calling offices. If you don’t know any dentists, don’t worry! Many students call dental offices directly to find shadowing opportunities, and generally dentists are happy to support the up-and-coming dental workforce by allowing students to shadow them.
3. Start early! Most schools require upwards of 40 shadowing hours and prefer those hours to be spent with many different types of dental professionals.

Becoming a successful dentist includes developing a service-oriented outlook. Because of this, dental schools are looking for how you have developed this character trait through various activities. Many dental professionals will tell you that service plays an imperative role in their influence on the community and their ability to help their patients.

Your service and volunteer repertoire need not be limited to dental-related exposure; rather, find things that you are passionate about and be mindful of volunteer and service opportunities that arise.

Oh no- the “R” word! Typically, dental schools don’t require research experience for admission to dental school. However, we feel that research is a great way to distinguish yourself because it demonstrates that you have an intimate understanding of the scientific method. Being involved in research will help you develop critical thinking skills and will allow you to be an informed consumer of new research studies that will be presented to you as a dentist. Plus, there’s no better way to solidify concepts you learn in class than actively applying them in the lab. (And it’s fun, too!)

All health professionals are leaders to some degree and dental schools appreciate students with these skills. There is no one way to gain leadership experience, but some common ways are getting involved in a club and participating in club administration, student government, working as a tutor, TA, SI, etc. Remember, demonstrating leadership doesn’t always come with a “title”! You can demonstrate leadership many different ways and through many different activities.