Applying to dental schools

Applying to dental school is complicated, and we are here to help! Advisors at the Health Professions and Prelaw Center can help you develop your best strategy and troubleshoot problems you encounter in your application. Make sure to attend a Personal Statement Writing Workshop and Dental Application Workshop so you can get started early on your application and find out the steps involved.

AADSAS: The primary application #

The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) provides a centralized application service called "AADSAS" (Associated American Dental Schools Application Service) that allows applicants to submit one primary application in order to apply to multiple dental schools. Most U.S. dental schools participate in AADSAS, although there are some that do not.

AADSAS has multiple sections that you will complete providing biographical information, academic history (coursework history and DAT scores), your supporting information (letters of recommendation, personal statement, experiences and achievements), and school-specific “Program Materials”. Once you complete your AADSAS application, it will be processed and sent to the dental schools that you select to receive it.

Academic history #

On the AADSAS application, you will fill out information for every college course you have taken, so you will need to refer to official transcripts from every college or university you have attended.  You will also need to order official transcripts from all colleges and universities you have attended to be sent to the application service. At IU Bloomington, you can order your transcript from Student Central.

Letters of recommendation #

Dental schools require that you submit letters of recommendation written by others on your behalf along with your application. Letters of recommendation can provide admissions committees insights into your personal qualities. Recommendation letters can tell them about your communication and interpersonal skills, and your readiness for dental school.

Requirements for letters vary by school. Many dental schools require three letters of recommendation, two of which must be from science professors. Depending on the program, the third letter may come from a science professor, nonscience professor, or a personal recommender. A few dental schools will request a letter from a dentist who is familiar with you. Make sure to research the requirements of the schools where you plan to apply ahead of time.

Developing relationships with your professors is an important part of your intellectual growth and will help you obtain strong letters of recommendation.

Choose your recommenders wisely and request recommendations from them early. Open an Interfolio file for your letters of recommendation during your sophomore year. Interfolio is a service that can help you collect your letters ahead of time so you’ll be able to complete your application in a timely manner.

Requirements for applicants to the IU School of Dentistry #

IU School of Dentistry requires two letters of recommendation. One letter must be from a science professor under whom you studied. The second letter may be from an academic professor of any discipline (science or nonscience) or a dentist you have shadowed within 12 months prior to the date of your application.

Personal statement #

As part of the primary application, you will need to submit a personal statement. The admissions committee will read your personal statement to learn why you want to become a dentist.

Writing a personal statement requires that you reflect on your motivations and the personal experiences that have shaped you. An effective approach is to write about the series of events in your life that have led you to dentistry. What started you on the path toward becoming a dentist, and what kept you on that path once you started, even at times when it wasn’t easy? Drawing material from your prehealth journal can provide useful insights and help bring your writing to life.

Admissions committees will be evaluating your application based on your ability to express yourself coherently and effectively, as it may correspond to your ability to communicate with patients later.

Make sure to attend one of the Personal Statement Writing Workshops offered by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Schedule an appointment with a HPPLC advisor for feedback on a draft of your personal statement.

Experiences and achievements #

The AADSAS application includes two sections where you can provide information on experiences and achievements including shadowing, academic enrichment programs, employment, extracurricular activities, volunteering, awards, honors, and scholarships. Dental experience should be included in this section, and if you shadowed any other professionals (for example, a physician or optometrist), you could also include that information with your extracurricular activities.

Program materials #

In addition to the above items that are required for submitting your AADSAS application, some dental schools may require additional information within the centralized application. The Program Materials section provides information on these additional requirements. These can include information on your prerequisite courses or school-specific questions. It is important to review these school-specific requirements early in the application cycle, so that you can begin preparing them. In this section, some schools may ask you to answer school-specific essay questions, such as “Why have you selected our school or program?” or may ask you to write essays that address ethical or behavioral situations. Some schools will instead ask you to submit a supplemental application directly to the school. It is important to work on these early and a HPPLC advisor can also provide feedback on your drafts of these essays.

The interview #

Before admitting you, dental schools will want to meet you in person. The interview helps schools evaluate personal qualities they can’t observe directly in your written application. Selected applicants are invited for an interview. You should prepare carefully for this crucial component of the admissions process.

Dental schools use interviews to gain insight into how you would interact with patients. Schools also use the interview to assess factors such as motivation and ability to cope with conflict. They want to know how likely it is you would take a spot if they offered one, so it is important that you express your enthusiasm and sincere interest in the school!

In a job interview, the most important question for your interviewer is probably, “What can this person do for our organization?” For your interviewer at a dental school the most important question may be, “Would I trust this person as my own dentist?” One of your most important goals is to demonstrate that you are able to connect with others on a personal level.

To prepare, review your personal statement and activities listed on your application. It’s helpful to practice responding to interview questions (you can obtain a list of questions in the HPPLC office). You may be asked situational ethics questions that require you to think through how you would respond when faced with difficult decisions as a healthcare provider. Study the school’s curriculum via its website and prepare to ask questions about the school’s program in the interview.

Make sure to attend one of the HPPLC-sponsored Interview Skills Workshops in the fall semester and schedule an appointment with a HPPLC advisor for a mock interview.