Planning guide for new predental students


This section provides information on planning for admission to dental school, beginning with your first semester in college. When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, make sure to mention your intention to follow a predental preparatory program. You’ll then be subscribed to the HPPLC mailing list and receive invitations to participate in predental events, including visits to campus by the Director of Admissions of the Indiana University School of Dentistry. Consult resources for the school/department where you intend to enroll for more information on planning for summer orientation.

Description of the profession #

A dentist is a doctor, scientist and clinician dedicated to the highest standards of health through prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral diseases and conditions. Dentists also play a key role in early detection of oral cancer and other systemic conditions of the body that manifest themselves in the mouth. They often identify other health conditions, illnesses and other problems that sometimes show up in the oral cavity before they are identified in other parts of the body. They evaluate the overall health of their patients while advising them about oral health and disease prevention; perform clinical procedures, such as fillings, crowns, implants, extractions and corrective surgeries; identify, diagnose and treat oral conditions; and perform general dentistry or practice in one of twelve dental specialties. (Source:

What should you consider about this profession? #

If you are thinking about becoming a dentist, you should have very strong skills in math and science, and be able to complete a rigorous set of courses before starting dental school. Dentists work with their hands, and must have extremely well-developed fine motor skills, manual dexterity, and hand-eye coordination. Good communication and interpersonal skills are also necessary, as well as the capacity to provide support and put anxious patients at ease. Dentists must have the ability to work for long periods with great concentration and attention to detail.

Choosing your degree and major #

Many predental students ask, “What is the best major if I want to go to dental school?” There is no “best major” for dental school. IUB does not offer a “predental major.” You can select any major IUB offers and combine it with the courses required for admission to dental school. You can select either a science or non-science major. In other words, there does not have to be an obvious connection between your major and dentistry. Dental schools do not select students based on their major; instead they look at an applicant’s skills and abilities as reflected on the application. Dental schools look for students with a strong foundation in the sciences who have developed sharp analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills. Your predental coursework, in addition to coursework in the humanities and social sciences, is geared to help you acquire these skills. While having a strong grasp of  the sciences is a must, you do not necessarily have to major in a science field.  

The Explore Programs tool at IU can help you discover your options!

Bachelor of Arts Versus Bachelor of Science #

Many students ask whether a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree is more appealing to dental schools. Dental schools do not have a preference for either a B.A. or a B.S., although there are differences in these degrees. Generally, with a B.S., you will complete more course work up to a more advanced level in your major field, whereas with a B.A., you will be required to complete fewer courses in your major, which leaves more room to take a variety of coursework in other fields.

Dental school admissions requirements #

While you can choose any major or degree, you must complete some rigorous courses in the sciences to be admitted to dental school. The standard requirements for admission to most dental schools include courses in general biology, basic human anatomy and basic human physiology, general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics, including lecture and lab in each area (for more specific information on dental school admission requirements, consult this section on the HPPLC website). Your coursework in biology (including anatomy and physiology), general/inorganic chemistry, and organic chemistry will provide important preparation for the Dental Admission Test (DAT), an entrance exam required by all U.S. dental schools. When you have completed coursework in these areas, it is recommended you study and take the DAT.

Your course load #

A normal course load for most preprofessional students is 14-16 total credit hours. That means you’ll probably be enrolling in from four to six classes. During New Student Orientation, an academic advisor will help you double-check your options, choose appropriate courses, and plan an appropriate course load in which you’ll be able to be successful. To earn strong grades and succeed in being admitted, most predental students need to devote about 30 hours per week outside of class to studying and class preparation.

Planning your fall course options #

During your fall semester, you should complete at least one predental science course. Keep in mind that you will also need to complete other coursework for your undergraduate degree and major. Consult resources from University Division and/or the school/department where you intend to enroll for more information on planning for summer orientation

As a predental student you have many chemistry courses to complete, so if you are prepared you should enroll in chemistry during your first semester in college, or the second semester at the latest. As a first step toward completing chemistry requirements, you should complete CHEM-C 117 Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I (lecture) and CHEM-C 127 (lab). However, some students will need to complete a preparatory course before they are ready for CHEM-C 117/127. Consult the information on determining your placement into chemistry coursework.

If for some reason you choose not to enroll in chemistry your first semester, we recommend you enroll in a biology predental course (options would be BIOL-L 111 or BIOL-L 112, if you have the appropriate chemistry background already). If you are an extremely strong student in the sciences, you could consider enrolling in both chemistry and biology coursework your first semester. Be aware, however, that many students are surprised by how challenging it is to take more than one predental science course their first semester of college. Whatever you decide, make sure to discuss your science background with your academic advisor.

Many dental schools accept dual credit courses and some AP credit to fulfill prerequisites. As of this writing, IU School of Dentistry will not accept dual credit courses and AP credit to fulfill science prerequisites. They also will not accept online courses to fulfill science prerequisites.

During your first semester at IUB, you will also need to enroll in other courses besides your predental coursework, including courses for the major(s) you are considering and courses that fulfill General Education requirements at IUB. In particular, Arts and Humanities (A&H) and Social and Historical (S&H) courses are important in helping you build the communication and analytical skills that dental schools desire in applicants. World Languages and Cultures courses can deepen your understanding of the ideas and values of different cultures and help you develop skills and competencies important for working with a diverse patient population. You may also consider enrolling in classes such as 3D fine arts or instrumental music to develop your manual dexterity skills.

Other activities for predental students during the first year of college #

For the first year of college, other activities you may consider include gaining experience in a dental environment through shadowing dentists or volunteering. You should also attend HPPLC events. Most predental students find their first semester taking college-level science coursework surprisingly challenging, so you should not feel the pressure to overload yourself with extracurricular activities. You may also find it useful to job shadow dental professionals during your breaks from school. Many predental students find the science coursework challenging, so if you are sure that you want a career in healthcare, but aren’t so sure about being a dentist, there are many other health professions you could pursue. Consult the HPPLC website for more information on preparing for dental school and services for predental students.