Dental school acceptances have begun. So congrats to those of you who have been accepted already. I know how exciting it is because I was so stoked last year around this time when I also got my first acceptance and it was the best feeling ever. And for those who haven’t heard back yet or had interviews, don’t worry.
Interviews and acceptances go through the winter and spring and so my best advice for you would just to be patient, trust the process, keep doing you. It takes a while for admissions to figure things out because there are a lot of factors that they have to take into consideration. If it’s meant to be, you’ll get into dental school eventually when the time’s right.
If you are lucky enough to happen, offered multiple acceptances from different schools, now it’s time to narrow it down to choose which program is the best fit for you.
I got accepted into three schools last year and I had the hardest time deciding which school I wanted to go to. Like it was literally 50/50 between UDaB which is my state school and UPenn, which was my reach school. And yeah, it took a long time for me to decide.
There are a lot of things to think about when choosing a dental school and here are the main factors that I took into consideration when I was choosing mine.
Cost of Tuition
The first thing is the cost. You are going to be in a lot of debt no matter which dental school you go to, but the less debt the better. I think that the trend is that in-state schools tend to be cheaper unless you get like private scholarships or scholarships for private schools. Cost is a big factor because tuition is already expensive in dental school.
And then on top of that, you have grab loan interest rates and so you’ll probably end up with like somewhere between 300,000 to half a million in debt by the time you get out of school. And so definitely something to consider financially.
Next thing you’ll want to consider is the location of the dental school. You’re going to be living there for the next four years of your life and so you want to make sure you can see yourself living there and liking the weather and liking the atmosphere, like whether it’s city or more suburban and maybe you want to stay close to your family and friends or maybe you want to completely move to a new city and move to the other side of the country. It is a really good opportunity to do that because you’re going to be in a completely new place for the next four years of your life and then after that, you kind of have to settle down, um, wherever you’re going to practice.
And so dental school is definitely a good opportunity to explore a new city in a new area of the country.
Class size is also something that I took into consideration. Do you want to have a larger class size or a smaller class size? Smaller class sizes I’d say would be around 50 students and larger class sizes would be 100+ students.
Another one is school culture and diversity. Think back to your interviews at these different schools and do you remember the vibe that you got from the students and the faculty? Did you like the vibe that you got at the school? Can you see yourself being there and fitting in?
Something really important for me is the class culture and so I wanted to make sure that I was going to be going to a school that emphasized working together and supporting students rather than being competitive.
I also wanted to be surrounded by people, diverse and life experiences and cultural backgrounds.
Faculty: student ratio
For me, I wanted to make sure that the faculty to student ratio was high because I wanted to make sure that I would have the opportunity to have direct relationships with my professors and have access to them when I needed help.
Another one is community outreach opportunities. This one is really important for me because part of the reason that I want to become a dentist is because of the aspect of community service. And so when I was looking at the dental schools and comparing them, I was looking at what kinds of programs and extracurriculars they offer for students to get involved in the community and to volunteer their time and helping those underserved.
A big one is a curriculum. Every us dental school has a different curriculum and it’s up to you to compare those and see which one you like best.
Some questions about the curriculum would be are the classes more lecture based and the didactic or are they more pure based learning? Is the grading system pass-fail or is it letter grades? When you get to clinics, do you have to find your own patients or are they provided? Do you have the opportunity to use new technology like a cad cam course or is the school more on the traditional side? Is there an opportunity for interdisciplinary training like classes with medical students or pharmacy students?
If you’re interested in doing research while in dental school, then I would definitely make sure to check what types of research opportunities are available for dental students at those schools.
A general dentist or specialize
Lastly, I want to make sure to compare the schools and how they prepare their dentists, whether that be better for general practice dentistry or specializing. If you think that you just want to be a general dentist, then I’d say choose the school that allows you to have the most clinical experience, which means you get to see the most patients.
You get to do a variety of cases and usually, that ends up being your state school. If you think that you want to specialize, and I would say choose the school that has a high specialty rate for its grads.
Now that you’ve taken into consideration all of those factors, I would say make pros and cons lists. I made so many pros and cons list last year and it ultimately helps me decide why I wanted to go to UdaB.
Here’s what it came down to for me. I got in-state tuition because I’m a Washington resident. I grew up in Seattle and went to Udab for my undergrad and I loved my experience there. I also did research at the UduB dental school while I was in undergrad and during my gap year, so I had already built relationships with the dental school faculty. I appreciated that UdaB put a heavy emphasis on teaching preventative dentistry.
Also, they offer a lot of community-based outreach programs. There’s even a class offered every single quarter called health and homelessness where we learn about how dentistry impacts the homeless and underserved and I’m currently taking it and love it and all of the outreach opportunities that we’ve been given so far.
I also knew some folks from undergrad and met some awesome people at my interview that I was super excited to be classmates with.
Lastly, I’m pretty sure that I want to practice in Seattle once I graduate, so I wanted to stay local and build the relationships here with the dentists.
Remember that all dental schools are great and unique in their own way. It’s just up to you to decide which dental school is the best fit for you. All of the dentists that I’ve worked with so far have told me over and over again that dental school is just laying the foundation and the very basics of what you need to know, and every single dental school is going to do that for you.
And then once you get out and start practicing on your own, that’s when you actually start doing the real learning. And so keep that in mind if that helps release some of the pressure of choosing which school to go to.
Those are all of the things that I took into consideration when I was choosing which dental school I wanted to go to.
Debora Linda, studied at the University of Washington School of Dentistry. The musical dentist who loves to answer questions about how to have a happy and successful life.