How to Select a Dental School

OK, you have good grades, scored well on the DAT and now its time to pick the schools you want to apply to. It seems like many of you who have e-mailed me in the past are always asking me which school is better and should I go here. My response is always it depends. As a recent 2001 graduate I think I have a good idea of what each and every one of you should be looking for in a school. Below is a list of things you should consider when selecting a school to apply or attend:

  1. Price - this comes to all of our minds. Obviously private schools will be more expensive than state schools. However in some instances you will find that private schools will nuture you a bit more. Just bear in mind that $200,000 in loans may appear to be a lot, but considering the average salary of dentists is over $120,000 (that's about $7000/mo. net, repayment of this amount is very manageable. Taking a loan of about $200,000 will result in about $2000 monthly payments over 10 years.
  2. Research experience - if you want to go into academics, going to the best research school is a plus. However ask yourself this question. Do all the Nobel Laureates come from Harvard and UCSF? No.
  3. General practice experience - if you want a good over all clinical experience go to a school that has few specialty programs. Guess who gets to do all the hard endo and fixed cases if no residents are there. You do!!!!
  4. Proximity to family - it can not be understated how important it is to have the support of your loved ones when you are going through dental school. You certainly don't want to be dealing with separation anxiety AND dental school pressures simultaneously.
  5. Extended students - those schools that have lots of extended students past their senior year, watch out for. Something is really wrong when 10+ students are not graduating on time. I heard Columbia had a bunch in 2001.
  6. Board Pass rate - somes school take an active role in trying to help you pass national and state boards. Look for those schools.
  7. State or Regional Boards- Know what regional or state board the school is preparing you for. Boards in different states differ and you could be in for a big surprise going to NYU and then taking the CA board.
  8. Reputation - some schools prepare you better clinically than others. Ask your local dentists what type of graduates they like to hire.
  9. Diversity - Some schools are homogenuous in ethnicity others are diverse. Some schools have more women some don't. Be cognizant of what king of environment you are looking for.
  10. Competitive vs. Cooperative - who wants to be in place where everyone is trying to top the other? Ask the students at the school for this one.
  11. Curriculum - if you hate research, don't go to a school that emphasizes research. Pay attention to the amount of units per year. Do you want to go to a 3 year or 4 year school?
  12. City Limits - Will your off campus experience be pleasurable or will you have to carry a buck knife to protect you from the pack of 13 year gangsters during your walk to school. Is there housing available? Is the cost of living expensive?
  13. Gut feeling - do you feel good about the school, students, faculty? Do you have that feeling?
  14. Faculty - do they care about you or do they try to make you suffer like they did when they were dental students.

Return to the Mike's guide to dental school admission