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Most dental schools use the Associated American Dental Schools Application centralized application service; however each school has specific application/deadline submission dates which are noted on individual websites. A current list of AADSAS participating dental schools is on the ADEA website. Dental School Explorer is a good tool, but may require a paid subscription. Texas residents applying to Texas schools must utilize their own application service, Texas Medical and Dental Application Service (TMDSAS).

It is important for you to know the deadline dates for the schools/programs that you plan to apply for as well as any requirements needed. The ADEA provides a quick checklist to help with your application when you’re ready to apply. Note, it is also important to review the complete AADSAS instructions online when applying.

Processing fees for the initial application varies. For 2019, the application fee is $251 for the first school. For every additional school that you plan to apply to, it will cost an extra $108 per school on top of the $251. Also, most dental programs will have a supplemental application that you must complete and for every dental school, the fees for their supplemental application will vary. As a reminder, Cal students apply to about 4–10 dental programs. When all is taken into consideration, the process of applying to dental school can be very expensive. For students who qualify, the ADEA AADSAS offers a Fee Assistance Program (FAP) for applicants who demonstrate extreme financial need.

Standardized Tests

All US dental schools require applicants to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The test is administered on computers, takes 5 hours to complete and is multiple choice.

Advanced level knowledge of biology and physics are not required for this test; however, preparation for the DAT requires the completion of pre-requisite courses in biology, general chemistry and organic chemistry. Most applicants complete two years or more of their college education before taking the test.

The DAT is composed of 4 sections: Survey of Natural Sciences (90 minutes), Perceptual Ability (60 minutes), Reading Comprehension (60 minutes), and Quantitative Reasoning (45 minutes), with optional tutorial, breaks and a post test survey in between the sections.

Cost for taking the 2019 DAT is $415 and upon completion of the application and payment process, the ADA will inform you how to make arrangements for taking the test.

Each school will have different average acceptance DAT scores with most admitted applicants scoring between 19.5 and 22 out of 30. Many applicants struggle with the perception section of the test in particular. It is strongly recommended that applicants prepare for the DAT by reviewing the basic principles of biology and chemistry, taking practice tests and viewing the content of the examination. You can do this by reading the DAT Candidate’s Guide, the online tutorial and the application and preparation materials that are available in the DAT section of the ADA website (American Dental Association).

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are critical. Letter requirements vary from school to school but generally, two to three letters of recommendation are required. Students must check individual school websites for specific letter guidelines as there is currently no one source with cumulative information for all programs. Some schools specifically require a letter from a science and/or a non-science professor. Some schools state no preference who the letter writers are. In general it is also wise to obtain a letter from a dentist who can speak to your interests and knowledge of dentistry. Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you are submitting the correct letters for each school you apply.

You can influence the quality of your letter by providing your letter writer with useful information that will aid them in preparing your letter: a copy of your transcripts, your resume, a copy of your personal statement discussing why you want to be a dentist. You should plan on meeting with your letter writers to discuss the letter they will write for you.

Electronic letters are strongly preferred. Follow the instructions on ADEA AADSAS on what you need to do as well as how your writers can upload your letters. AADSAS does not accept more than four letters of recommendation. Additional letters can be sent directly to the individual school if the school accepts additional letters


A written statement of purpose is required in the admission process. In your statement, plan on addressing why you selected dentistry as your career. The statement is an important aspect of the application and should receive careful attention. This is your opportunity to discuss how your relevant personal background and interests, education, and experiences have led you to select an education in the dental field. Take time to review and rewrite your statement as many times as needed. Select individuals who know you well either personally or professionally to read your statement and provide feedback. You are allotted 1 page or 4500 characters including spaces. Refer to the AADSAS instructions for complete details.


Interviews are offered to applicants dental schools deem competitive. Most schools require you to interview as the next step in the admission process. Interviews will vary from school to school. You may be interviewed by a faculty member and an advanced dental student. Your interview may be just you or you may be part of a group. When you are offered an interview, it is important that you research the type of interview each school conducts so that you can best prepare yourself.

The interview helps the school get to know you better. Like a job interview, schools are looking at you from a professional point of view. You may be asked questions regarding your accomplishments, why you selected dentistry, your educational and experiential background, your communication skills, how you cope with change, stress or conflict, and your decision making and problem-solving skills. Prior to your interview, take time to review your application, research the school, and practice your interviewing.

Interviewing for Health Professions offers some tips and suggestions to help you prepare for your interviews.