What are my chances of getting into dental school?


Have any of your friends ever talked with you about their crush and asked for your advice? “They asked for my number, we have amazing chemistry, and we talk until 2 a.m. every night... do you think they like me as more than friends??”

It’s funny, I see a lot of parallels between the “what are my chances?” and “do they like like me??” Sometimes when we are confronted with other peoples’ situations, it seems so obvious! 

I’m reminded of some advice I got in the romantic realm: If your sister/brother/best friend came to you and explained the exact same situation to you... What would you tell them?

It’s hard to look at ourselves objectively, but when someone we care a lot about comes to us with their concerns, we are able to see their situation for what it is with empathy and compassion.

I remember agonizing over this question so much: WHAT ARE MY CHANCES? I wrote drafts of my stats to post to Reddit or SDN to ask for opinions and then deleted them because I just couldn’t bear to read the negative comments that inevitably get made in response. 

(Although, we all have eye-rolled at some of the posts we read from other people.)

“I have a 4.15 GPA, won a Nobel Peace prize, and started a charitable foundation when I was in second grade-- what are my chances, Reddit??”

Is this a circlejerk?!

I get it, though. You are really nervous (as you have every right to be). You might even feel insecure about what your application is looking like (as you likely SHOULDN’T be!). The dental school admission process is universally humbling. We all bring different strengths to the table. Our application is just a synopsis of who we are; it’s not the full picture.

BUT. Admission committees don’t get to see us in our full glory. They get a few pieces of paper among thousands with numbers and essays trying to convey just what makes us each special and worthy of joining their ranks. Remember, they aren’t just interviewing prospective students, they are interviewing THEIR prospective colleagues! They do take it seriously.

I wrote a comprehensive list of elements of the “ideal” candidate; the total package. (Keep in mind: this is from my perspective and in my opinion.) So, I have made a checklist and a few score ranges to give you a way to ATTEMPT to quantify your chances. 

This checklist is for peace of mind. (Obviously, I can’t guarantee you any results.) 

GIVE yourself 1 point for each of the following you say “yes” to:

  1. Is your undergraduate GPA 3.50+?

  2. Did you complete a master’s degree or post-bacc program with a GPA 3.50+?

  3. Did you score a 21+ Academic Average on your DAT?

  4. Did you get a lot of feedback on your personal statement and make improvements?

  5. Do you have an advisor at your university or privately who is proof-reading your application materials and helping you with your application?

  6. Do you have a good relationship with a dentist who is willing to write you a good letter of recommendation?

  7. Do you have a good relationship with at least 2 of your core science professors who will write a good, individualized letter of recommendation?

  8. Can you talk extensively about a volunteering cause that you have participated in for 100+ hours?

  9. Can you discuss your experience shadowing various dental offices because you shadowed 50+ hours?

  10. Can you talk about current issues in dentistry as a profession?

  11. Can you talk about “organized dentistry” and why it is important for the profession?

  12. Do you have a realistic idea of what being a dentist is going to be like?

  13. Have you held a job before?

  14. Have you been a leader in an organization and can you talk about that?

  15. Are you able to describe something significant that happened in your life and derive some wisdom from that experience?

  16. Have you practiced your interview multiple times with people who have a clue about interviewing?

  17. Have you taken a good look at your mistakes in life (from the small things to the big things like getting in trouble with the law, or tanking your GPA)? Can you demonstrate what you did to change for the better because of them?

  18. Would your peers/family/friends/professors/bosses describe you as ambitious, competent, kind, intelligent, resilient? (could be a few or all of these)

  19. Can you define professionalism and how it plays a role in your life?

  20. Can you tell someone definitively why you want to be a dentist and make them truly believe how important it is to you?

  21. Did you do research/work at a research lab at any point in your university career?

  22. Did you apply within the first 2 weeks the AADSAS opens? (i.e. the first two weeks of June)

Tally up all your points.

If you scored 17-20+: Are you already a dentist? Congrats! You can feel really confident in your chances. I would estimate you are in at least the 90th percentile of applicants.

If you scored 14-17: You’ve got some wonderful qualities and you can look at the questions you answered “no” to in order to find out where you should focus your energy to improve. Find a mentor who can really help you fine-tune those deficits to get you from “good” to “GREAT!” You are likely in the 75-89th  percentile of applicants.

If you scored 10-14: Not bad. It’s possible you are still somewhat early along your journey to become a dentist. What are some questions you answered “no” to? Do some research on the questions you answered “no” to. Find a mentor who can help you along your journey. I’ll estimate  you are in the 50-74th percentile

If you scored 5-10: You have a ways to go. I would consider taking a look at your timeline. There is still a lot for you to learn and consider. If you are serious, get on those “no” answers and start turning them into “yes.” Finding a mentor or someone to look up to in dentistry will be important to your growth. 

If you scored 0-5: Well, AT LEAST you are on this obscure blog! That means there is some part of you that is somewhat serious about applying. If you are more advanced in your timeline of applying to dental school though (maybe you were planning on applying next summer...), I would think long and hard about how much this means to you. The application is tough, but dental school is tougher. You will need every ounce of interest and motivation for dentistry to push through, even once the acceptance letters are mailed and deposits are sent.

No matter what your score above was, now I want you to take a hard look at your stats as an applicant. In fact, write out your Reddit what-are-my-chances post. Include your GPA, your DAT score, all other things relevant to your application. Write it like it is going to get completely shit on by randos on Student Doctor Network. DO NOT POST IT. Instead, save it. Sleep on it, even.

Now. Open up that draft in your notes on your phone. Take a step back. You are no longer YOU. You just came across this post online. Read it. 

After you read it, what are your impressions of this complete stranger? (Remember, “somebody else” wrote this.) Is it glaringly obvious to you what strength of applicant they are? What are their strengths? What do you feel is lacking? Is there something they completely neglected to write about? Do you think they have a good chance?

Sometimes we get the best picture of ourselves, when we are pretending to be someone else.

Keep in mind that these are just stats. Applying early can make a "good" application get "great" results! Timing is key!

I’m probably going to get hate-mail for writing this article in the first place. (You know what they say about good intentions.) But remember, I am some rando online too! I hope this post gives you some confidence in where you stand and even some direction as to where to go next!

Do you hate me now? Let me know in the comments!

All my pre-dental love! <3

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash