“What other dental schools have you applied to?” This is a popular question asked by
friends, family, peers, advisors, mentors and other predental students in forums online. Sometimes, it’s asked during dental school interviews. You
probably know that the ADEA AADSAS® (ADEA Associated American Dental
Schools Application Service) application asks you to list the schools to which
you applied in prior application cycles. But did you know that some dental
schools will also ask you to report the schools to which you are applying in
the current application cycle?
have shared with their advisors that this question was a surprise, inducing
anxiety and making them feel uncomfortable. I am a very private person and I
immediately sympathized with those applicants. I want to explain a little about
why schools might ask you to share this information, and give you some examples
of how you might choose to respond.
I spoke with
dental school admissions officers from several schools to learn how and why
they ask this question. Interestingly, I received a wide range of responses.
Some said they ask to learn which schools the applicants think are comparable—a
tool to monitor which schools might be their competitors. Some schools ask to
learn more about the applicant. For example, maybe they’ll learn that the
applicant prefers a certain region of the country, or that they applied to
schools close to family, or they applied to schools that have similar missions,
ask this question in person, during interviews with candidates. Some include
the question on a supplemental application. Another school reported they ask on
a post-interview survey. Then again, some schools don’t ask at all. Quite a few
schools reported that while they ask the question, answering it is optional.
What’s an applicant to do if asked? Consider the following:
- Be prepared to answer. This question won’t take you by surprise now, which should help reduce
some anxiety. Additionally, knowing some of the reasons why schools might ask
can help you be more comfortable and confident with your response.
- Decide what you’re willing to share. Some applicants may choose to list all
the schools to which you are currently applying. If that’s you—great! You’re
if you prefer not to share the list of other schools, you might decide to try
some indirect responses. For example, thinking about why you applied to the
schools you chose can help you answer the question without disclosing the
specific list of school names. Here are some examples of indirect responses
that are polite, professional and allow you to maintain some of your privacy:
To be clear, these are just examples. You need to be sure that you
answer truthfully, even if you choose to limit what you share.
applied to the schools that seemed to be a good fit for me.”
applied to five schools that have strong research enterprises.”
applied to schools that have missions and visions aligned with my values and
applied to five schools—all of them are near family.”
- “I applied
to as many schools as I could afford.”
applied to seven schools that weren’t too far from home.”
applied to five schools so far, but I’m still considering two more.”
how you’ll answer if your first response doesn’t satisfy the interviewer. Be prepared with a secondary answer if
they ask you again. Maybe you’ll decide to disclose the other dental schools or,
you can directly decline to answer:
like to focus on reasons why I would like to attend this dental school.”
- “I'm not comfortable sharing the school names.”
- “I'd prefer not to disclose that information at this point.”
I’ve been using
more diplomatic responses like these since high school, when friends would ask
the grade I earned on a recent test. Some of my friends were fine sharing their
scores and were just being curious; they weren’t as private as I am. But, when
I told them to mind their own business, they thought I was being mean, and they
were offended. (Rightly so, I should add.) So, I learned—the hard way—how to
protect my privacy without being rude by saying, “I’m happy with my score,” or,
“I wish I had done better.”
With my advice hopefully
you can mark the following off your checklist:
am prepared to be asked: “What other dental schools have you applied to?”
am aware of a couple reasons why a school might want to know.
decided what I’m willing to share.
prepared a response that is honest, polite and professional.
Best of Luck!
Stacy Buford, M.S.A. :
Director of Admissions
of Florida College of Dentistry
Stacy Buford, M.S.A., is the Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Florida College of Dentistry and has nearly a decade of experience in dental school admissions. She has served on the ADEA AADSAS Advisory Group since 2015 and is currently serving as the Chair for the 2018-2019 term.