Advice from admissions officers

How to Answer Questions About Other Dental Schools

Posted by Stacy Buford, M.S.A. on August 27, 2019

“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?

Some applicants 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, etc.

Some schools 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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 all set.

    However, 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:

    • “I applied to the schools that seemed to be a good fit for me.”
    • “I applied to five schools that have strong research enterprises.”
    • “I applied to schools that have missions and visions aligned with my values and future goals.”
    • “I applied to five schools—all of them are near family.”
    • “I applied to as many schools as I could afford.”
    • “I applied to seven schools that weren’t too far from home.”
    • "I’ve applied to five schools so far, but I’m still considering two more.”

    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.

  3. Decide 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:

    • “I’d 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:DMD White Coats

  • I am prepared to be asked: “What other dental schools have you applied to?”
  • I am aware of a couple reasons why a school might want to know.
  • I’ve decided what I’m willing to share.
  • I’ve prepared a response that is honest, polite and professional. 

Best of Luck!

About Stacy Buford, M.S.A. :

Stacy Buford_Headshot

Stacy Buford, M.S.A.

Assistant Director of Admissions

University 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.