If you only
retain one thing from this article, it should be that when deciding whether to
apply to a certain school, ask yourself if you would attend that school if it
was the only one that accepted you. Turning down an acceptance to reapply
elsewhere can easily be a red flag!
Consider When Choosing a Dental School
predominant factors that many prospective applicants use when deciding where to
attend dental school are cost and location. Unless there is a very compelling
reason to choose another school, most applicants default to wanting to attend
their cheapest possible option, which is usually their in-state public school.
Unlike how high school seniors may have chosen where to attend college, very
few applicants would choose a dental school based on wanting to get away from
their parents or explore a new area. For dental school, often applicants more
carefully consider what their best return on investment would be—and many times,
it would be their financially best option.
applicants might consider include the type of grading system at the dental
school (letter grade versus Pass/Fail), the existence of a class-ranking system,
whether the school is more clinically or research-oriented or the quality of
facilities. After an interview, they may consider whether they were able to get
along with the faculty and students. However, these factors usually come
secondary to cost and location. Most applicants would ultimately choose their
cheapest possible option, knowing they will thank themselves for making that
decision when loan repayment begins.
Why Is Cost
a Huge Deal?
factor in student loan interest, certain schools can cost several hundreds of
thousands of dollars more overall than others to attend. Many prospective
dental students say they do not begin to feel the gravity of the cost factor
until after they have their acceptances in front of them. People who only have
very expensive options may contemplate declining their acceptances to reapply
to less expensive schools, but doing so can be a red flag to admissions committees
at any school in subsequent application cycles. This is frequently learned the
hard way. The proper approach is to decide prior to applying how much you are
willing to pay for your dental education.
Does going to a
more expensive school result in getting better opportunities following
graduation? Not necessarily. At the end of the day, all schools are held
accountable for meeting minimum educational requirements dictated by the Commission
on Dental Accreditation, and all schools ultimately award you with the same
D.D.S./D.M.D. degree. If you are interested in specializing or pursuing
research or an academic career path, then going to a school with a more prestigious
name could help to a certain extent. However, when dental practices make hiring
decisions, your experiences and activities that set you apart from others are
what get you the job—not the name of your school. When you work in a practice,
your income is based on your individual production and collections, not the
name of your school.
Cost of Attendance
out how much it costs to attend a school, it is not as simple as taking the
first-year tuition and fees and then multiplying it by four. Sometimes the
first year might have multiple one-time charges, such as for purchasing
instruments and supplies. At a select few public schools, it is possible to
apply for change-in-residency and start paying in-state tuition after the first
year. For some people, a private school can be similar in cost or cheaper
overall if they could live at home and save on living expenses versus having to
rent an apartment to attend their in-state public school. Finally, cost of
living in the area and lifestyle choices could have an impact on the amount of
living expenses accrued.
mistake applicants make is assuming that all schools other than their in-state
public school are of nearly equal cost. This is not always the case. When you
are considering the cost difference between private schools and out-of-state
public schools, it can still be over $10,000 per year. In addition, out-of-state
tuition for a public school may not save you money compared to attending a
importantly, figure out your cost of attendance and decide whether that amount
is reasonable to you before applying to a school. Do not wait until the school
becomes your only acceptance to begin having second thoughts. At that time, it
is too late.
the choice can be between applying broadly versus applying to a few schools
with the intent to reapply, if necessary. Sometimes advisors advise applicants
to apply broadly to a number of schools, but this advice should be taken with a
grain of salt. Applying broadly does help optimize your chances for getting an
acceptance somewhere; however, it is even more important to think carefully
about only applying to schools you are willing to attend. Some people may
prefer to reapply to a certain school they really want to attend, rather than
be accepted the first time around at school they are not particularly excited
to attend. There are circumstances in which this course of action makes sense.
One drawback of
the “apply broadly” advice is it sometimes pushes people to apply to schools
they are not particularly interested in attending. They may apply to certain
schools based on where an advisor or friend recommends without carefully
considering their level of interest in the school. In the end, if they get
accepted only to schools they are not excited about, it’s too late to decide to
reapply elsewhere. Their choices can become either attend a school they were
accepted to or be prepared to pursue a different career path.
If people have
second thoughts about attending the schools to which they were accepted, usually
the reason is finances. This can be a valid argument; however, there are
certain cases where one may not need to worry about this. For example, if
somebody has a decent GPA and Dental Admission Test (DAT) score, and they are
able to work in a well-paid job if a gap year becomes necessary, then it could
be a sound idea to apply to only more financially favorable schools and reapply,
if necessary. On the other hand, if somebody has lower GPA and DAT scores, they
do not have as much leverage to be picky. If they need to pursue a master’s or
post-baccalaureate program to help improve their application for more desirable
schools, this strategy is not inexpensive. If they need to improve their DAT
scores, they need to consider the likelihood of subsequent attempts yielding
significant improvement, especially if they had already taken the test multiple
times and were unsuccessful in achieving competitive scores.
Whether or not
applying to a few schools with the intent of reapplying, is a feasible plan
depends on the individual’s situation. This decision should be made based on
how realistic of a candidate they are for their desired schools, and whether
they have a solid plan for a gap year and a plan for reapplying, if necessary.
If improvements are necessary to become a more attractive candidate at their
desired school, the costs and feasibility of making those improvements should also
to certain schools simply due to state of residence. Sometimes people may feel that they
ought to include on their application list at least every school within their
state of residence and/or in neighboring states. If you cannot see yourself
attending a certain school within your state, especially if it is a private
school to which you are unwilling to tolerate the cost of attendance, don’t
schools to the application list for the sake of having the average of 10 to 12
schools. Just because
most people are applying to 10 to 12 schools does not mean you have to. Every
cycle, there are people who apply to over 15 schools, but there are also people
who apply to only one school. There are plenty of people who do fine with
applying to fewer schools, and sometimes, people may rather reapply to get into
the school they really wanted.
considering the cost of attendance before applying. Make sure you carefully research the
cost of attending each school, and that you are willing to pay the price to
attend each school before you apply there. More often than not, people feel
that while dentistry is a great career, there is a cap to what return on
investment they are willing to tolerate in pursuing this career path. Think
very carefully about whether this statement describes you, as many people initially
claim that they are willing to attend anywhere.
researching school requirements before applying. Generally, schools are very transparent
about any requirements that must be met prior to applying. These may include
minimum GPA and DAT scores, specifications for who must write letters of
reference, etc. A select few schools may not accept international students or
may only accept residents of their own states. Checking to make sure you meet
these requirements is one of the easiest ways to avoid wasting money on certain
application fees. If you do not meet all the requirements, your application
becomes among the first discarded. There are no application fee refunds for
applying to a school in error. Make sure that if a school has granted you an
exception that you have it in writing in case you have a dispute.
assessing the likelihood of being accepted by an out-of-state public school. Some public schools may be out-of-state
friendly, while other schools may strongly favor their own in-state residents.
If a public school strongly favors their own in-state residents, then you need
to be a very competitive out-of-state applicant to have a realistic chance of
acceptance. On the other hand, sometimes out-of-state applicants may see there
are not many out-of-state seats and, therefore, not bother applying, hence
allowing less competition for those who do decide to try. There are a few
public schools that allow out-of-state students to apply for in-state tuition
after the first year, and while those schools may not have a high out-of-state
applicant acceptance rate, some applicants may decide it is worth paying the
application fee for a chance to get significant tuition savings if they were to
attend somewhere other than their in-state public school.