Strategy for Success: Using a Grid When Selecting Dental Schools
dental school is a lot like driving a car, making adjustments to your speed and
direction. For example, while you’re driving your brain takes the information
from your speedometer, views of the road through the windshield and mirrors,
gas gauge and any light indicators (e.g., Check Engine light, etc.) to help you
determine how you will get to your destination safely. While preparing for
dental school, I created a spreadsheet grid to help me know which schools might
be the best fit and offer me a higher chance of acceptance.
Applying to a doctoral
degree program can be intimidating. Learning how to use grid can eliminate some
of the ambiguity in the application process. Below, I’ve explained my process
and methods. (NOTE: For the data, I used the 2017–2018 ADEA
Official Guide to Dental Schools).
data on each school you are considering. My criteria included all the dental schools
that accepted more than 70% of out-of-state students in addition to the two
schools in North Carolina where I currently live.
to more than one dental school can add up quickly. So, I recommend you avoid
spending application money on a school where it might be more difficult for someone
with your particular grades and attributes to be accepted, regardless of
demographics. Check the demographic spread of the class to see how many seats
you are competing for. Target entering class size differs from school to
your GPA (Total and Science) and DAT score to the schools’ average scores (calculated
as MyDATScore/School’sAverageDATScore). I estimated my DAT score and final GPA
as I was still studying at the time.
the school’s reported cost of attendance, adding up all four years or so, and
be sure to consider living expenses. If you are like me and have a family, your
expenses will be greater than someone entering dental school right after college.
sure to include notes. For example, is the school’s curriculum more research or
public health focused? Do you want to live in a major city? Will it be
difficult to secure hours with patients in the clinic, or does the school have
a high-traffic clinic? Are there any prerequisite courses that you still need? Try
to talk to people who interviewed at the school or are current students at the
school. They can give you valuable insight into campus daily life and culture.
each criterion column and highlight the first 10 in each column. I picked 10
because I plan to apply to at least 10 schools. Next, check to see which
schools share the most highlights across all columns. These schools could provide
the highest chances for my acceptance.
A grid will
help you adjust your application strategy to be more advantageous. The ancient
Chinese strategist, Sun Tzu, stated that “Water shapes its course according to
the nature of the ground over which it flows.” Just as you ensure a safe
arrival by adjusting your speed and direction while driving, use a spreadsheet
grid to help you adjust your application strategy to ensure success in your
journey to becoming a dental professional.
*Here is an
example of my spreadsheet. Percentages may not reflect current data from the 2019-2020 ADEA Official Guide to Dental