U.S. Dental School Applicants and Enrollees, 2009 Entering Class

(Executive Summary and Tables)

Gloria Gonzalez, Ph.D.; Eugene Anderson, Ph.D.; Karen F. Novak, D.D.S., M.S., Ph.D.; Richard W. Valachovic, D.M.D., M.P.H.

Citation: Gonzalez G, Anderson E, Novak KF, Valachovic RW. U.S. Dental School Applicants and Enrollees, 2009 Entering Class (Executive Summary and Tables). Updated June 29, 2011. Accessed at www.adea.org/publications/Pages/2009-Applicants-and-Enrollees.aspx. Copyright © 2011 American Dental Education Association.

The annual applicant analysis conducted by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) provides data on selected charac­teristics of applicants and first-time enrollees of entering dental school classes. Produced since 1976, the annual ADEA applicant reports are intended to assist advisors to health professions education, dental educators, and members of the broader dental education community in better understanding the characteristics of dental school applicants. This year's report reflects characteristics of individuals applying for entry to the 2009 class.


Of the 12,210 applicants in 2009, 40 percent were enrolled, totaling 4,871 first-time enrollees. Over the last two decades, interest in dental educa­tion in the United States has shown steady growth. From 1990 to 2009, the number of applicants in­creased by 138 percent, for a 6 percent average annual growth rate. The overall increase in applicants, along with the opening of five new dental schools since 1997[1], demonstrates that dentistry continues to be viewed as an attractive career option. Several key findings from the 2009 applicant and enrollee data are as follows:

  • The 2009 ratio of applicants to first-time enrollees was 2.5 applicants to one first-time enrollee.
  • Women's representation among first-time, first-year enrollees increased in 2009 to 47 percent (from 44 percent in 2008), with representation among all first-time enrollees of 39 percent. Because of the significant growth in women dental students, 15 of 58 dental schools have 51 percent or more women first-time enrollees.
  • In 2009, underrepresented minority (URM)-Black/African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic/Latino-students comprised 13 percent of the overall applicant pool. For the 594 URM applicants who enrolled in 2009, the enroll­ment rate dropped two percentage points to 39 percent since 2008.
  • The majority of applicants and first-time, first-year enrollees received an undergraduate degree in the biological/life sciences. Seventy-one percent of first-time, first-year enrollees earned a bacca­laureate degree in biological science or chemistry/physical sciences.


Note on Methodology and Terminology


The majority of the information on dental school applicants presented in the tables accompany­ing this report is derived from the files of the ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (ADEA AADSAS). Fifty-five of the nation's fifty-eight dental schools that enrolled first-year students in 2009 participated in ADEA AADSAS. Schools that do not participate in ADEA AADSAS provided to ADEA a roster of their applicants that included the same information as that of ADEA AADSAS applicants. As a result, the applicant pool includes ADEA AADSAS applicants and individuals applying directly to one or more U.S. dental schools not using ADEA AADSAS. Since individual ap­plicants may apply to more than one school and are counted at each school to which they applied, tables presenting information on individual applicant characteristics are generated based on a subset of the applicant data, filtering out duplicate applications. To finalize the applicant and enrollment data, each dental school provided ADEA with a roster of students entering dental school in 2009.


Throughout this report, the number of appli­cants is distinguished from the number of applica­tions to dental schools. Applicants are individuals who applied to one or more U.S. dental schools. Applications refer to the number of completed ap­plications received by a dental school. One applicant generates as many applications as the number of dental schools to which he or she applied. In addition, first-time, first-year enrollees are distinguished from first-year enrollees. First-time, first-year enrollees are those individuals who matriculated at a U.S. dental school for the first time, whereas first-year enrollees include both first-time, first-year enrollees and re­peating first-year students. All references to enrollees in the following report refer to first-time, first-year enrollees unless otherwise noted. Enrollment rates are calculated for the overall pool of enrollees, as well as for distinct groups (e.g., men and women), by dividing the number of enrollees by the number of applicants in the group.



Applicants, First-Time Enrollees, and Total First-Year Enrollees

Since 2008, there was a very slight increase in applicants, first-time enrollees, and total first-year enrollees. There were 12,210 individuals that applied to the 2009 entering classes of U.S. dental schools[2] (Table 1). The number of applicants per first-time, first-year position for the 2009 entering class was 2.5[3], with 40 percent of applicants enrolled. The number of first-time enrollees in 2009 was 4,871, the highest figure since 1990. It is important to note that this figure is still far below the high enrollment mark of over 6,000 observed in the 1970s, when a large number of enrollees were stimulated by a federal program that subsidized dental schools for increasing enrollment. Finally, regarding the total first-year enrollees, there were 5,089 in 2009.


Applicants and Enrollees by Gender


In this past decade, national numbers show reduced gender disparities in applicants and enrollees (Figures 1 and 2). Since 2000, the percentage of women ap­plicants and enrollees has increased by seven percentage points. According to 2009 data, men continue to comprise the majority of both dental school ap­plicants (6,446) and enrollees (2,599), though women applicants (5,760) and enrollees (2,269) account for an ever-increasing share (Table 2).



In 2009, the national dental school enrollment by gender was 53 percent men and 47 percent women. The gender enrollment rate was nearly identical for men and women, with a 40 percent enrollment rate for men and a 39 percent enrollment rate for women.


Applicants and Enrollees by Race/Ethnicity

Nationally, White students continued to comprise the highest percentage of applicants and enrollees (Table 4). Of the total number of 12,210 applicants, 52.3 percent were White, and of the total number of 4,871 enrollees, 56.4 percent were White. The second highest percentage of applicants and enrollees by race/ethnicity was Asian/Pacific Islander. Asian/Pacific Islander students comprised 25.1 percent of applicants (3,060) and 22.7 percent of enrollees (1,106).

Underrepresented Minority Student Trends and Enrollment Rates


Thirteen percent (1,527 individuals) of the overall applicant pool was comprised of URM students in 2009 (Table 5). Similarly, URM students accounted for 13 percent (594 students) of enrollees. The overall URM enrollment rate was 39 percent in 2009, a decrease from 41 percent in 2008 (Table 5). Comparing 2009 and 2000 URM figures shows that the number of URM appli­cants increased by 585, while the number of URM enrollees increased by 147 (Table 5). This increase in URM applicants and enrollees may be explained by an increase in the overall population growth of URM students nationally. However, even with an increase in the number of URM applicants and enrollees since 2000, the percentage of URM applicants in comparison to all applicants has only increased one percent and the percentage of URM enrollees in comparison to all enrollees decreased by one percent (Table 5).

Individual dental schools differed significantly in the racial/ethnic composition of applications (Table 6). The dental schools that received the most American Indian/Alaska Native applications were the University of Oklahoma, Creighton University , and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas , with 23, 19, and 19 applications respectively. Among Asian/Pacific Islander applicants, the three schools that received the most applications were New York University, Boston University, and Tufts University, with 2,013, 1,861, and 1,692 respectively. The dental schools at Howard University, Meharry Medical College, and Temple University received the highest numbers of African-American applications, with 442, 441, and 203 applications respectively. New York University, Nova Southeastern University, and Boston University dental schools received the highest numbers of Hispanic/Latino applications, with 245, 232, and 223 applications respectively.

Distribution of Applications and Applicants and Enrollees by School and Geographic Area

The average number of applications submitted by each dental school applicant in 2009 was nine. This produced a total of 110,837 dental school ap­plications (Table 7). Not surprisingly, four of the five schools with the largest number of applications listed in Table 7 are among the largest eight dental schools in terms of entering class size listed in Table 8: New York University (4,965 applica­tions), Boston University (4,664), Tufts University (4,515), Temple University (4,392), and Nova South­eastern University (3,406).


Geographic Distribution of Applications and Enrollees

The geographic distribution of applicants and enrollees is shown in Tables 7 and 8. Table 7 presents the number of applications and their geographic distribution by school, and Table 8 shows the number of enrollees and their geographic distribution by school. Of all 110,837 applications, 21,913 applications were from California (Table 7). New York residents submitted the second most applications at 7,829, and Florida residents submitted 6,864 applications (Table 7). Not surprisingly, several states with small populations and the District of Columbia had the fewest number of applications. Residents of Delaware, West Virginia, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia each had fewer than 150 applications to dental schools in 2009 (Table 7).

Applicants and Enrollees by Major Fields of Study

Table 9 shows the breakdown by major field of study for applicants to the 2009 entering classes. The top three major fields of study for dental school applicants and enrollees in 2009 were biological science (53 percent for applicants and 54 percent for enrollees), chemistry/physical science (16 percent and 17 percent), and social sciences (10 percent for both), compris­ing nearly equal percentages of both the applicant and enrollee pools. Of enrollees, 71 percent earned a baccalaureate degree in either biological science or chemistry/physical sciences.


Applicants and Enrollees by GPAs and DAT Scores

The grade point averages (GPAs) and Dental Admission Test (DAT) scores of the 2009 applicants continue to be fairly high, consistent with average GPAs and DAT scores in this decade (see Table 10). Tables 11 and 12 present percentile distributions of GPAs and DAT scores. As expected, the majority of appli­cants and enrollees placed in the upper GPA and DAT percentiles. Increases in the upper percentiles are accompanied by decreases in the lower percentiles.

Only a very small number of ap­plicants with GPAs below 2.5, DAT scores below 14, or both are accepted and enrolled. Nevertheless, enrollees still reflect a relatively broad range in academic achievement as determined by thosemeasures.


While GPAs and DAT scores correlate moderately with suc­cess in the first year of dental school, these two quantitative measures assess only a portion of the skills necessary for students to become successful in dental school and, eventually, competent dental practitioners. Additional noncognitive variables are equally as important as GPAs and DAT scores in determining the success of individuals and their ability to meet the current and emerging needs of the profession, practice, individual patients, diverse communities, and society. Qualitative variables are needed to provide indicators of important, sought-after qualities in dental students. Admissions committees have expressed a desire to find students who exhibit integrity, good interpersonal skills, professionalism, and the potential to deliver culturally competent patient care.


Table 1: Applicants, first-time enrollees, and total first-year enrollees, 1990 & 2000 to 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 2: Applicants and first-time enrollees by gender, 2000 to 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 3: Gender composition of applicants and enrollees by school, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 4: Applicants and first-time enrollees by race/ethnicity, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 5: Applicants and first-time enrollees by race/ethnicity, 2000 to 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 6: Race/ethnicity composition of applicants and enrollees by school, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 7: Number of applications and their geographic distribution by school, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 8: Number of enrollees and their geographic distribution by school, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 9: Major fields of study for dental school applicants and enrollees, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 10: Grade point averages and DAT scores for dental school applicants and enrollees, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 11: Percentage of applicants and enrollees by range of grade point averages (GPA), 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 12: Percentage of applicants and enrollees by range of DAT scores, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Table 13: Age distribution of applicants and enrollees, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Figure 1: Percentage of applicants by gender, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Figure 2: Percentage of first-time enrollees by gender, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Figure 3: Percentage of applicants and first-time enrollees by race/ethnicity, 2009 (Excel, PDF, JPG)
Figure 4: Applications per slot by dental school (Excel, PDF, JPG)


1. Department of Testing Services, American Dental Asso­ciation. Dental Admission Testing Program, Validity Study, 2007""2008. Report 1 2010. At: http://www.ada.org/sections/educationAndCareers/pdfs/dat_validity_study.pdf . Accessed: September 9, 2010.

[1] The five new U.S. dental schools: Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine (fall 1997 entering class), University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine (fall 2002 entering class), Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health (fall 2008 entering class), Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine""Arizona (fall 2008 entering class), Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine (fall 2009 entering class).

[2] In 2009 there was an increase of 32 applicants, one percent, from the previous year's number of applicants. In 2008, the national number of applicants was 11 percent lower than the number in 2007 (Table 1). Some of the observed decline in ap­plicants can be attributed to a change in the methodology used in the collection, cleaning, and analysis of the applicant data that allowed for a more accurate and precise representation of individual applicants and the removal of a greater number of duplicates from the final applicant count. In previous years, the number of applicants was adjusted using a formula intended to remove the hundreds of hidden duplicates.

[3] The national ratio of applicants per first-time, first-year position compares the aggregate individual number of applicants to all dental schools to the total number of first-time, first-year enrollee positions across all schools.