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Admission Factors

Dental schools generally consider the following factors when deciding who to admit.

Academic Ability

  • Successful completion of prerequisite coursework.
  • Minimum recommended GPA for most schools is 3.0/4.0; average GPA for accepted applicants is closer to 3.4 and higher.
  • Dental School Admissions Test (DAT) scores are required by all U.S. dental schools:
    • The test is available at designated test centers throughout the year and requires advance registration.
    • The test takes about four hours to complete.
    • Four sections - Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning.
    • Scores range from 1 (lowest) to 30 (highest).
    • See the DAT FAQs for more information.

Clinical Experiences

Students should strive to obtain exposure to the dental health field through volunteering in a dentist's office or clinic, shadowing a dentist and/or informational interviewing.

Such experience is vital in determining whether dentistry is a good fit for you and will be necessary in answering the personal essay/interview question "Why do you want to be a dentist?"

Obtaining clinical experience:

  • The HPA office has a list of dental shadowing/informational interviewing opportunities.
  • Joining the Northwestern University Pre-Dental Society may give you access to different shadowing opportunities.
  • Consider your own personal/professional network.
  • The Northwestern Externship Program (NEXT) may include dentists as part of their program. Students can sign up for NEXT in January for shadowing experiences that take place during spring break.

Letters of Recommendation

Generally, dental schools prefer letters from science faculty, faculty/others with whom the applicant may have special experience (e.g., research, internship, special project, summer enrichment program, etc.) and a dental professional with whom the applicant has mentored, shadowed and/or discussed experiences as a practicing dentist.


  • Northwestern students applying to dental schools can use the HPA Recommendation File Service.
  • The ADEA-AADSAS website provides information about letters of recommendation.
  • Refer to individual schools web sites to check for specific requirements.


  • Be prepared to discuss why you wish to pursue a career in the dental profession and how you perceive the role of the dentist in health care.
  • You may be evaluated on your knowledge of the profession and your motivation to pursue a career in dentistry.
  • Review dental school interview feedback for specific schools as part of your preparation.

Other Factors

  • Good manual dexterity.
  • Ability to relate to patients in a realistic, yet compassionate, manner.
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Leadership ability.
  • Motivation and knowledge of the field of dentistry.