Overview of Profession


Application Process Timeline 

Admission Exam-DAT

Overview of Dental School


Important Websites


To apply to dental school you can be ANY MAJOR (Art, Biology, Literature, Math, etc.), however you must complete the prerequisite coursework in Chemistry, Biology, Math and Physics in order to apply.  

The table at the bottom shows the courses that are most commonly completed by UC Santa Cruz Students to fulfill dental school pre-requisites. The Career Center recommends that students complete the courses sequenced listed in this table. Speak with an advisor to ensure you complete the corresponding pre-health coursework prerequisites.

NOTE: The dental school pre-requisites can differ slightly from school to school. It is important to look at the coursework required for each school you wish to apply to. A good resource to find the admissions page for each dental school can be found in the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools. This can be purchased online.

Course Subject # Quarters UCSC course sequences most students use to fulfill requirements
General Chemistry Nearly all schools require 3 quarters of general (inorganic) chemistry, with laboratory. CHEM 1A, CHEM 1B/M and CHEM 1C/N
General Biology  Nearly all schools require 3 quarters of general biology, with laboratory.

BIOL 20A, BIOE 20B, and BIOE 20C and 3 biology labs*

*Common labs used to fulfill the 1-year of lab are: BIOL 20L, BIOL 101L, BIOL 130L, METX 135L, METX 119L, etc.

Organic Chemistry Nearly all schools require 2-3 quarters of organic chemistry, with laboratory.


*CHEM 109 does not have an associated lab, so if a school you are applying to requires 3 quarters of lab, you may request to take CHEM 110/L if you are not a chemistry major. 


Nearly all schools require 3 quarters of physics, with laboratory.

PHYS 6A/L and PHYS 6B/M or PHYS 6C/N


PHYS 5A/L and PHYS 5B/M or PHYS 5B/N


Some schools require a year of math and/or statistics.

 Math 11A, Math 11B, STAT 7/L or STAT 5

 *College algebra or pre-calculus may meet this requirement.


Some schools require 1-3 quarters of biochemistry, and if not it is usually strongly recommended.

BIOL 100


BIOC 100A, BIOC 100B, and BIOC 100C

Human Anatomy Some schools require 1 quarter of human anatomy, with laboratory.

METX 135/L

Human Physiology Some schools require 1 quarter of human physiology, with laboratory.

BIOL 130/L

Microbiology Some schools require 1 quarter of microbiology, with laboratory.

METX 119/L

English Composition Some schools require 2 or 3 quarters of english composition.

Courses that satisfy the Core Courses (C1) and Composition (C2) requirements at UCSC will fulfill two quarters of the english coursework requirements for most dental schools. An additional course in writing or literature will usually satisfy the remaining quarter.*

*Save your course syllabi in case any medical schools express concern that you did not complete their english requirement.

Humanities Some schools require and almost all schools recommend that you have a broad, well-rounded education with coursework in the social and behavioral sciences, philosophy, business, economics, history, foreign language, etc. Many GEs will satisfy this requirment.
Psychology Some schools require or recommend introductory courses in this subject. PSYC 1
Fine Arts Some schools require or recommend courses in ceramics, sculpting, drafting, or other applied or fine arts. ART 20H

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Application Process Timeline:

  1. Prior to Applying:
    • Consider these factors when deciding upon where to apply: 
      • Location
      • Cost
      • Size
      • Licensure exam passage rates
      • Faculty interests and reputation
      • Job placement history of program graduates. 
    • Talk with recent dental graduates, as well as ask dentist employers about various programs’ strengths and weaknesses. In addition to the California schools, consider applying to some public or private schools outside of California that accept many (20+) non-resident or non-contract state applicants. 
    • Research each program you wish to apply to before submitting your application 
      • Admission requirements 
      • prerequisite coursework 
      • Deadlines 
      • Amount and preferences for letters of recommendations 
    • Register and take Dental Admission Test (DAT) 
    • Write your personal statement
    • Develop a resume of activities and accomplishments 
      • Scholastic awards and honors earned
      • Job shadowing and volunteer experiences in dentistry
      • Extracurricular activities and leadership positions
      • Volunteer and community service activities
      • Work experience
      • Research experience 
      • Activities requiring manual dexterity 
    • Request your transcripts
    • Arrange letters of evaluation
  2. June of the application year:
    • Submit your online ADEA AADSAS application on June 1st 
    • Apply early! Although the ADEA AADSAS application cycle is June 1 – February 1, do not wait until deadlines approach to submit your application. Each dental school has its own application deadline. ADEA AADSAS does not send your application to a school if your application is received by ADEA AADSAS after the school’s deadline.
    • Submit an official transcript from ALL colleges and universities attended. Even if coursework from a previous college(s) attended is posted on your most recent transcript, you also must forward the official transcript for the previous school(s) to ADEA AADSAS. ADEA AADSAS must have an official transcript – sent directly from the Registrar’s Office – from each college listed in your application.
  3. July - September of the application year:
    • Complete supplemental applications as requested by schools. 
    • Retake DAT if needed
    • Continue to gain clinical, research, and community service experience. 
  4. September - March of the application year:
    • Continue submitting secondaries. 
    • Interviews are usually conducted at the individual school. 
  5. December-May of the application year:
    • Schools notify applicants of acceptances beginning Dec. 1st and continue until the class is full. 
    • Stay in contact with schools you are waitlisted at. 
  6. Fall
    • Begin Dental School

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Admission Exam:

  1. Overview of Dental Admission Test (DAT):
    • All U.S. dental schools require applicants to submit DAT exam scores. 
    • Many schools do not accept DAT exam scores that are more than 3 years old from the date you would matriculate to dental school
    • 4 hour and 15 minute standardized multiple-choice computerized-based exam.
    • Unofficial score reports, generated at the test center, are provided for the examinee upon completion of the test. 
    • Sections
      • Natural Science: biology (40 questions), general chemistry (30 questions), and organic chemistry (30 questions)
      • Quantitative Reasoning: Mathematical problems in algebra, numerical calculations, conversions, etc.There are 40 questions, 10 of which are word problems and 30 are computation problems. 
      • Reading Comprehension: Dental and basic sciences. There are 50 questions distributed across three reading passages. 
      • Perceptual Ability: 2 and 3 dimensional problem solving. Comprised of 6 subtests: apertures, orthographic projections, angle discriminations, paper folding questions, cube-counting questions, and spatial form development questions. Each subtest has 15 questions. 
    • Scoring
      • The maximum composite score is 30. 
      • Each school will have different average acceptance DAT scores with most admitted applicants scoring 19.5 out of 30.
    • When should students take the DAT?:
      • You should take the DAT well in advance of applying to dental school but definitely at least one year prior to your intended start date. 
      • If students want to go straight into dental school, they will need to take the DAT the summer before or fall of their junior year.
      • Students should take the DAT when they can do their best. 
    • Dates for exam:
      • The DAT is given on computer in local testing centers across the US almost every day of the year. 
      • You can apply to take the DAT here
      • Important: you must wait a minimum of 90 days to retake the DAT. If you wait too long to take the DAT, you may not be able to retake it in time to affect your application. 

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Additional Requirements:

  1. Nearly all schools require a letter of recommendation from a dentist that is not a family or friend. 
  2. Some schools require a minimum 80 hours as a volunteer in health care setting observing dentist in their job. 

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Overview of Dental School:

  1. Overview: 
    • Dental school lasts 4 academic years. 
    • There are 66 Dental Schools in the United States, 6 of those being in California.
    • Most dental schools award the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). Others award an equivalent degree, Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).
  2. First 2 years of dental school:
    • Studies begin with classroom instruction and laboratory work in science, including anatomy, microbiology, biochemistry, and physiology. Beginning courses in clinical sciences, including laboratory techniques, are also completed. 
  3. Last 2 years of dental school: During the last 2 years, students treat patients, usually in dental clinics, under the supervision of licensed dentists. 
  4. Licensure and certification: Licensing is required to practice as a dentist. In most States, licensure requires passing written and practical examinations in addition to having a degree from an accredited dental school. Candidates may fulfill the written part of the State licensing requirements by passing the National Board Dental Examinations. Individual States or regional testing agencies administer the written or practical examinations. 
  5. Specialty: Individuals can be licensed to practice any of the 9 recognized specialties in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. Requirements include 2-4 years of postgraduate education and, in some cases, the completion of a special State examination. A postgraduate residency term also may be required, usually lasting up to 2 years. Most State licenses permit dentists to engage in both general and specialized practice. 

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  1. For re-applicants, some of the key items that a dental program will look for in your application: 
    • What type of growth and change has occurred for you since the last application? How different do you look as a re-applicant versus a first time applicant? 
    • Have you effectively described your professional goals? Do you reflect an in-depth knowledge of the profession? 
  2. Simply improving upon your grades or test scores may not be the only areas that will help in making a re-application successful. You will need to demonstrate to a dental program why you are not only a very good fit for the career but also, how have you matured and gained insight about yourself and the career. Most people do this by participating in new activities in a clinical environment or perhaps, community service. Regardless of the experience, it will be important to convey in your new application how you have developed or how you are even more certain that dentistry is the right career path for you. 
  3. In addition to new insights about yourself and the career, a more tangible and expected addition to the new application is at least one new letter of recommendation. If you did not include a letter from a dentist in your first application, you will definitely want to include a letter from a dentist who can attest to your personal characteristics and aptitude for the career. 
  4. Though this last bit of advice is not directly related to a re-applicant, it still is an important consideration when applying to dental school. There are many applicants who originally planned to apply to medical school but realized late in their undergraduate career or perhaps even after graduation that they desire to pursue a dental degree. If this is you, then it will be very important to articulate in your personal statement the reasons for this change. Your reason(s) should be well thought out and should not come across as dental school is your second choice because you did not get accepted to medical school. 
  5. Ultimately, apply to dental school when you feel that you are the strongest possible applicant. Whether this means taking one or more years off, in the end this will save you time, money and additional work. 

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Important Websites:

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