Dentists examine, diagnose, and treat diseases, injuries, and malformations of teeth and gums. They may also treat diseases of nerve, pulp, and other dental tissues affecting oral hygiene and retention of teeth. Dentists have the opportunity to work flexible hours and own their own business right after dental school. The PPAC encourages you to take time to explore the path to dental medicine, what a career as a dentist truly entails, and how you can best prepare.



Preparation for dental school includes completion of certain prerequisites. Make sure you do research to which prerequisites are required for the programs in which you are interested in applying, as they can vary! Listed below are the most common prerequisites for dental school and courses at UNLV that will fulfill the requirement.

Major: You may major in whichever subject you choose as long as you are meeting required pre-requisites for the programs to which you are applying. Dental schools appreciate diversity in majors so choose a subject in which you will be successful!

Pre-Reqs: This list is the most commonly required pre-reqs for dental schools. Do your research to ensure you are meeting all required courses for the dental schools for which you are interested in applying.

  • 1 year of General Biology w/lab: Biol 190/191
  • 1 year of General Chemistry w/lab: Chem 121/122
  • 1 year of Organic Chemistry w/lab: Chem 241/242
  • 1 semester of Biochemistry: Chem 474
  • 1 year of General Physics w/lab: Phys 151/152
  • Anatomy and Physiology: Kin 223/224 OR Biol 348/349

Additional common pre-reqs:

  • 1 year of General English
  • 1 semester of Social Science (Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology)

Grading Policies for Pre-Requisites:

  • AP and IB Credit are generally not accepted towards pre-reqs
  • Community college credits can be viewed differently by each school; do your research on if they are accepted!
  • Online lab courses are generally not accepted towards pre-reqs; some schools will not allow ANY online coursework
  • All courses, including repeated courses will count towards your GPA, regardless of how old they are. Be careful with “W” on your transcripts; they are not counted towards GPA but you should not be withdrawing from courses as a trend
  • Some programs have expiration dates on their pre-reqs, meaning you need to take them within a certain time period of applying. Again, do your research!

While the professional school admission process is holistic, your grades do matter. It is extremely important to understand how professional school GPA’s are calculated, as there can be a vast difference between your UNLV GPA and your professional school GPA.

Keep in mind that while the information below is generalized to professional schools/programs and the GPA calculation process, it is the student’s responsibility to understand exactly how the programs they are applying to consider, weigh, and/or calculate their GPA.

Professional school GPA’s calculate all grades ever taken at the secondary level. This includes all transfer credit grades, repeats, remedial courses,and possibly graduate level courses. There is no “grade forgiveness” or “grade replacement” for professional school GPA - all grades count. There is also no expiration date on courses for them not to be considered for calculation; even courses you may have taken “years ago” count towards your professional school GPA.

Professional school GPA’s are also calculated in more ways than just your cumulative GPA. Your “science” GPA (or BCP/BCPM) is also a very important marker in your application to professional school. Your science GPA is your GPA calculated only with your Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and (sometimes) Math classes. The third and fourth most common calculations are your “all other” GPA, which is your GPA calculated on all courses WITHOUT your science classes, and your “prerequisite GPA”, which is your GPA calculated only on the prerequisites necessary for that particular professional school program/track.

To help you understand how your professional school GPA will be calculated, please use the resources below. Although intended for use in calculating GPA for medical school, this calculator can be effective for calculating Dental School GPA as well. Bring this GPA calculation to your PPAC appointments, as it is an important part of the discussion. If you need help filling them out, give us a call!

Professional school programs have adopted a “holistic” admissions process, meaning you are more than just your metrics. How you demonstrate your motivation for your future profession, your personal characteristics, and the ways in which you give back to your community can make or break your application.

It is your responsibility as a pre-health student to understand the different types of experiences that will make you a competitive applicant to dental school. The most common experiences necessary include:

  • Community Service: experiences that show your commitment to your community and serving others
  • Clinical Experience: experiences in which you interact with patients in a clinical environment. Professional schools like to see as much hands on, direct patient care as possible!
  • Shadowing: observing a professional in the field you are interested in pursuing. Students should strive to shadow 2-5 dentists.
    • A note about shadowing: Shadowing opportunities are notoriously hard to find, so we advise you start early.
    • Generally speaking, the following are the two most common ways to secure shadowing opportunities:
      • Network: ask family, friends, and colleagues if they know a professional that would allow you to shadow
      • Engage in clinical experiences first. If you are volunteering in a hospital, free/outpatient/inpatient clinic, have a job as a CNA, EMT, PT or Dental Assistant, etc., prove yourself as a competent, compassionate volunteer or employee and ask the professionals you work with from there. The more they know about your aspirations as a future dentist, the more likely they are to take you on for shadowing or refer you to a colleague who will.
  • Research: It is highly recommended that you participate in research during your undergraduate career. Not sure where to start? Visit UNLV’s Office of Undergraduate Research for help! Research can be in many different areas so choose something that is meaningful (you will publish, present a poster, etc.) and that you are interested in!
  • Student Organizations/Clubs: Involvement in student clubs/organizations on campus. You can visit the UNLV Involvement Center for a complete list of student organizations on campus.
  • Leadership positions: It is important as a future dentist to demonstrate leadership. You should aim to have 2-3 leadership roles (lasting longer than 3 months) before you apply.

One of the most frequently asked questions is “how many hours do I have to do?” There is no “magic number” of hours for you to complete. Keep in mind the following for your experiences:

  • There should be a reason “why” you have chosen each experience; “check the box” mentality will NOT work.
  • They should be meaningful both on a personal level and to your professional journey. Keep in mind, you will have to write thoughtful, eloquent descriptions about your experiences so participating “just because” won’t help your application.
  • Commitment over time is important. Programs would rather see dedication over many months/years to an experience over your “experience-hopping.”
  • It is about the breadth and depth of the experience; think quality, not “quantity.”

Keep in mind the following for your experiences:

  • There should be a reason “why” you have chosen each experience; “check the box” mentality will NOT work.
  • They should be meaningful both on a personal level and to your professional journey. Keep in mind, you will have to write thoughtful, eloquent descriptions about your experiences so participating “just because” won’t help your application.
  • Commitment over time is important. Programs would rather see dedication over many months/years to an experience over your “experience-hopping”.

It is about the breadth and depth of the experience; think quality, not “quantity”.

Please visit our PPAC Resource Board for volunteer, clinical, shadowing, etc. experiences, as well as examples of where to find these experiences in the Vegas valley. Please keep this link bookmarked, as we are always updating!

Please note: UNLV currently does not offer committee letters. Students will need to secure individual letters of recommendation. We will keep you updated as to the status of new committee letters.

When applying to professional school, you will need 3-5 STRONG letters of recommendation from writers with whom you have long-term relationships and who can address multiple competencies, such as those listed on the AAMC website. Although the competencies listed are for “pre-med” students, you will find that a majority of them apply to other pre-professional tracks as well.

The most frequent question we get asked is, “who should write my letters of recommendation”? As advisors, we aren’t here to tell you who to ask; we are here to guide you through the process of securing your letters for your application. Generally speaking, the best recommendation letter writers are those professors, mentors and healthcare professionals that you have shadowed, worked with closely, can speak to your academic abilities or humanistic side, and will write you a STRONG letter. Choose someone who can speak in concrete terms about your passion for professional school and why you will excel as a healthcare professional. The key to finding these letter writers? Start forming your relationships EARLY in your pre-professional career. Far too often, students come to us at the point of application and are still unsure of whom to ask to write their letters. Asking a professor, healthcare professional, community service director, etc. “just to ask” will result in a less than stellar letter for your application and this can be detrimental in the admissions process. Remember: start forming relationships EARLY!

Make it as easy as possible for your letter writers. Schedule a meeting to address your goals. Provide your recommender with your resume, personal statement and competencies or strengths that you would like addressed in the letter. Express gratitude for their time and effort.

Respect your recommender and give him or her ample time to write your letters. Your request already imposes on your recommender’s time, and a last-minute request is an even greater imposition. Not only is it rude to ask for a letter close to a deadline, but you will also end up with a rushed letter that is far less thoughtful than is ideal. Don’t assume that it is anyone’s duty to write a letter for you, and realize that these letters take a lot of time out of your recommender’s already busy schedule.

Types of Letters

It is of utmost importance that you do your research into specific letter guidelines for the schools to which you are applying, especially in regards to whom the letters should be from. Schools will often require a science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) and/or non-science professor, healthcare professional, or “other”, but requirements can be different from program to program. Please pay attention to the requirements!

  • Faculty/Professor Letters

    Since many professors have hundreds of students in their classes in a given semester, it is your job to reach out to them first, build a relationship, and then ask for a letter. Letters from professors should not only address your academic capabilities but also your motivation for your chosen career. Since letters do address your academic capabilities, you should be seeking letters from professors in which you received a good grade in the class. Lastly, make sure you understand the necessary requirements regarding “science” professors. “Science” professors are often those from Biology, Chemistry, or Physics areas.
    • How to Get Strong Letters from Professors
      • Get to know your professors
      • Go to class and office hours
      • Volunteer for research or to TA
      • Take more than one class with the same professor
      • Maintain the relationship
      • Attend virtual office hours
      • Ask meaningful questions to show that you care about the course
    • How To Ask
      • Be respectful
      • Ask 2-3 months in advance
      • Request the letter via in-person meeting
      • Follow up with a scheduled meeting to review your goals & resume
      • Provide your personal statement, resume & AAMC Guidelines & Competencies

  • Medical/Healthcare Professionals

    Request your letter from a medical professional that you have developed a relationship with through multiple hours of clinical or shadowing. The letter should address your skills as a future healthcare professional.

  • Research Letters

    Letters from research professors provide another validation of your aptitude for life-long learning and research and could be especially important to programs with a heavy research mission. In projects led by a graduate assistant, you may find that most of your experience is with the Graduate assistant rather than the professor. In this situation, the graduate assistant with whom you have worked most closely may write you a letter and have the lead professor cosign.

  • Other types of Letters

    Often students will have other letter writers that know them well and can speak strongly to the strengths and attributes. This could be a volunteer supervisor, a liberal arts professor, or family physician, just to name a few. The guidelines are the same. Provide them with the information they will need to write a strong letter. Share your passion and goals.

Who Not to get Letters From

Yes, there are people you shouldn’t be asking for letters of recommendation. They include family members, “family friends”, patients, and, generally speaking, people who don’t know you well. Letters from family and family friends are considered bias and the admissions committees won’t give them any merit. Those from people who don’t know you well often result in “alive and breathing” letters, meaning they don’t tell the committee much of anything other than you are “alive and breathing”.

Also, many students make the mistake of getting letters from distant acquaintances who have powerful or influential positions. The strategy often backfires. Your family member’s employer may know the governor, but the governor doesn’t know you well enough to write a meaningful letter. This type of celebrity letter will make your application seem superficial.

Additional Tips

  • ADEA information on LOR’s
  • Can submit a maximum of 4 letters
  • AADSAS Information on LOR’s
  • Electronic submission of letters is preferred by all professional schools application services. Follow specific instructions in your application on what information to provide to your letter writers to formally ask for the LOR.
    • Never physically collect a letter from a letter writer yourself!
  • If you need to collect letters early, utilize services such as Interfolio. Be sure to note which of these third-party services your professional school application service integrates with for uploads.
  • When asking for a LOR, it is a good idea to give your letter writers:
    • copy of your transcripts
    • your resume/CV
    • copy of your personal statement
  • Give your letter writers the general courtesy of information about the letter writing process, including deadlines, how they will upload the letter, and by telling them when you have inputted their contact information so they can keep an eye on their email for instructions.

Your personal statement is the part of your application where you have an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are beyond your GPA, test scores, and experiences. It communicates what is important to you and explains in-depth your reasons and motivations for pursuing professional school. Additionally, a personal statement can help explain any gaps in education or experiences, as well as any weaknesses in an application. Follow these tips and tricks to help get you started.

  • Take some time to reflect and write some notes on your personal journey to professional school. What is your motivation for this career? What experiences have you had that have helped reinforce this motivation?
  • Write down a list of qualities you want to demonstrate to the admissions committee, and select your stories and experiences to show them. Explain HOW these experiences impacted you and your journey personally.
  • Use this as a time to explain any challenges you faced that may have resulted in receiving low grades, gaps in education, etc. Focus on how you overcame these obstacles and make it part of your story.
  • Be concise and simple. Stick to the character count, 4,500 characters, including spaces. Check your relevant CAS application guide for more information.
  • Edit, edit, edit! Seek multiple opinions from at least 4-5 different people and NEVER turn in a personal statement with grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes.

For more information on how to write a personal statement for professional school, please attend a Personal Statement workshop. Dates and times for all workshops can be found on the PPAC website.

It is important for you to understand the important competencies, attributes, and characteristics dental schools are looking for in their applicants. This is vital to the “holistic” admissions process. Research the competencies each school is seeking.

The DAT is administered year round. Taking the exam by spring will enable you to apply earlier. September is the last DAT accepted by many schools for the following Fall’s entering class.

  • From ADA: “ The DAT is a dental education admission test designed to provide dental education programs with a means to assess program applicants’ potential for success.”
  • There are several sections in the DAT:

DAT scale scores range from 1 to 30. A scale score of 19 - 20 typically signifies average performance on a national basis.

  •  Applications to dental school are submitted 12-15 months before you intend on enrolling (think: summer of the year prior to enrollment). However, the exact timing depends on when you will take the DAT, complete prerequisites, etc.
  • For a general overview from ADA, visit: Application Timeline
  • It is helpful to create a timeline for yourself when applying to medical school but your timeline should be flexible. Course scheduling, extra-curricular activities, deadline changes, etc. all contribute to the need of having flexibility in your timeline. Visit our office for help in creating your timeline!
  • Make sure you pay attention to specific deadlines for the schools to which you are applying!
  • What I learned from my Dental School Application Journey


  • US dental schools admit students once a year in the Fall.
  • Applications are submitted 12-15 months before the desired dental school enrollment date. However, the timing depends on when you will complete your prerequisites (and successfully take the DAT). All coursework must be posted to your transcript prior to starting dental school, and the timing is sensitive.
  • While applying early in the cycle has advantages, the best time for you to apply is when your application is the best it can be.
  • Dental school requirements vary from school to school. Research schools early for specific information on their requirements.
  • Before any submitting application, have people with an unbiased eye go over each entire application to catch any errors. Your PreProfessional advisor is happy to do this for you.

Dental School Application process includes 4 main components

  • Personal Information
  • Academic History
  • Supporting Information
  • Program Materials

The ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (ADEA AADSAS®) simplifies the process of applying to dental programs. You start by selecting the programs to which you wish to apply, then you submit one application that includes all necessary materials. Once received by ADEA AADSAS, your application and materials go through a verification process before being transmitted to all of your selected programs. ADEA list of Participating Schools.

Research! Visit each professional schools respective website; they have tons of tools for prospective students!

Generally, students will want to consider the following when deciding where to apply:

  • Mission statement and focus
  • Programs offered (DMD, dual degree, research)
  • Curriculum and teaching methods
  • Support and wellness structures in place for students
  • GPA/test score requirements
  • Specific or unique prerequisites
  • Location
  • Size and demographics
  • Cost to attend; scholarships

For a template to help with your research, please email the PPAC at:

Primary Applications are processed through a centralized application service and are sent to all schools you designate on the application. There are two centralized application services that process your primary applications for US dental schools. Texas residents applying to Texas dental schools, though, must apply through the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS).

These services are very similar, but not identical. And yes, if you want to apply to dental schools in Texas, you have to do both! If this is the case, allow enough time!

Applications open online in early May each year to allow applicants to start their applications and submission starts on, or around, June 4th. As mentioned, ensure you are paying attention to deadlines for submission for each school to which you are applying! Deadlines vary between October-March. Many schools require Supplemental Information to be sent concurrently with the application. Research each school to which you are applying to view their requirements. See ADEA for Supplemental Information.

Read all instruction manuals and directions carefully! When available before each application cycle, download the instruction manual on your computer to have access to at all times while filling out the application.

Be prepared months in advance for the cost of submitting applications for dental school. Fee assistance is available through each application processing service, but will only cover a limited number of programs.

Note: When prompted, please release your information back to UNLV PPAC. This helps us advise other pre-med students and gives us accurate historical data on where our students have applied, been accepted, and matriculated. Your personal information will be kept confidential at all times.

Once dental schools receive your verified primary application, they may send out “Secondary Applications.” Deadlines for completing secondary applications range from 5 business days to a month, so pay attention! These applications are created by each specific school so, therefore, are different lengths and ask different types of questions, depending on what the school is trying to ascertain from you. Often, they are essay style questions, so allow adequate time. Follow directions carefully, and be aware, there will be an additional cost to submit your secondary applications on top of your primary application fees.

Secondary applications are automatically sent from some schools and others will screen applicants for metrics, experiences, LOR’s before sending. Each school is different! If you decide at the point of receiving a secondary application that you are no longer interested in attending that school, that’s ok! You are not required to send back the secondary at that point.

Submit your secondary as soon as you are comfortable with your responses (ensuring you are still before deadline) so you can be reviewed and, hopefully, extended an invitation.

Getting an invitation to interview is a great sign! This means the admissions office has decided you are qualified and they want to get to know you better! This is your face-to-face opportunity to impress the admissions committee. Your job is to turn that invitation to interview into an invitation to attend. The best way to do that is to prepare.

Most dental schools hold “interview days” in which they bring in a group of applicants for a day or two. During those days, you may engage in any of the following: your actual interview, written essays, the Standardized Judgement Test (SJT), school tours, and/or “meet ‘n greets” with faculty and staff. Please remember, the entire day is the interview, not just those times when you are in a formal meeting. You never know who is watching so be on your “best behavior” all day!

There are several types of interview formats used by professional schools. The most common are the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), Traditional format, and Group Interview.

Multiple Mini Interview: The MMI is an interview format where you are given a scenario/question and a predetermined amount of time to answer. These questions are typically ethical scenarios such as: “You are coming into a room with a parent who does not wish to vaccinate her child. How will you handle the appointment?”

Traditional: These are the most common, where you are interviewed by 1-3 people at a time. You will be asked questions about your application, why you chose to apply to their school and why you decided to pursue dentistry.

Group Interviews: These activities include more than one applicant. They can either be to determine your ability to work with others by giving you group activities to solve a problem, or asking one question where everyone has to answer.

CASPer: This is video based, situational judgement test done on a computer. For information on the test, programs that utilize the test, dates, and registration, please visit: TakeAltus

The most common questions asked on interviews

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Why OUR school?
  3. Why did you want to pursue medical/PA/Dentist, etc?
  4. Discuss you clinical experiences.
  5. What will you do if you don’t get in this cycle?
  6. What is your biggest weakness?
  7. How do you deal with stress?
  8. If you couldn’t do medicine/dentistry/etc., what would you do?
  9. What is your greatest strength?
  10. Why should we accept you?


PPAC provides mock interview sessions for students applying during the current cycle. See above for more information on this year’s event!


  • Primary Application Services (AADSAS and TMDSAS) open in May. Begin to fill out primary applications as soon as possible. Read instruction manuals carefully.


  • Make final decisions on which dental schools to apply to and submit primary applications.
  • Order official transcripts from ALL colleges and universities that you have attended to be sent to the appropriate Application Services or Interfolio
  • Application Services verify primary applications, and notify applicants of verification or problems with verification
  • Dental schools begin sending secondary applications to applicants (if invited to complete a secondary application, begin and submit sooner rather than later).


  • Continue working on and submitting secondary applications.
  • Begin to check dental school application status websites for schools where applied.

September – April

  • Prepare for and attend interviews.
    • The PPAC offers mock interviews so you can practice. If you have an interview scheduled, call the office 702-895-2959 and ask to schedule a mock interview.
  • Continue to complete and submit secondary applications (check deadline dates).
  • Send dental schools application updates if acceptable.
  • Continue to check dental school application status website for each individual medical school.
  • Dental school admissions committees meet and decide status: accept/reject/waitlist. Applicants notified.
  • Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, in October.


  • Newly admitted applicants must notify Application Services and the dental school that they plan to matriculate of their decision by May 15th.
  • Admits with multiple acceptances must choose one school by May 15th and withdraw their application from other schools.

May – August

  • Applicants on waitlists are notified of an admission offer (typically, schools confirm their class by the end of June).

August – September

  • Orientation and school year begins. An applicant on a waitlist can no longer be offered a position at another school once orientation begins at a medical school.