Students dreaming about filling cavities, extracting molars, and fighting plaque should consider ‘cutting their teeth’ in an undergraduate pre-dental program.
It is important to note that pre-dental is not a major of study, but rather an advising track to help students prepare for dental school.
In their undergraduate years, pre-dental students can expect to enroll in courses focused heavily on mathematics and the sciences, including biology, organic chemistry, anatomy, and more.
Contrary to what many students might assume, it is rarely mandated that pre-dental students choose a science- or math-focused major.
Many dental schools actually appreciate students who have a well-rounded collegiate experience in the humanities and social studies, as well as the traditional sciences.
However, what a pre-dental student can expect is to begin working towards becoming a competitive applicant as soon as they arrive on campus. This means making an effort to join pre-dental clubs or societies, forge relationships with pre-professional school advisers, volunteer in the local community, and log hours shadowing at local dental practices.
Currently, there are 68 dental schools in the United States, and even more colleges and universities that offer pre-dental programs.
Here are 10 of the very best schools offering pre-dental tracks.
Auburn University (Auburn, AL)
Recently ranked as one of the top 100 best places to live in the country, Auburn provides an ideal setting for students to enjoy a collegiate experience.
While Auburn’s overall acceptance rate is 85%, interested students should know that admission to the university is highly competitive. The school candidly shares that there are more qualified applicants than there are placements available in the pre-dentistry program.
It is recommended that students meet with the College of Science and Mathematics (COSAM) Director of Pre-Health Programs in their first year at Auburn to learn how to develop a competitive background. It is also advised that students attend mandatory meetings regarding the dental school application process, and take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) at least one year prior to entering a professional school.
Students who perform at a high level may be invited to join the Alpha Epsilon Delta national honor society for students preparing for a dentistry career; this organization acts as a liaison between students and the pre-dentistry advisory team.
Auburn alumnus – Dr. Jim Phillips, Jr. (class of 1980) – has volunteered as the Auburn Athletics football team dentist for over 20 years.
Additionally, he teaches at the COSAM, serves on the Dean’s Leadership Council, participates in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame selection committee, and was recently elected president of the Alabama Dental Association (ALDA).
Auburn students can certainly expect to feel the community support to which Phillips alludes.
Mrs. Beverley Childress is the Pre-Health Professions Director and has 20+ years of experience in an advisory role at Auburn; she oversees the PPAC – Pre-Health Professions Advisory Committee – whose applicants are accepted to professional schools at a rate that is 30% above the national average.
While Auburn does not have a dental school on campus, most Auburn pre-dentistry students attend the University of Alabama School of Dentistry in Birmingham.
Eastern University (St. Davids, PA)
Students who seek to follow a pre-dental track, as well as attend a school with a tight-knit, faith-based community, should consider all that Eastern University has to offer.
Pre-dental advisor Dr. Maria Ficherea loves the “dynamic Christian environment,” and many students embark on dental mission trips to countries outside of the United States.
Eastern University recommends that pre-dental students participate in community service projects, get involved in research opportunities, shadow practicing dentists, maintain excellent grades, and take required standardized tests.
Eastern is close to three dental schools and their campus has a strong relationship with the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia, where many students volunteer during the school year.
Current biology student Kadeem attends class, plays on the lacrosse team, conducts and observes research with Eastern professors, manages first-year student study hall groups, and shadows at a local dental practice once a week.
Students at Eastern can apply for the Gateway to Dentistry summer internship based at Rutgers School of Medicine. This 8-day immersive experience grants students exposure to clinical techniques, dental specialties, and admissions counseling. This internship is open to sophomores, juniors, seniors, or recent graduates.
James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA)
One of the most competitive pre-dental programs on this list, JMU requires pre-dentistry students to undergo twice-annual performance reviews. They are expected to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher; otherwise, they may be dropped from the program.
The Pre-Dentistry Program (PDP) is considered a minor at JMU, and students typically earn a BS or BA in a major of their choice.
Students can join the Pre-Dental Society at JMU, which is committed to helping students prepare to become professional dentists. Membership in the society requires students to attend monthly meetings, local community service events, and other local professional opportunities.
The Pre-Dental Society often visits regional dental schools, like Howard University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel HIll. As of 2018, JMU reports that their students were accepted to nine dental schools in nine different states.
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (La Crosse, WI)
Students should add an “intended pre-professional track” when declaring their majors; the school recommends that students consult the ADEA coursework table to understand pre-dental course requirements.
Dr. Michael Abler collaborates with pre-dentistry students; he is an associate professor of biology students can join the Pre-Dentistry Club, whose purpose is to arm students with helpful resources that prepare them to be competitive dental school applications and leaders in the community.
Recent club leader Kaitlyn Michalek served as a student-athlete and fundraiser leader for the Vida Dental Mission Trip to Guatemala.
She traveled with 40 other La Crosse students to provide dental, medical, and vet services to Guatemalan citizens, free of charge. Her fundraiser to pay for the trip expenses collected over 1,000 pairs of shoes for those who need them.
Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)
Like Eastern University, Johns Hopkins links students to the Gateway to Dentistry pre-dental internship.
Additionally, the Dentistry Today program – offered through the nearby University of Maryland’s Baltimore College of Dental Surgery – provides interactive experiences for students on a pre-dental track.
Students at Johns Hopkins can expect to be supported with an abundance of resources. The university provides students with a list of current dental practices, along with addresses and phone numbers, where they can inquire about shadowing opportunities.
With over 40 members, the Pre-Dental Society is dedicated to helping Johns Hopkins students transition to the dental schools of their choice.
Students can also download a helpful spreadsheet – the Pre-Health Activities Tracker – which they can use to record their undergraduate experiences in pre-dental preparation.
Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI)
Unlike other schools on this list, Marquette offers an accelerated Pre-dental Scholars Program with conditional acceptance to their School of Dentistry; students can complete their bachelors and dental degrees in seven years (instead of the typical eight).
Marquette enrolls a maximum of ten students in the Pre-dental Scholars Program annually, making it highly competitive.
Students find out by the end of their junior year if they are accepted into the Marquette dental school, which offers over $11 million in financial aid to each class of the School of Dentistry.
Additionally, the school offers a five-week intensive program, called the Dental Summer Enrichment Program (DSEP), which prepares students to matriculate from pre-dental studies to the School of Dentistry.
Alumnus Chuck Kosowski, DDS, graduated from the Marquette University School of Dentistry in 2004 and now works at Marquette’s Advanced Care Clinic and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Dental Clinic, specializing in serving Milwaukee residents who are at an economic disadvantage.
Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR)
Oregon State is an ideal option for students who want to learn more about dentistry but aren’t yet ready to commit to a pre-dental track.
BHS 107 (Pre-Dental Orientation) is a one-credit Pass/Fail course that helps orient students to the dentistry field and dental school application process. Course participants also get access to guest speakers and field visits to dental offices and labs.
Students can join the Oregon State Pre-Dental Club to learn about opportunities to hear guest speakers, volunteer at local practices and community events, and attend pertinent dental school application meetings.
Located in Portland, the Oregon Health and Science University is the singular dental school in Oregon. They require students to have at least 50 hours of dental shadowing and 25 hours with a general practice dentist – students find that the Corvallis dental community is very welcome toward OSU students.
OSU shares that most of their students take out loans to pay for dental school and pay them back within a decade; students can also obtain military health professions scholarships through the U.S. Army, Navy, or Air Force, as well as the National Health Services Corps.
UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)
On an annual basis, UCLA’s post-baccalaureate program offers two underrepresented and disadvantaged students a 1-year immersive experience that provides them with mentorship, clinical experience, volunteer opportunities, and research activities.
The program is designed to help make them competitive applicants to the UCLA Dental School. According to the school, 75% of students who have participated in the program moved forward to attend dental school.
All UCLA pre-dental students can attend the ‘Basic Dental Principles’ lecture series, which introduces undergraduates to pertinent topics and exercises in the dental field. UCLA also offers an 80-hour, 6-month clinical volunteer program and a research volunteer program for undergraduates interested in joining the dentistry field.
The ASDA pre-dental outreach committee collaborates closely with the UCLA Pre-Dental Student Outreach Program (PDSOP) to provide undergraduate mentorship to pre-dental students. They offer lab tutorials, job shadowing opportunities, presentations, and Q&A forums.
The PDSOP meets regularly, helps inform students of what they need to be competitive applicants, and provides community outreach in the greater LA area.
University of Texas at Arlington (Arlington, TX)
UTA offers two unique programs for pre-dental students: first, the 6-week Texas A&M Collegiate Program for Dentistry, which provides students with opportunities to strengthen their skills prior to applying to dental schools.
The second is the Summer Health Professions Education Program, a 6-week program for first-year and sophomore students to learn more about careers in the health professions.
The Julia & Dale Martin Pre-Dental Scholarship is used for students enrolled in the UTA College of Science who intend to practice dentistry.
It is highly recommended that UTA students join a pre-health student organization on the UTA campus.
The Pre-Dental Society is an online-run club that seeks to educate students about the dental field and dental school application process; they host guest speakers, tours of dental schools, social mixers, job shadowing programs, community service opportunities, and scholarship info sessions regularly.
Pre-dental students will have two advisors: a main advisor (for their major) and a health professions adviser, who is dedicated to helping them become a competitive applicant. The UTA College of Science additionally allows students to sign up for a peer or alumni mentor.
There are four dental schools in Texas: Texas A&M College of Dentistry, UT Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry, and Texas Tech El Paso – The Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine.
With a recent acceptance rate of 88%, UTA is an ideal choice for students who desire access to a wide variety of resources within a university and many nearby dental school options to where they can enroll.
Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
MSU boasts that their pre-dental alumni have progressed to gain employment at dental schools, private practices, major healthcare employers, and epidemiology research labs.
Pre-dental students work closely with Michigan State Pre-Health advisers, who help connect students to essential resources.
The Michigan State Pre-Dental Club informs students of the dental school application process and aims to connect them with fellow students and local dental practitioners. They maintain an impressive club enrollment of almost 100 members per year!
Those hoping to matriculate to dental school in Michigan have two in-state options: the University of Detroit Mercy and the University of Michigan (located in Ann Arbor). Interested students can access the pre-dental curriculum guide for Michigan dental schools here.