5 things I wish I knew before I applied to dental school

dental admissions strategy

The dental school application process can be overwhelming (but it's worth it, I promise!). Here are some key things I wish I had known when I was applying to school:

1. Don't compare yourself to others

When I was preparing for the DAT and applying for dental school, I joined a bunch of Facebook groups and religiously checked dental threads to learn about different school’s stats, top study sources, and interview schedules. While all of this was exciting and provided helpful insight, I found myself questioning whether I was good enough to be a competitive applicant. In my first year of dental school, I was given a valuable piece of advice: "95% of the stress you feel in school is due to others." Therefore, it's important to focus on your own journey, rather than comparing yourself to others. You can always be there to support and congratulate others in your dental community, but I think maintaining a positive mindset and staying true to yourself will help you succeed and reduce unnecessary stress. Take the time to reflect on your achievements and focus on your own path. Remember that there is no "perfect" dental school candidate, and everyone's journey is unique. Stay true to yourself and trust that you are capable of achieving your goals.

2. Stay true to your passions

Make time for things you are passionate about outside of dentistry. This could be your extracurriculars or activities that make you happy. When it comes to extracurriculars, I think it is more important to hone in on ones you are actually are passionate about and find leadership within those targeted activities rather than spreading yourself thin across a bunch of extracurriculars that you think would “look good.” The activities you are truly passionate about give the admissions committee a better sense of who you are as a person. 

3. Don’t Stress the interview

Although interviews may seem stressful, remember you are interviewing each school as much as much as they are interviewing you. This is an opportunity to not only showcase yourself, but also determine whether the school aligns with your personal and academic goals. Some general tips for your interview day include:

  • re-reading your application (questions about your app will come up, so it is important to know your app like the back of your hand)
  • asking your interviewer thoughtful questions (this helps demonstrate your interest in their school)
  • articulating why you think you would be a good fit at this particular school
  • having a good, personal answer for “why dentistry”

4. Wrap your head around the cost

Yes, dental school is expensive. Many dental students find themselves worrying about the high cost of attending their dream school. Although student debt can be overwhelming, it's important to remember that investing in yourself and your future can have significant benefits. If attending a more expensive school can help you achieve your academic and professional goals within dentistry, then I think it is definitely worth considering. In addition, many schools offer scholarships and loan programs to help students meet their financial needs. At the end of the day, you should be choosing a school that is the best option for you. 

5. Find a balance

Dental school may include some of the most challenging yet fulfilling years of your life so it is important to find balance. Organization and consistency are key. Find time for yourself, do things that you truly enjoy, and take breaks. Dental school doesn’t always have to be stressful it can be fun! Lastly, something I found helpful in my transition to dental school was establishing a support network early on. Whether that be with family, friends, or mentors, create a community to lean on.         

Brynn is currently a dental student at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. Previously, she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor's degree in Science majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Tulane University.


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT college admissions expository writing strategy English MD/PhD admissions writing LSAT physics GMAT GRE chemistry biology math graduate admissions academic advice interview prep law school admissions ACT language learning test anxiety premed career advice MBA admissions personal statements homework help AP exams creative writing MD test prep study schedules computer science Common Application mathematics summer activities history secondary applications philosophy organic chemistry economics research supplements grammar 1L PSAT admissions coaching dental admissions law psychology statistics & probability legal studies ESL CARS PhD admissions SSAT covid-19 logic games reading comprehension calculus engineering USMLE mentorship Spanish parents Latin biochemistry case coaching verbal reasoning AMCAS DAT English literature STEM admissions advice excel medical school political science skills French Linguistics MBA coursework Tutoring Approaches academic integrity astrophysics chinese dental school gap year genetics letters of recommendation mechanical engineering units Anki DO Social Advocacy algebra art history artificial intelligence business careers cell biology classics data science diversity statement geometry kinematics linear algebra mental health presentations quantitative reasoning study abroad tech industry technical interviews time management work and activities 2L AAMC DMD IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs Sentence Correction adjusting to college algorithms amino acids analysis essay athletics business skills cold emails fellowships finance first generation student functions graphing information sessions international students internships logic networking poetry proofs resume revising science social sciences software engineering trigonometry writer's block 3L Academic Interest EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian JD/MBA admissions Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python Shakespeare Step 2 TMDSAS Taylor Series Truss Analysis Zoom acids and bases active learning architecture argumentative writing art art and design schools art portfolios bacteriology bibliographies biomedicine brain teaser burnout campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets central limit theorem centrifugal force chem/phys chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum dementia demonstrated interest dimensional analysis distance learning econometrics electric engineering electricity and magnetism escape velocity evolution executive function extracurriculars freewriting genomics harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law immunology induction infinite institutional actions integrated reasoning intermolecular forces intern investing investment banking lab reports letter of continued interest linear maps mandarin chinese matrices mba medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis mnemonics