Striking a Balance: How Many Dental Schools Should You Apply To?

Striking a Balance: How Many Dental Schools Should You Apply To?

Deciding how many dental schools to apply to can be a daunting task. You’re probably wondering, “What’s the magic number?” Well, there isn’t one. It’s all about striking the right balance.

You don’t want to limit your options by applying to too few schools. But applying to too many can be overwhelming and expensive. So, how do you find that sweet spot?

Stay tuned as we delve into this topic. We’ll provide you with some insights and factors to consider, helping you make an informed decision. Remember, it’s not just about getting in, it’s about finding the right fit for your career goals.

Key Takeaways

  • There is no definitive number of dental schools to apply to; the decision should be based on a balance between options, realistic assessments, and financial considerations.
  • Factors to consider when researching potential dental schools include, but aren’t limited to, accreditation, tuition fees, course offerings, location, and clinical experience.
  • Personal preferences, such as cost, location, and program prestige, play a significant role in determining the right dental school for an individual.
  • As part of the application strategy, applicants should also evaluate their competitiveness by comparing their GPA, Dental Admission Test (DAT) scores, and extracurricular activities to those of previously admitted students.
  • Financial considerations are paramount, including application fees, potential travel expenses for interviews, tuition fees, and cost of living in the area of the potential school.
  • Crafting a strategic application plan involves a clear understanding of personal priorities, realistic evaluations, and careful financial planning.
  • The suggested number of schools to apply to is six to eight, applying to more than ten should be carefully considered due to time, effort, and cost implications.

Applying to dental schools requires strategic planning to optimize chances of acceptance while managing the application workload. The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) guides prospective students through the application process, offering advice on selecting schools that match their goals and qualifications. Student Doctor Network features discussions and advice from current dental students on how to choose the right number of schools to apply to, including considerations of geography, program focus, and competitiveness.

Researching Dental Schools

Researching Dental Schools

Once you’ve identified your career goals and decided to apply to dental school, your research begins. The process will involve navigating various resources to find what suits your ambitions and circumstances best.

You have to go beyond rankings. Remember, high-ranking schools aren’t always the best fit for everyone. Your ideal school depends on your personal needs and career objectives. So, what do you need to research?

Criteria to Consider

Accreditation: First and foremost, ensure the schools you’re considering are accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Accreditation guarantees that schools meet the set standards of education, which is crucial for your professional future.

Tuition Fees: Understandably, you’re on the lookout for affordable education. However, don’t let cost be the sole determinant. Often, the value of the education and opportunities offered might outweigh the initial cost of tuition.

Courses and Specializations: Does the school offer the specialization you’re interested in? A detailed overview of the course curriculum would help you ascertain this.

Location: Where is the school based? Are you willing to relocate? Your preferences in terms of climate, city size, and proximity to family might also come into play.

Clinical Experience: If practical skills matter more to you than academic knowledge, schools with early clinical exposure would be a better choice.

These factors should lay the foundation for your research. But don’t forget to consider testimonials and reviews from past students. Their experiences can offer a glimpse into what it’s like to study at a particular school.

Your research should be thorough, leaving no stone unturned. This is a significant step towards achieving your career goals in dentistry. Just remember, the best dental school for you may not be the best one for everyone. Keep your personal goals at the forefront while you weigh your options.

Understanding Your Personal Preferences

Understanding Your Personal Preferences

While embarking on your quest to find the perfect dental school, it’s paramount to understand that the “perfect school” can mean different things to different people. Your personal preferences play a significant role in determining the right fit for you.

Identifying Your Preferences
To start off, ask yourself the hard questions. What’s most important to you in a dental school? Is it the tuition fees, school location or the range of courses available? Perhaps it’s the accreditation or the reputation of the professors? After identifying these preferences, make a list. This list will serve as your guiding tool in the research process.

Prioritizing Your Preferences
Next step: prioritization. Some factors might weigh more heavily on your decision than others. If you’re concerned about debt, then tuition fees likely hold a high place on your list. Perhaps you can’t imagine moving across the country and uprooting your life, in which case location holds supreme. As you’d expect, different aspects hold varying degrees of significance and thus require thoughtful reflection.

Staying Flexible
It’s vital, however, to be flexible. While you might have a clear cut preference list, your ideal school may not check all the boxes.

Do not limit yourself to stringent criteria. There may be times when a school’s reputation for top-notch clinical experience might outweigh it’s somewhat higher tuition. Find a balance that aligns with both your career aspirations and personal goals.

As you progress through the application and decision-making process – remember – the dental school journey is not a one-size-fits-all. At each step, in every decision, your personal preferences play a critical role. Therefore, understanding these preferences is the first step in finding the best fit for your career path.

Evaluating Your Competitiveness

After you’ve identified your preferred schools based on your priorities, it’s time to assess your competitiveness. Understanding where you stand in relation to other applicants is key in shaping your application strategy.

So, what makes you stand out from the rest? Look at your academic achievements first. Dental schools often take into account your GPA and your Dental Admission Test (DAT) scores. How do they stack up against the average scores of the previously admitted students at the schools you’re eyeing? The data can give you an idea of your chances of acceptance.

Markdown Table:

CriteriaYour ScoreAverage Score of Admitted Students

Next, your extracurricular activities play an important role. These can include dental or medical-related volunteering or work experience, leadership positions in clubs and organizations, or even noteworthy hobbies and interests. Record these into a table, marking the quantity, quality, and relevance of each activity.

Markdown Table:


For example, a leadership role in a health-related club would have high relevance, while a hobby like playing the piano might be scored lower for relevance but could still contribute to the school’s appreciation of your unique skills and broaden your overall appeal as a candidate.

Take time to reflect upon these factors, as they’ll give you valuable insights into your competitiveness. By comparing your scores and experiences against the averages, you’ll get a clearer picture of where your application strengths lie, and where you might need to focus your efforts.

In the end, understanding how favorable your credentials are can influence the number of schools you apply to. The more competitive you are, the fewer schools you might need to apply to. But remember, it’s not just about quantity, but also about fitting well with your chosen schools.

And while it can be helpful to know where you stand in relation to other applicants, keep in mind that every dental school applicant is unique. Your path and experiences are yours alone, and they add a unique value to your application.

Financial Considerations

While assessing your academic credentials and extracurricular strengths lays an essential foundation, it’s equally crucial to consider your financial standing when deciding the number of dental schools to apply to.

Application fees—don’t underestimate them. The average cost of a dental school application ranges from $50 to $100. AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program can provide an economic relief if you qualify, allowing you to apply to up to 20 schools at a reduced rate.

Application FeeAverage Cost
Without assistance$50 – $100
With AAMC’s assistanceLowered rate

Also, consider travel expenses for interviews once you’ve made the shortlist. It’s not uncommon to jet across the country for multiple interviews—and those costs add up. Taking a bird’s-eye view of these potential expenditures can guide your decisions about how many—and which—schools to apply to.

But it’s not just about getting in; it’s about staying in too. Scrutinize the cost of attendance for each school on your list. This cumulative cost involves tuition, fees, and living expenses. The average annual tuition for dental school can range anywhere from $25,000 to $72,000 depending on whether the school is public or private. Weigh these options and align them with your long-term financial plans before you apply.

Average Dental School TuitionPublicPrivate
Per Year$25,000$72,000

Lastly, consider the location. The cost of living in an area can dramatically affect the total cost of your dental school experience. Schools in urban areas like New York City or San Francisco may have higher living costs than rural locations. Research is key—understand the average living costs in potential school locations and how it aligns with your budget and lifestyle preferences.

Remember, your financial considerations aren’t standalone. They should mesh seamlessly with your academic and extracurricular evaluations to form a comprehensive, grounded strategy for your dental school applications.

Making a Strategic Application Plan

Making a Strategic Application Plan

Let’s shift our focus to creating a strategic application plan that incorporates both financial and academic considerations. Crafting an effective, tailored plan requires attention to detail and a clear understanding of your priorities.

Firstly, consider what’s more important for you: location, cost, or the prestige of the dental schools. In case prestige tops your list, you might set your sights on high-ranking dental schools, even if they come with steeper costs. Consequently, you’ll want to have a larger application pool to increase your chances of landing a spot.

On the other hand, if you’re more concerned about cost and location, applying to a few select schools may be more beneficial. Choice dental schools close to home or in areas with a lower cost of living can help curtail both tuition fees and living expenses. As an added benefit, you’ll save on travel costs for potential interviews.

Understandably, the decision to attend a certain dental school isn’t solely about tuition costs and geography. You wouldn’t want to lose out on valuable opportunities, as lower tuition might not always equate to a quality education and enriching experience. Similarly, proximity to your current location shouldn’t overshadow the need for comfortable housing and favorable living conditions.

In some circumstances, looking at the bigger picture shifts the focus from the immediate financial setback to the potential long-term returns. A promising dental school might have higher tuition fees but offer valuable networking opportunities, advanced training, and a higher rate of successful placements.

So how many schools should you apply to then? It’s no hard-and-fast rule as it all boils down to your personal preference and specific circumstances. Your strategic application plan should be flexible, dynamic, and tailored to your needs. However, a healthy range, as suggested by many experts, is somewhere between six and eight schools. Planning to apply to more than 10 schools should be thought through very carefully, considering factors like time, effort, and application costs.

Remember, your strategic plan should ultimately align with your professional aspirations. Keep tweaking and refining it as you navigate the application process, armed with the right information and clear-headed judgement.


You’ve now got the knowledge to create a strategic plan for your dental school applications. Remember, the key is to balance your financial and academic considerations. Prioritizing factors like location, cost, and prestige can help guide your decisions. While it’s tempting to apply to a large number of prestigious schools, it’s also important to consider the time, effort, and costs involved. Aiming for six to eight schools is a practical range for most, but remember, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. The ultimate goal is to find a school that aligns with your professional goals and offers value beyond just tuition and geography. So, stay flexible, adjust your plan as needed, and you’ll be on your way to finding the perfect dental school for you.

Q1: Why is strategic planning important for dental school applications?

Strategic planning for dental school applications is essential to balance financial and academic considerations. It helps prioritize crucial factors like location, cost, prestige, and provides direction during the application process.

Q2: How should a student choose which dental schools to apply to?

Students should base their decision on the location, cost, prestige, and overall value of the dental schools. Look beyond just tuition and geography, considering opportunities, networking, and long-term benefits of the programs.

Q3: How many dental schools should one apply to?

A flexible approach is recommended, with most applicants typically applying to six to eight schools. It’s cautioned against applying to more than 10 schools due to the required time, effort, and associated costs.

Q4: How should the application strategy align with one’s professional goals?

The strategic plan for application should align with one’s professional aspirations. It should consider the value of each dental school beyond tuition and location, like opportunities for professional development and career advancement.

Q5: Should the strategic plan remain static during the application process?

No, the strategic plan should be continuously adjusted throughout the application process. This flexible approach allows adjustments based on any changes in one’s circumstances or new information available about the dental schools.