Pre-Dental Exploration & Preparation Guide

General Tips:

  • Visit the Pre-Health portal for a comprehensive look at the pre-health resources here at UW
  • Learn more about the various careers in healthcare by visiting  
  • Subscribe to the Health Career Interest page to stay up-to-date with relevant news on health-related jobs/internships; it also includes several resources regarding preparing and applying to graduate health programs.
  • Engage in this self-paced online course to learn about the significant steps in the application process for health professional programs.
  • Schedule an appointment with your academic advisor* (UAA/Departmental/OMA&D) to discuss course planning.
  • Schedule an appointment with a career coach* to discuss your career interests and goals, plus how to reach them.

*Disclaimer: The University of Washington does not have dedicated pre-health advisors, so staff members you meet with will likely not have deep or special insight but rather more general knowledge of requirements and recommendations.

Choose from one of the following for more information:

Dental schools like to see applicants with shadowing experience, as it shows that the student has a solid grasp of what is involved in the practice of dentistry. Shadowing involves going to a dentist’s office to observe procedures, learn terminology and techniques, observe different practice environments and ask the dental professional questions about their journey to practicing dentistry.  We encourage students to document their shadowing experiences so they can reflect on them later in the application process.  For resources to help you find shadowing and volunteering opportunities in Seattle-area dental clinics, check out our Guide to Building Clinical and Volunteer Experience and scroll down to the Dental section.  

Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways. Students are encouraged to reflect on what leadership looks like in dentistry and how their involvement in clubs, volunteering, employment, research, and athletics may help them demonstrate their capacity to invest their time and talents in their communities and build up those around them.  Dentistry is a service-focused profession and dental school admissions officers look for students who demonstrate their promise to serve the community throughout their lifetimes. Many dental schools include community service in their mission statements and often have partnerships within their communities to provide care to underserved populations in school clinics.  The Community Engagement & Leadership Education (CELE) Center on campus is a great resource for getting involved in leadership and service learning. 

In order to perform dental procedures, a dentist must be able to work with precision on an extremely small scale. Additionally, superior eye-hand coordination is critical to ensuring the safety of patients and the integrity of the profession. The Dental Admission Test (DAT) contains a section that specifically tests manual dexterity skill, and during admissions interviews, most dental schools will ask you to discuss how you’ve developed your manual dexterity skills.   Activities like drawing and other handmade artistry, sewing and knitting, fly-tying, or woodworking help train the hands to be nimble.  Additionally, playing a musical instrument such as the piano or violin is a great way to develop and maintain manual dexterity. 

You can choose any undergraduate major prior to applying to dental school.  Every dental school sets its own prerequisites, but a strong foundation in sciences will always be required. We encourage students to review the requirements of individual schools to ensure you meet the prerequisites for each of your target schools.  

The following are common course requirements for dentistry schools, as published by the American Dental Education Association:

Most require:

  • General Biology w/ lab (1 year)
  • General Chemistry w/ lab (1 year)
  • Organic Chemistry w/ lab (1 year)
  • General Physics w/ lab (1 year)

Some require (and many recommend):

  • Biochemistry
  • Behavioral/Social Science
  • Calculus/Statistics 
  • English Composition

All U.S. dental schools require applicants to pass the Dental Admissions Test, or DAT.  It is recommended that students aim to take the DAT after they have completed their prerequisites in Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry, typically after their third year of undergrad.  The American Dental Education Association provides resources to help you study for the DAT.