Choosing a dental school is the first step you must take on your journey to become a dentist or oral surgeon. Since you will spend upwards of four years at your dental school, you'll want to be sure that you've chosen the right one. Like any university, the right location and student culture can make the difference between a pleasant educational experience and downright torture. There are many factors to take into account when choosing a dental school, and there are many dental schools all over the world to choose from. The top three dental schools in the United States are the University of Michigan, Harvard, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ask these questions when choosing a dental school to help you make the right decision.
Many students may want to specialize in oral surgery, orthodontics, or endodontics. Some students may want to specialize in cosmetic dental surgery. If you are interested or may become interested in a specialty program, you should check to see if your dental school offers one in that field before you enroll, as transferring may be tricky or expensive later on.
How much is tuition at this dental school?
Universities are expensive. The rising tuition rates in the United States are a hotly debated topic, and the bad news is the costs of college aren't going down anytime soon. If you're attending a private university like Harvard, one of the most expensive colleges in the world, you can expect to pay a pretty penny for a four year degree, and you will need more than four years to become an official dentist. Public state colleges like University of Michigan are likely to be much cheaper.
What is the student culture like?
Depending on your personality, you might want to research what the culture is like at your dental school. Some outgoing people may want to go for a school with many extracurricular activities and social events, while the quieter students may want to make sure that study and academics are more closely valued on campus.
What is the student-to-faculty ratio?
When learning something as tricky and important as dentistry, you may want to be sure that you won't just be a nameless face in a class of three hundred students to your professors. It will be beneficial to you that your professors are easily accessible in the case you have a question or urgent matter to discuss.
In what setting will I start to see patients?
Most dental schools have public dental clinics. These clinics often cater to low-income or under-insured patients who can't get in to see an established dentist. Each school is different on when they introduce dental students to patients, so you can research how to become eligible to work on patients and get that absolutely crucial hands-on experience.
Is financial aid available?
Since you're going to be in school for a long time, paying for college will probably be a concern. Make sure that there are financing options available at your particular college if you need to rely on it to pay for school.
Is my dental school accredited with the ADA?
The American Dental Association is the largest association for dentists. They are the experts in current dental requirements and they support over 150,000 dentists all over the country. If your school is accredited with the ADA, you can be sure that you're receiving a relevant, quality education.
Are there scholarships available for this dental school?
Many dental schools offer scholarships through the ADA. The United States has a shortage of dentists, especially those willing to accept low-income patients, so the ADA offers scholarships to encourage dental school enrollment. If you're interested in a scholarship, contact your dental school's financial aid department or the ADA directly.