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Preparation for dental school requires, first and foremost, that prerequisite courses be completed and applicants take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). After meeting these basic requirements, students with diverse backgrounds and records apply to dental school and are accepted.

Although there is no "formula" or direct path that leads to acceptance, the most competitive applicants are well prepared in several areas.


You can major in any undergraduate degree area provided that you include the required pre-dental prerequisite classes in your course of study. In the past, successful applicants have majored in many non-science areas, as well as the more common majors (e.g., physiology, biochemistry, biological sciences).

You should major in what interests you. Most students, however, major in science because that ensures overlap between courses required for the major and those required for dental school. It makes course planning easier but is not necessarily the best choice for all students.

Note: Transfer students from community colleges should take a solid core of science courses at UC Merced, regardless of major.

Course Requirements

Requirements vary by school, but the following courses are required. Please see individual catalogs or The ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools for more specific information.


One year of inorganic chemistry with lab CHEM 2 – General Chemistry I (includes lab) and
CHEM 10 – General Chemistry II (includes lab)
One year of organic chemistry with lab CHEM 8/8L – Principles of Organic Chemistry and
CHEM 100 – Organic Synthesis and Mechanism with
CHEM 100L – Organic Chemistry lab
One year of physics with lab PHYS 8/8L –Introductory Physics I for Physical Sciences (includes lab) and
PHYS 9/9L – Introductory Physics II for Physical Sciences (includes lab) II or
PHYS 18/18L – Introductory Physics I for Biological Sciences and
PHYS 19/19L – Introductory Physics II for Biological Sciences
One year of biology with lab

Effective Fall 2023:
BIO 11/11L - Introduction to Molecular Biology (with lab) and
BIO 12/12L - Introduction to Introduction to Organismal Biology (with lab)

Prior to Fall 2023:
BIO 1/L –  Contemporary Biology (must take lab) and
BIO 2/L – Introduction to Molecular Biology (must take lab)

Additional required or recommended courses in biology BIO 120/120L – General Microbiology
BIO 140 – Genetics
BIO 141 – Evolution
BIO 161 – Human Physiology (includes lab)
BIO 164 – Human Anatomy(includes lab)^
One year of English composition WRI 10 – College Reading and Composition and
WRI 100 – Advanced Writing* or
WRI 116 – Science Writing in Natural Sciences
One semester of psychology PSY 1 – Introduction to Psychology
One semester of biochemistry BIO 101 or CHEM 111 – Biochemistry I
Additional courses in humanities and social sciences Courses from anthropology, art, cognitive science, foreign language, literature, music, psychology and sociology will strengthen your application and are required by some schools.


All required courses must be taken for a grade, not on a pass/not pass basis. If courses are repeated, both grades go into your AADSAS GPA; grades below C (or C-) are not acceptable.

^Course currently unavailable at UC Merced. May be taken at community college. Check with intended schools for more information.

*Please note that WRI 100 is required by UCSF. WRI 116 is not acceptable.

GPA Calculator

Professional and graduate schools, and the application services they use, expect you to report all attempted classes as part of your overall GPA calculation. Please refer to the "course work" sections of the instruction manuals -- available below -- for how to accurately compute your Math-Science or Science GPA and overall GPA based on your professional goals.

AADSAS for applicants to Dental Schools:

  • BCP GPAall undergraduate, graduate and cumulative courses identified on transcripts as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics courses, including both grades from repeated courses.
  • Science GPAall undergraduate, graduate and cumulative courses identified on the transcript as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math and Other Science.
  • Non-Science GPAall undergraduate, graduate courses, including both grades from repeated courses.
  • Undergraduate GPAall undergraduate courses, including both grades from repeated courses.

Dental Admissions Test (DAT)

The Dental Admission Test is a lengthy, comprehensive examination administered on the computer throughout the United States and its territories. The DAT consists of test sections in biology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, reading comprehension, perceptual ability and quantitative ability.

In addition to scoring each section, you are given an overall science score and an academic average. The actual test time is 4 hours, 15 minutes.

As a general guideline, you should not take the DAT until you have completed the general science prerequisites (except physics, as it does not appear on the DAT); you might also want to complete courses in genetics (BIO 140), physiology (BIO 161) and biochemistry (BIO 101) before taking the DAT.

Candidates can schedule the computerized DAT on almost any date throughout the year but must wait 90 days to retake the exam.

There are no application deadlines for the DAT but some popular dates fill up early, so plan ahead.

Ideally, you should take the DAT before you apply because your application won't be complete until dental schools have your scores.

Early applications are important because of rolling admissions. Check with individual schools for information on their absolute deadlines for taking the DAT.

Extracurricular Activities

It is very important for a competitive applicant to have extracurricular activities. Fortunately, there is a wide range of possibilities available to each applicant.

Some students must support themselves and work becomes their primary (but not only) extracurricular activity. But it is very important that you have some dental experience, whether through an observational internship or actual work for a dentist because dental schools want to be certain you have knowledge of the field.

Most UC Merced students have research experience in addition to the clinical dental experience. Clinical and research experiences that you initiate or develop yourself are particularly rewarding and are viewed very positively by admissions committees.

Additionally, community and campus service, leadership experience, participation in organized sports or arts and well-developed personal interests can be very important in the admission process.

Application Process

Virtually all dental schools belong to a centralized application service, the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), which allows you to apply to them through one initial application. Applications usually become available in mid-May of each application cycle and can be accessed and submitted electronically through the official AADSAS website.

Applications are submitted approximately one year before enrolling in dental school, and you should make an appointment with the pre-health advisor to go over your timeline and the application process.

"Secondaries" are requests by AADSAS schools for additional information and school application fees. Some schools require that you send supplemental materials near the same time you submit your AADSAS application; other schools do not want you to send supplemental materials until you are invited to do so (selective secondaries).

You will find complete instructions in the AADSAS application materials.

Useful Resources