Along with your DAT scores, completing the predental course requirements and earning very good grades are the most important requirements for medical school. Dental schools judge your general academic ability by the undergraduate courses you select and the grades you earn. Dental schools look at three basic course / grade related items:
- Your overall GPA. The average overall undergraduate GPA of first year dental students is approximately 3.5. This means you need to be more than an above average student, you need to excel in the classroom. Don’t be too concerned about a mediocre grade now and then. But clearly, mediocre grades cannot dominate your transcript.
- Your science and math GPA, particularly in the required predental courses. Again, the average overall undergraduate science and math GPA of first year dental students is approximately 3.5. This means you must excel in the sciences and have a strong aptitude for biology, chemistry, physics and math. Again, don’t be too concerned about a mediocre science grade now and then. But clearly, mediocre science grades cannot dominate your transcript.
- Your course selection. Dental schools like to see that you have taken challenging undergraduate courses and relatively respectable course loads. While you do not need an overly burdensome first year course schedule, and you can afford to take a not-so challenging course load now and then, your overall undergraduate transcript, when reviewed in its entirety, should show a student who does not shy away from academic challenges. It should show an individual who enthusiastically embraces academic challenges while at the same time excelling in the classroom. Show that you can handle the vast amount of very challenging material covered in dental school.
The UMW Predental Program requires its students to take the courses listed below. This list of courses is driven by the prerequisite courses of most dental schools. You should be able to successfully incorporate these courses into your overall UMW curriculum and within the framework of any UMW major program. If you are targeting specific dental schools, you should visit their websites for more information.
- Biology 121 (Biol Concepts) and Biol 132 (Organism Function and Diversity) – or – Biology 125 & 126 (Phage Hunters I, II).
- Chemistry 111 & 112 (General Chemistry I, II).
- Chemistry 211 & 212 (Organic Chemistry I, II).
- Physics 101 & 102 (Gen. Physics I, II) – or- Physics 105 & 106 (University Physics I, II).
- Chemistry 317 (Biochem I)
- Biochem 318 (Biochem II) is NOT required nor recommended.
- Biochem lab (319 & 320) are NOT required nor recommended.
- English composition / writing: 1 – 2 courses (3 – 6 credits), depending on the dental school. Check with whatever dental schools interest you for their policy.
- ENGL 202, 302 and 306 are suggested English composition courses. Some professional schools will accept writing intensive courses as fulfilling the English composition requirement, with prior approval from the professional school.
- Mathematics or Statistics: one course (3 credits), depending on the dental school. Many dental schools do not require math. Check with whatever dental schools interest you for their policy.
- VCU requires one Math course, such as introductory statistics (STAT 180 or BIOL 260). Most other math courses will satisfy this requirement. Math 111 (Precalculus), and Math 121 (Calculus I) are suggested. Note: Calculus is NOT a requirement for dental school.
These courses may not be taken Pass/Fail, Credit/No Credit, or through a long-distance learning program.
Highly Recommended Courses
In addition to the 8 credits of general biology listed above, other biology courses are highly recommended. The following is a list of recommended courses.
- Cellular Biology (Biol 340)
- General Genetics (Biol 341)
- Microbiology (Biol 371)
- Histology (Biol 331)
- Anatomy of the Chordates (Biol 301) – or – Human Anatomy (Biol 384)*
- Human Physiology (Biol 385)*
- Developmental Biology (Biol 302)
- Immunology (Biol 391)
Other Highly Recommended Courses
- Psychology and Behavioral Science Courses
- General Psychology (PSYC 100) is a start and a prerequisite for other psychology courses.
The Importance of Manual Dexterity
Dental school is a demanding environment that involves seamlessly blending science and art while developing, mastering and demonstrating prowess in a variety of areas—including manual dexterity.
Manual dexterity is the ability to use your hands in a skillful, coordinated way to grasp and manipulate objects and demonstrate small, precise movements.
It is important to fine tune your manual dexterity skills before applying to dental school. The Dental Admission Test (DAT) contains a section that specifically tests this skill, and during on-campus interviews, most dental school admissions staff will ask you to discuss how you’ve developed your manual dexterity skills.
- Think about taking courses or engaging in activities that develop your manual dexterity, such as:
- Ceramics (ARTS 223)
- Wheel Throwing (ARTS 227)
- Sculpture I (ARTS 231)
- Soap carving
AP Credits and Community College Credits
Most dental schools prefer students to complete all required courses at a four-year
undergraduate institution. Dental schools will accept Community College credits in fulfillment of
these courses. Dental schools generally accept AP credit to meet premedical course requirements,
if documented on an official transcript. Lab credit, however, may still be required. If you
have questions regarding the acceptance of Community College or AP credits by a specific dental school, you should check the school’s web site.