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Today, there are 68 accredited dental schools in the U.S. How do you even begin choosing which is right for you? Here’s a breakdown of things to look for in a dental program.
For four years—at least—you’ll be making your home where your dental school is located. It’s important that you’ll be happy there. Is it close to your family? Close to social activities? Location will also affect your clinical training, as it determines your patient pool. If you’re in an urban environment, you’ll see lower-income patients from the surrounding city. In a suburban setting, are there enough patients? Is there sufficient need among the population for dental services?
Dental classes can be as small as 40+ students per class and as large as 200+ per class. Chances are, you’ll get more personalized attention at a smaller school, and even get to know your classmates better. A large school, however, can offer more diverse social and networking opportunities. Whichever size you choose, the deciding factor should be the faculty-to-student ratio. That will determine your ability to interact with your faculty—and that’s key to learning your craft exceptionally well.
The first two years, you’ll be studying the biological sciences, the last two, you’ll delve into clinical coursework. The Voice of Dental Education offers these questions to consider:
Financially speaking, public schools tend to be significantly less expensive than private schools. Here’s a money saving tip: even if you may be paying out-of-state tuition your first year, some states allow you to declare residency after your first year and qualify for in-state tuition for the next three years. Some public schools also offer regional tuition to students from neighboring states. Better yet, you may qualify for a scholarship.
The above pointers provide a good foundation for selecting a dental school. Also do your homework on any school you’re considering. Check out the school’s website, make a visit in person and speak to students. Also consult your “gut.” Are you comfortable there? Does it feel right to you? With all this considered, you should be on the right road to dental success.