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The Costly Investment of Applying to Dental School

Created November 14, 2012 by Allison Greenberg, ASDA
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This article is reprinted with permission from the American Student Dental Association. It originally appeared in the summer 2012 issue of Mouth.

When you think about paying for a dental education, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the high cost of tuition. But the application process often is quite pricey as well. Between the AADSAS application fee, supplemental fees, buying an interview suit, transportation, lodging and deposits, it is almost guaranteed that you will spend $5,000 or more.

From my interviews, I learned that the average dental applicant applies to 10 to 15 schools. According to 2010 ADEA statistics, about 41 percent of applicants graduate into dental school. It’s critical to cover your bases and apply to safety, target and reach schools. The interview process is unpredictable: some schools may grant you an interview even though your credentials are below average; others may deny you an interview even though your credentials are above average.

I applied to 16 schools. My base application fee for AADSAS was $1,360, though this amount varies based on the number of schools to which you apply. However, most schools also require supplemental fees. My supplemental fees ranged from $45 to $100 per application, which totaled nearly $1,000.

Interviews greatly add to the expenses. First, you need to buy an interview suit if you don’t already own one. Then there’s the cost of transportation and lodging. Transportation costs range from gas and tolls to flights to schools that are farther away. Some schools don’t let you choose your interview date, causing you to pay more for last-minute flights. For example, one school that I applied to assigned me an interview date and would not guarantee me another if I missed the first date. I had to purchase a more expensive flight because I could not book it further in advance. While some hotels offer group discounted rates for students interviewing at dental schools, staying at a hotel still costs about $100 or more each night. I stayed with friends at a few schools, but had to stay at a hotel for most of my interviews.

Each school requires a deposit within a certain time, depending on when you are accepted. Most who are accepted between Dec. 1 and Jan. 1 get 30 days to put down a deposit. The time period for a deposit decreases the later you hear in the admissions cycle. These deposits can range from a refundable few hundred dollars to a non-refundable few thousand. One of my friends was accepted to Pittsburgh on Dec. 1 and paid a $750 deposit. Then she was accepted to Maryland shortly after and paid a $750 initial deposit and the $1,000 second deposit. Weeks later she was accepted to Stony Brook, where she will be attending at the deposit price of $2,500 solely because of timing. Two other future dental students each put down $1,500 deposits to NYU, which went to waste once they were accepted into their dream school, UPenn, at a later date.

The process of applying to dental school is daunting. I was accepted my first time applying, but some students take two or three cycles to gain acceptance, which amounts to double or triple the cost. Applications are an expensive, yet worthwhile investment. Optimize your chances of getting in by applying to a wide array of schools.

If you’re interested in more advice and resources for predental students, join the American Student Dental Association at www.ASDAnet.org/.

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