Advice Dental School Tips

Congratulations to All Accepted into the Class of 2019!

BasicDentalInstrumentsWow! I can not believe it has already been a year! It was such a thrill receiving messages all-day from friends and readers about the good news. If you are still waiting to hear back from your dream school, don’t worry! Many schools take a few days to send out acceptances and interviews often run through March.

Those that have been offered an acceptance have 30 days to reply to the school and place a deposit to reserve their spot. A December deposits is usually $1,000 dollars and non-refundable. Deposits can be paid to multiple schools to hold multiple offers which allows a student plenty of time to figure out the best school for them, both financially and educationally. On April 1st, those holding multiple positions will begin to be contacted to make a final decision. You can read more about the process on this ADEA document from 2011. Please note that you will lose any deposit in the programs you decide to withdraw from.


Some schools have a second deposit that often coincide with the April “Applicants Holding Positions at Multiple Institutions” process. These deposits may cost up to $2,000 dollar, but money from the primary and secondary deposits are counted towards your first year of dental school. Some schools do have refundable secondary deposits in the case you switch programs, so be sure to ask about their policy if you are withdrawing from a school!


If you have received an acceptance from a dental school that you no longer intend to attend, it is important to let the school know ASAP. They have hundreds of other applicants who would love to have your spot. Feel free to call or email the admissions office to let them know  you kindly withdraw your application and thank them for considering you as a student at their school. This is VERY IMPORTANT. You DO NOT want to burn any bridges with any dental schools! You never know what can happen!


Here are a few reminders now that you are in:

  •  For those still in school!
    • Maintain your grades! Don’t let senioritis kick in (fully)! Yes, you don’t have to get “A’s” anymore, but aim high for graduation. Your college GPA may still come in handy on your resume. Some dental schools will accept C’s while others may reevaluate your acceptance if you receive a B- or lower. Spare yourself the heartache and continue to succeed as you have managed to do for the past 4+ years.
    • Complete any classes listed on your AADSAS application. Your acceptance can be revoked if you do not complete those classes since schools may have factored them in your acceptance. Some schools are not concerned with your future coursework (other than prerequisites), but try not to change your schedule too dramatically. You can always contact the school and see if they would allow you to change your future coursework.
  • For all!
    • Apply for student housing or look for private housing early to save money!
    • Learn about your financial situation in dental school and tips on how to save money
      • Apply to scholarships NOW! All of the best scholarships are due in December-March.
    • Meet your class mates! Visit The Student Doctor Network School Specific threads to chat with other students who have been accepted and join the Facebook page for your class (ie. class of 2019). Many of the Facebook pages have students or admissions personnel from the school that can help you with any specific questions such as housing tips. Many schools have events for admitted student prior to the first day of school.
    • Self-study anatomy or take a community college course! A basic foundation helps a lot!
    • Find time to relax and enjoy life! Once you start dental school, you won’t have much free time.
    • Start working on a professional resume/CV and your LinkedIn profile.


Kick back, relax, and enjoy your next 6+ months off! You earned it! I would love to hear your story if you haven’t shared it already! Congratulations! YOU ARE GONNA BE A DENTIST!




If you are still waiting to hear back, most schools have only filled half of their class by December 1st so don’t worry! Be sure to send an academic update through AADSAS if you have completed any recent courses. Make sure you let remaining dental schools know you are still interested in their programs and that you are looking forward to an update on your status. If you are still waiting on your dream school post-interview, call the school and ask if they accept a letter of intent.

If you are preparing to reapply for the upcoming cycle, take a look at each component of your application and figure out how you can improve it.  If you would like me to take a look at your application and help you figure out what areas need attention, feel free to submit your information on the Ask Elias page!

Advice Dental School Tips

Financing Dental School Without Outside Support

Dental Sim LabThe cost of education required to become a dentist is astronomical. In fact, it is the most expensive education for any career path! A lot of students tell me they don’t realize how much dental school really costs until it is far too late to back out. This is why it is absolutely essential, in this day and age, to make sure dentistry is the right career path for you. The unfortunate truth is our generation is not expected to be able to finance a home or a private practice until at least a decade into our careers. So what changed? Why is dental school so expensive? I won’t get into any of the grey area reasons related to the cost of education but a big key factor is the cost of dental equipment and workable space. Unlike medical, law, and pharmacy school, dentistry requires an obscene amount of expensive equipment, instruments, and consumable materials. Many dental schools are switching from a purchasable dental kit costing approximately $15K per student per year to a rentable dental kit for approximately $5K. This allows many expensive schools to reduce the overall student fees. Dental students also require more space with D1 and D2 students needing a simulation chair with a mannequin as in the picture to the right, while D3 and D4 students require a clinical chair (pictured below) in order to provide care to the community and complete requirements to graduate. As a result, dental schools often have a smaller class size than medical schools.


Dental School ClinicIn addition to the sticker price you will be paying, expect to pay a hefty sum (upwards of double of the loan amount) during the repayment process. The interest rates given to students are currently hovering around 8% which is well over double the current mortgage loan rates, YIKES! For this reason it is very important to minimize your loans anyway possible. If you find it hard to reduce your reliance on loans be sure to understand the logistics so that you can recover from such a long term investment. Many dental schools push this topic under the rug or attempt to build confidence in students who would be taking out these loans by citing university wide loan default rates. There are a few shining examples such as UCLA School of Dentistry who really push to educate their students in borrowing money and motivate them to to reduce their loan reliance.




To put yourself in the best position to pay off your loans and begin your life as a dentist, spend a day understanding how interest and loans truly work. By following these five simple steps below you can move towards as more cost effective experience in school.




Reducing your loans by maximizing your scholarship potential for dental school

  1. High Academic Achievements
    • Many programs gift scholarships to top academic performers in each class. I have seen scholarships for as little as $15,000 and scholarships larger than $100K. These can seriously make a difference in pursuing your dreams as a dentist.
  2. Loan Repayment Programs
    • Military Scholarships
      • The Army, Navy, and Air Force all have a Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) that will cover 100% of tuition and includes a stipend for living expenses in exchange for 4 years of service. This method of paying off your education is by far the fastest route.
      • As you guessed, these programs are incredibly competitive, but applying early will give you a significant advantage. Be sure to apply WHILE you are applying to dental school.
      • UoP is an excellent program for those interested in joining the armed forces as they are only required to serve 3 years.
      • Upon graduation from dental school you will receive the title of captain or lieutenant depending on the program.
      • Several other scholarship and repayment programs are available and differ between the Army, Navy, and Air Forces. Ask your local recruiter about your options.
      • Livelong recognition and benefits for being in the armed forces.
    • Care for Underserved Scholarships
      • The National Health Services Corps (NHSC) provides a scholarship that covers 100% of tuition and fees in addition to a stipend in exchange for 4 years of service at an approved outpatient facility in a medically underserved community.
      • Minimum of two years of service and up to 4 years depending on the number of years you are sponsored for.
      • A great alternative to the Military Scholarships for those who are iffy about joining the military.
      • Application opens in March/April for approximately a month.
  3. Private Scholarships – Private scholarships are EXTREMELY hard to find for dental school. It is recommended to look for generic graduate school scholarships in addition to scholarships offered by smaller groups you are involved with.
    • Communities
      • Religious organizations often have private scholarships for students in their community
        • Ask your priest or young adult coordinator!
      • Fraternities/Sororities may have scholarships for those continuing to graduate school or health professional programs.
      • Some ethic groups have private scholarships to help support their community.
    • Your undergraduate institution likely has a health professional or dental scholarship. These scholarships are seldom advertised!



Apply to any and all support programs at your dental school. If a dental school allows you to provide your parents information to be evaluated DO IT! This often means the school has other means to provide grants and low-interest loans!

  1. University grants for “low” income households
    • The definition of a “low” income household for dental schools is much different than what you would expect!
    • With only weeks left before dental school begins, I am learning that both UCSF and UCLA are extremely generous with grants. I have yet to meet or hear about anybody not receiving outside aid. This was very surprising as neither of these schools acknowledged the availability of grants when asked during the interviews. It is likely other public schools around the country have similar opportunities for their students.
  2. University loans for “low” income households
    • Again, the definition of “low” is much higher than you would think.
    • Schools, both private and public, are offering Health Student Professional Loans (HSPL) directly from the university with benefits such as greatly reduced interest rates, subsidized interest, and longer deferment periods.


Step Three

Cut corners in your habits and lifestyle!

  1. Break that coffee addiction. After interest, each $4 dollar cup of coffee will cost you $6-8 dollars when repaying your loans. Take advantage of the summer before dental school to break your caffeine dependency!
  2. Eat smart!
    • Buy food to make at home rather than eating out every day!
    • Learn how to cook some quick meals!
    • Take advantage of lunch and learns! FREE food AND you get to learn how to be a better dentist?! Where do I sign up!
  3. Don’t live in luxury
    • If you don’t need a car, don’t bring one.
    • Consider sharing a room
    • Find cheaper housing further from campus and bike!
    • Be smart with your money and don’t buy the latest and greatest of everything.


Step Four

Only take what you need.

  1. For graduate school there are two main types of loans. The days of subsided graduate school loans are long and gone so you will be accumulating interest while in dental school! Regardless, Federal Loans are the ONLY way to go.Private loans may have cheaper variable rates (compared to the federal fixed rates), but are missing all of the wonderful perks of federal loans (the topic of my next article, stay tuned!).
      • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
        • These loans are the best federal loans available to dental students. Depending on your tuition and fees you will be restricted to approximately $40-55K of funding via this loan. ie UoP, UCSF, UCLA.
        • In the tables below you will notice the interest rates went up by 0.8% during one academic year. This change can equal tens of thousands of dollars of additional interest. There is a loan origination fee that is a ~1% fee for borrowing the money (ie $1K fee for borrowing $100K)
      • Federal Direct Plus Loans
        • Federal Direct Plus Loans are available to fill the “gap” left over after you have depleted your available Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans. These loans will cover the rest of your estimated expenses but have a much higher interest rate and loan origination fee.
        • In the tables below you will notice the interest rates went up by 0.8% during one academic year. This change can equal tens of thousands of dollars of additional interest.
        • The biggest difference here is the staggering 4.292% Loan Orignation Fee which means you lost $4K for every $100K borrowed instantly!


    Loan Type Borrower Type Loans first disbursed on or after 7/1/13 and before 7/1/14 Loans first disbursed on or after 7/1/14 and before 7/1/15
    Direct Unsubsidized Loans

    Graduate or Professional



    Direct PLUS Loans

    Graduate or Professional




    Loan Origination Fees

    Loan Type

    Loan Fee

    Direct Unsubsidized Loan


    Direct PLUS Loan



Step Five

Plot out your loans using a loan repayment calculator. Find out how much a loan with interest will cost you over its life.

  1. My personal favorite resource is the Dental Loan Organizer and Calculator developed by the AAMC in partnership with the ADEA
    • Allows you to keep track of all of your loan information including loan issuer information.
    • Automatically pulls the correct interest rates and fees
    • Allows you to plot repayment over several years and shows the cost (side-by-side) with the various federal repayment options.
  2. A Loan Spreadsheet made by Bereno on Student Doctor Network
    • Nothing recorded and saved online and can be accessed on all devices supporting excel document editing/viewing
    • Traditional loan repayment ($/month) only
    • ery dynamic allowing for various other factors unrelated to your dental school expenses such as a mortgage, car loan, and business loans.
    • A very close second to me (sometimes can be overwhelming)
  3. A Loan Calculator Program (Windows Only) made by an individual on Student Doctor Network
    • Nothing is recorded and saved online
    • Traditional loan repayment ($/month) only
    • Simple for quick estimates


As always, if you have any concerns or would like advice, contact me through the Ask Elias page!

P.S. I apologize for the delay on this article. I finished it a few weeks back but it vanished without any backups!

AADSAS Application Advice Dental School Tips

Mastering The Art of Secondaries and Interviews: What Makes A Dental School Unique?

Secondary Applications FlyingThe most difficult question a school can ask in a secondary application or during an interview is “Why do you want to attend our dental school over other programs?”

This year, I have been receiving many more requests to review secondary applications among other things, and I have been noticing a very clear and concerning trend. Few people really understand what makes a dental school “unique,” and those who do, fail to convince the admissions people that this attribute makes the school a perfect fit for them. Every secondary application had the SAME EXACT answer as every other student. While this isn’t necessarily “wrong,” it fails to show the admissions personnel that you spent an adequate amount of time researching their program, in some cases reciting information that is flat out false.



For example, students have been putting heavy emphasis on keywords mentioned by schools such as an “inter-professional” education, when in reality the school only spends a few (< 10) sessions using this system. However, these students spend a large amount of time and space in an attempt to convince a school that a “problem-based learning” or “inter-professional education” system is in sync with their learning styles. Imagine how that comes off to your interviewer or an admissions personnel.

  • It is clear you didn’t take the time to fully research and understand the program.
  • You just told them you learn much better using a system they don’t emphasize rather than a traditional education. This can now turn against you and can become a concern about your abilities to perform in regular classes.
  • This is the same thing they hear from 99% of the other applicants. How redundant and annoying do you think it is to hear over-and-over?
  • Your answer is not unique in any way and does not help you stand out from the other thousands of other applicants.


I hope you can now visualize why taking the answer to this question seriously is an essential part of your application.  With that said, here are 5 tips to writing a successful, convincing, and unique response to “Why do you want to attend our program?”


  1. Cross check all of your initial research: It is really easy to gather false information from sources like Student Doctor Network. While helpful, not all of it isupdated or true. There are several fantastic resources on the web. Here are a few of my favorites!
    • Official: Can you answer these questions about your dental school? (Part 1) and Part 2
      • Many people don’t know about this resource because it is hidden in the Dental Student forums and not the pre-dental forums. This is a great resource for learning about exam schedules, lectures, classmates, faculty, mentors, dental boards, patients, clinic(s), and other things about every school. Remember anybody can write these so cross check your information.
    • “ABC Dental School vs. XYZ Dental School” Threads in SDN Pre-Dental Forums
      • These discussions can be goldmines for pre-dents, but can also have a lot of false information within them. Be sure to do your own research to confirm what is said. To find these discussions, google “sdn” or “student doctor network”, the name of the school  followed by “vs.” Doing so should populate dozens of threads comparing the school of focus to various other schools. Notice the date of the discussion! Some of these can be REALLY old!
    • Ask Questions on the School Specific Discussion Forums
      • Current students at a dental school often keep an eye on school discussions in an effort to help out the group of applicants. Often time, if questions can’t be answered by others they will jump in to help out!
    • Reference our FAQ on “What qualities should we look for in a dental school that will prepare you well for the profession?
      • Ideas on things to look for and why they may be important for your education.
  2. Talk to Current Students and Alumni of the Dental School: 
    • Ask your local pre-dental society if they keep a record of alumni at various dental schools, if not, suggest they start to do so!
      • In this day and age, it is incredible easy to find people through social networking websites like Facebook. These lists of alumni can really come in handy when pre-dents have questions on specific programs and are excellent in helping with the transition into dental school. For example, one of the things we started last year with the Pre-Dental Society at UC Irvine was documenting known alumni from the organization. The current alumni list can be viewed on the group’s  website.
    • Ask the Dentist you Shadowed or Friends/Family for Alumni: Getting feedback from dental students is great, but information from alumni of these schools can be extremely valuable.
      • Everybody knows a dentist! Finding individuals who graduated from the program can speak in retrospect as to what they found most useful about the program and essential to their successful careers.
  3. Visit the School Website and Call for Additional Resources: The schools website can have a lot of information about the school and the good stuff takes a bit more effort to find.
    • When researching UCSF and UCLA I came across the two greatest resources through their websites. The Annual Report at UCLA School of Dentistry and the UCSF School of Dentistry Magazine are goldmines for cutting edge details about the schools. These resources informed me about many of the improvements UCSF and UCLA were incorporating into their programs and allowed for a direct comparison of the dental school specialty rates for both UCSF and UCLA. Truth be told, they are far more similar than everybody had been saying! The point is, it is VERY LIKELY, other schools will have similar resources that they put out for their alumnis, call and ask about it!
  4. Migrate Away from the Common Answers: Make your answers unique and insightful by spending more time covering things that are less known by pre-dents.
    • This will leave a lasting impression on the individuals deciding your admissions into the program by making you stand out from the crowd.
  5. MAKE IT PERSONAL! Everybody forgets to write WHY in addition to what they like about a program.
    • Don’t just say what you like about the program and what makes it special. Complete your answer by explaining why a particular attribute of their program will benefit you as a student and a future clinician.


By following these tips, you are well on your way to a flawless answer to the question “Why are you applying to our School of Dentistry?” As always, if you need help just Ask Elias!

AADSAS Application Advice Dental School Tips

How much does applying to dental school really cost?

bleeding-moneyI never realized how expensive applying to dental school actually was. In reality, there are quite a few expenses that people normally don’t account for when budgeting for the application cycle. Here is a quick breakdown of everything you should consider when applying to dental school. If you are applying while completing your 4-year university education, I highly recommend budgeting the following expenses into your student loans.


Expected Expenses

DAT – $385

  • The exam is required to apply to any US dental school
  • Expect to pay for prep materials (not included in calculation)

Opening an AADSAS application – $244 for first school

  • Applying to dental school in the US requires AADSAS with the exception of Texas schools. See miscellaneous section below.
  • First school fee can be waved via the Fee Assistance Program (FAP)
    • This takes a few weeks to process and is offered on a  first-come-first-serve policy. Apply as soon as AADSAS opens.

AADSAS fee for each school – $90 for each school after first

  • This fee is required for AADSAS to mail your application to each school.
  • Fee table

Secondary Fees – $60-100 for each school

Interviews ~$400+ per interview

  • Interviews can be expensive since they are often offered at such short notices.
  • Expect the following expenses:
    • Round-trip plane tickets
      • Although flying in the same day as your interview saves money, I always recommend that interviewees fly in the night before. There is too much unpredictability when flying in the same day. I have seen people miss interviews due to unexpected circumstances such as the LAX shooting in 2013.
      • Personally, one of my flights the night before was nearly cancelled (ended up being delayed for 3 hours). The flight after mine was cancelled altogether. This experience was highly stressful, but provided me with enough time to plan for alternate transportation if the flight was cancelled.
    • Hotel stay
      • Along with flying in the night before, a hotel room will put you at an ease of mind.
      • Use websites like to “bid” for a hotel if you are trying to save money.
    • Public transportation/taxi/rental
      • Taxi drivers have been known to take longer routes to destinations for people unfamiliar with the area. This is called “long-hauling”. Use a mapping application to know when you are being scammed.
    • Food
  • These expenses can easily equal $400+ dollars per interview

Deposit to Reserve a Seat – $1,000+

  • Deposits range from $1,000 and can reach upwards of $3,000 dollars.
    • Ask if the deposits are partially or fully refundable. I was able to recover $2,000.
  • People forfeit December deposits for an offer in spring. Leave yourself a bit of cash for this situation!


Example Expenses for Applying to 15 Schools

+$385 (DAT)

+$244 (AADSAS)

+$90 x 14 = $1260 (14 Additional Schools)

+$70 x 10 = $700 (10 Secondary Application Fees)

+$400 x 6 = $2,400 (6 Interviews Attended)

+$1,000 (1 Deposit)


Total: $5,989*

*That example above is using very conservative numbers. Actual expenses could be significantly more (or less) depending on the number of schools applied to and location of interviews attended.


Misc Expenses:

Transcripts ~$50-100

  • Expenses very per institution. Attending multiple schools will multiply your expenses (Community College, 4-year university, different university for summer school, etc.)
  • I mailed my transcript 4 times (5th in June)
    • 3 regular mail @ $17 (lost AADSAS transcript, AADSAS academic update, school specific update)
    • 1 express @ $37 (after my initial AADSAS transcript was lost)


TMDSAS (Texas Dental School Application System) – $140

  • Required if you plan to apply to Texas Dental Schools
  • One fee covers all 3 schools
  • No fee wavers


Certiphi Background Check ~$100

  • DO NOT pre-authorize the background check through AADSAS! Only half the schools mandate Certiphi (so far) and pre-authorizing it will not affect/improve your application in any way. This will not be reviewed until after a student accepts an offer.
  • An updated list of schools requiring Certiphi can be found here.
  • Background checks can cost up to $200 dollars depending on the number of counties you have lived in and your history.


CSS / Financial Aid PROFILE (CollegeBoard) – $25+

  • “FAFSA 2.0” mandated by some schools


Deposit on Housing – $1,000+

  • You may have to place a deposit on housing well before you receive your dental school financial aid.
  • Request your credit score in preparation.



I hope this helps put into perspective the expected costs while applying to dental school. Please plan ahead for these expenses and leave yourself a cushion for unexpected circumstances like switching programs.


If I neglected to mention any expenses you may have endued during this process let me know through Ask Elias and I would be more than happy to include them.

AADSAS Application Advice Dental School Review Tips

2014 ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools REVIEW

inspectorA week ago we announced that the new 2014 ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools has been published. I received my copy yesterday and have spent a  bit of time reviewing the contents. Overall the 2014 guide is a welcomed update to the 2013 edition however I will breifly discuss the issues with the 2014 edition below.

The 2013 edition is 208 pages while the  2014 is 226. This is likely due to more information from the recently opened dental schools. Other than statistics, most of the content is  identical as expected since much of this information (such as descriptions) does not change from year to year. What I did find disappointing is the number of errors in the book that were immediately noticeable.

As with every edition of the ADEA Official Guide there are misreported statistics or incomplete stats. With a book that has thousands of numbers it is understandable to have a few of these errors. In this edition of the book, I am noticing FAR MORE errors than that in the 2013 guide. Some of these errors are completely obvious to a layperson and should have been caught by anybody reviewing the material before publishing. For example, Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine notes that 62 out of their 67 students from the class entering fall 2013  are over the age of 30; however, their average age is 25 years old. Things like this should have been noticed with a single read through. There is a lot more information lacking in this book relative to the 2013 guide. For example, University of the Pacific did not report origin for out-of-state students other than those accepted internationally. Many schools failed to properly report the numbers between Accepted and Enrolled students. This leads to many schools showing a near perfect yield (students matriculated divided by those offered a spot) which in many cases is realistically 50% or less. These mistakes did occur in the 2013 guide, but they are much more common in the 2014 guide.

I am not sure who is responsible for these inconsistencies. Was the book rushed so that students can have it in time to research potential schools? We won’t ever know; however, 95% of the book is pure gold and outweighs the cons. Please utilize this resource when applying to dental school. I once again recommend purchasing the digital version through the ADEA (Available April 7th, 2014) which is sold at a fraction of the price ($10) compared to the price of the printed book and associated shipping ($45+). Hopefully those with the digital version will also receive updates if schools choose to fix their profiles and stats. Contacting the dental school directly may help in getting more accurate information if something seems off.


Overall rating: