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Course Requirements

General Course Requirements

Each year, the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) publishes the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, which details admissions requirements and data for every accredited dental school in the US and Canada. This guide, published in March of each year, includes the statistics of the class that matriculated in the past summer/fall in schools across the nation. You can purchase the online ADEA Dental Explorer here and use it in conjunction with each individual school’s website for the most up to date information.

Although requirements do vary from program to program, dental schools generally require the following courses:

  • One year of inorganic/general chemistry with lab (CHEM 1211/L and 1212/L)
  • One year of organic chemistry with lab (CHEM 2211/L and 2212/L)
  • One year of biology with lab (BIOL 1107/L and 1108/L)
  • One year of physics with lab (PHYS 1111/L and 1112/L or PHYS 1211/L and 1212/L) (Not on the DAT)
  • One year of English (ENGL 1101 and ENGL 1102)

DISCLAIMER: This is not a definitive list of the classes you will need for every school.  Always check with the individual schools to see their specific requirements.  For example, Dental College of Georgia says Organic Chemistry l and Biochemistry are sufficient without Organic Chemistry ll. Most other schools require 2 semesters of organic chemistry and may also require or recommend biochemistry.

Additionally, some schools require courses in Biochemistry, Microbiology, Physiology, Calculus, Statistics, Psychology, English, and the Humanities. (Please note: currently two-thirds of U.S. dental schools require biochemistry). Most schools strongly recommend additional hours in upper division biological science from lists usually on their websites. It is important to realize that schools may alter their requirements from cycle to cycle. Please be mindful of the requirements of the schools you are interested in applying. Double-check the schools admission website. You can also reach out to each schools Admissions Counselor’s for answers to specific questions not addressed on the webpage.

Which GPAs does the AADSAS calculate?

ADEA AADSAS uses the information which you have entered in the coursework section of your application to calculate several tables of GPAs for each applicant. Please review the ADEA AADSAS Verification Guide: GPA Calculations for futher details. For a list of courses that are considered under the BCP and Science GPA, please refer to the AADSAS course list.

ADEA AADSAS calculates GPA and reports it in a number of ways:

  • BCP GPA: All undergraduate, graduate and cumulative courses identified on transcripts as biology, chemistry or physics.
  • Science GPA: All undergraduate, graduate and cumulative courses identified on the transcript as biology, chemistry, physics or other science.
  • Nonscience GPA: All undergraduate, graduate and cumulative courses not used in calculating the science GPA.
  • Undergraduate GPA: All courses for which undergraduate credit is received.
  • Graduate GPA: All courses for which graduate credit is received.
  • Overall GPA: Includes undergraduate and graduate courses. For most dental school applicants who have not completed graduate courses, the overall GPA is the same as the undergraduate GPA.
  • College/university GPAs: GPAs are reported for each college/university attended.

The following course types are not included in ADEA AADSAS GPA calculations:

  • Advanced Placement/CLEP.
  • Institutional Department Exam.
  • Audit.
  • International Baccalaureate.
  • Incomplete.
  • Pass/fail.
  • Withdraw/withdraw passing.
  • Grades of “P” or “Credit.”

ADEA AADSAS includes all initial and repeated coursework in its GPA calculations.
Grades and credit hours for all failed courses will be included in the ADEA AADSAS GPA, even if they are not included in the GPA calculations of the transcript-issuing institution.

In ADEA AADSAS, repeated courses are factored into the AADSAS GPA calculations. If the applicant received a “F” grade in a course, and repeated the course and received a “B”, both grades will be factored in the AADSAS GPA calculations. AADSAS factors all grades no matter how many times the course was taken. There is no grade replacement.

In ADEA AADSAS, non-major science courses are included in the AADSAS GPA calculations. All GPAs are based solely on the course subject classification (see reference above). Courses classified on the transcript as Biology, Chemistry and Physics are calculated in the BCP GPA calculation. BCP courses plus math and other science based courses (i.e., astronomy, geology, etc.), are calculated in the science GPA, regardless if they are required for the major.

ADEA AADSAS factors all courses into the GPA calculations, regardless of the institution policy or where the course was taken. If the course appears on the official transcript with a grade/credit, it will be included in the ADEA AADSAS GPAs.

In ADEA AADSAS, applicants must enter all courses on the AADSAS application. If a student is in a special academic forgiveness program, AADSAS will factor the grade in the GPA calculation.

AP Credit & Substitutions

Most schools have policies regarding advanced placement (AP) credit. Some schools restrict the use of such credit in fulfillment of pre-requisite requirements. In these cases, schools will often allow you to take additional upper-level courses in the science areas where AP credit was received. The policies for each dental school and their admission requirements, generally, can be found in the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools. However, for the most updated information, please visit the website of each dental school that you wish to apply since the guide is only updated once a year.

The Numbers Matter and so do Grade Trends 

If you wish to enter a dental program you need to have a strong science and overall GPA. Admissions committees also look for trends on your transcript—so all is not lost if you stumble your first semester or two, as long as you show substantial improvement each subsequent year.  However, they will also notice negative trends such as consistently withdrawing from or performing poorly in hard sciences or completing them away from your home institution.  While an instance or two is not a deal-breaker, a pattern of behavior will be.  You must demonstrate the ability to handle difficult scientific content.

Should I major in Biology?

Although a life-science major such as Biology may offer the most practical route to completing the requirements for admission into dental school, you are not limited to only the life science majors. It is more important that you choose a major that best fits your interests.  As long as you show proficiency in the sciences (via pre-requisites and the DAT) and a general pattern of challenging yourself, your major is largely unimportant to admission committees.