Preprofessional Health


San Diego State University

5500 Campanile Drive

San Diego CA  92182-1017

Tel: 619*594*6638

Fax: 619*594*0244







The Predental program at San Diego State University is designed to meet the individual needs of students preparing for entrance into dental schools.  The PPHA office is here to help you prepare for applying to dental schools.  Our responsibility is advising you on your choice of dentistry as a career, in addition to helping you with all the paperwork and formality of the application procedure.  We are located in the GMCS Building, Room 323.  You are eligible to make use of the PPHA office if you are a current SDSU student or an alumnus.


This handout is designed to acquaint the SDSU predental student with the complicated application process.  The following information is offered as an overview, and is not intended to answer all of your questions or replace the advising services.  Read the following pages and open a predental file now.


Because of the highly competitive application system, not every qualified applicant will be admitted to a dental school.  What made the difference for those accepted?  What is a competitive application?  Use this handout as a resource, for it is designed to help answer these questions.  Stay in touch with us, too--we're here to work with you.  Good strategy is more important than good luck.




Advising:   The Preprofessional Health Advisor is available for individual appointments. Plan to attend an hour-long "orientation" session as your first appointment.  Subsequent appointments are available on most Wednesdays and Thursdays during the semester.  Please bring a copy of your transcripts (may be unofficial) to your second appointment.  During the semester, Peer Advisors, students who are familiar with the application process, provide informal advising. Their schedule is posted on the peer advisor computer in room GMCS 323. The Preprofessional Health Advising Office is open Monday–Thursday from 8:00 to 12:00 and 1:00 to 4:30, Friday from 8:00 to 12:00 and 1:00 to 4:00.


Resources:  The advising office maintains a collection of materials for your use.  Included are:

Ø Dental school publications

Ø Sample applications

Ø Test registration materials

Ø Resource books such as Admissions Requirements of United States and Canadian Dental Schools

Ø Summer and post-bac program application materials

Ø Library of health professions-related fiction and non-fiction to improve your reading skills

Ø Information on volunteer opportunities

Ø Leadership opportunities

Ø Student club information and books of speakers for clubs

Ø Interview Reports


The PPHA web page has links to national organizations (including ADEA), many dental schools, student web pages, discussions of dentistry-related issues, lists of clubs, a calendar of meetings and application tools such as a GPA calculator.


CLASS MEETINGS: Beginning 14 months prior to your application, you are expected to attend a series of meetings to learn about the steps you must take to prepare yourself for the application process.  You will be designated as the “Class of ‘XX,” where “XX” = the year you will enter dental school.


COURSES (Please see our web site for more information)


Bio 249, Careers in the Health Professions

This seminar course, Bio 249, is offered in the spring.  Speakers from a variety of health careers provide insight into allied health fields such as podiatry, optometry, physician assistant and pharmacy.  You are encouraged to take this course early in your academic program.

Bio 250B, Topics In Dentistry

This seminar course, Bio 250B, is offered in the spring.  It is designed to teach you about the dental school admissions process from the point of entering a predental program until you are accepted to dental school.  A variety of dental professionals and students are invited to speak to give you a broad view of the profession.  You are encouraged to take this class in your sophomore or junior year, but you may "sit in" in other years. 


Bio 340A, Preventive Dentistry: 

The Preventive Dentistry Program at SDSU was described by one Ivy League dental school recruiter as, “the best predental program in the nation!”  Even before you are eligible to take the class, you are encouraged to volunteer in this exciting program so you can assume a leadership position in future years.


Bio 348, Internship

Reference the PPHA web page for information about established and “on your own” internships.




A committee letter is a university's official endorsement of a student's candidacy for professional school.  The PPHA office provides SDSU's only official committee letter.  The SDSU Preprofessional Health Evaluation Committee is composed of SDSU faculty (both science and non-science) and dentists from the community.  If you wish to have a committee letter as part of your application (and many schools now require it if they know a university provides one), you must maintain a file with the PPHA Office.


In the spring prior to submitting your dental school application, you will practice interviewing skills in a mock interview at Career Services.  You will then submit a draft AADSAS application, including personal statement, and a GPA calculation sheet showing your academic accomplishments to date to the PPHA office.  This information is given to three committee members who will individually interview you and submit their evaluations to the PPHA Advisor.  If you receive a composite rating of “Recommended” or better, the PPHA Advisor will write a committee letter, which includes excerpts from an autobiography you write, the interviewers’ comments, and the Advisor’s summary of your qualifications.


The Committee Packet: The committee letter, individual letters of recommendation which you request, and a confidentiality waiver make up the “committee packet.”  This packet is sent to dental schools at your request at the appropriate time in the application process. (A small fee is required for mailing and materials.)


Letter Service:  For those who do not complete the committee process, letters of evaluation, solicited by you, will be collected in your file. Copies of these materials will be mailed to schools upon your request.  If you wish, the Advisor will prepare a cover letter explaining why you do not have a committee letter.  Contact the PPHA office for details (The fee is the same as for a committee packet).


There are three important components to your program as a predental student:  the academic schedule, extracurricular activities, and preparation for the Dental Admission Test (DAT).






Major:  Although it is a common assumption among predental students that you must major in a science to be accepted to dental school, this is not the case.  Dental schools look for students who have a strong aptitude for science, as will be measured by the DAT and grades in science coursework, but equally as important is the student's performance in non-science course-work.  For this reason, you may major in any subject that interests you.  However, you must take the science courses recommended by dental schools to prepare you for the dental curriculum.  Please refer to the “Dental School Academic Preparation” sheet at the end of this handout. 


The majority of predental students will elect a science major, but it is very important that the academic schedule is balanced with a broad selection of non-science coursework. SDSU's general education requirements are a part of this; however, it is advisable for you to consider a year of Spanish and a few courses that you have always wanted to take.  Dental schools will examine grade point averages from both science and non-science coursework and it is obviously beneficial to you to perform equally well in both areas.


The sequence in which you take courses is important because many of the predental requirements have prerequisites and certain science courses should be completed before the DAT.  Be sure to work closely with the advisor in your major to insure that you fulfill all graduation requirements in your major.  Most students meet with their academic advisor each semester in addition to advising through the Preprofessional Health Advising Office.


Regardless of which major you select, you should plan to complete your bachelor's degree prior to entrance into a dental school.  For the majority of students a 5-year program is preferred rather than a 4-year program.  GPA, exposure to your profession, and leadership activities on campus or in the community are very important.  A student who takes 13 units per semester and has a GPA of 3.5 or better and has been very active in the predental program will be an outstanding candidate.  It is much less stressful for you, and you have more time to develop as a strong applicant.  Based upon our acceptances, the professional schools also seem to prefer this.  Certainly an individual on a 5-year program with a high GPA has a much better chance for acceptance than a 4-year person with a lower GPA.  You should plan to complete your degree within one year following your application to professional school.  Generally, you will apply the summer between your fourth and fifth years in college. 


General Education

Stay in touch with your major advisor to be sure you have all these requirements.



All students who wish to take Chemistry 200 at SDSU must achieve a grade of "C" or better in Chemistry 100 at SDSU or pass both the ELM test and the Chemistry Placement Exam. Students who do not pass this diagnostic test (and the ELM test) are required to take Chemistry 100 and achieve a grade of "C" or better before registering for Chemistry 200.



If you have a weak math background or it has been a long time since you have taken math, General Math Studies, 99B or 91, is a good beginning, or take intermediate algebra in junior college prior to enrollment at SDSU.  One year of calculus is required by some professional schools.  Math 121/122 is the recommended course for most students.  If you are particularly gifted in math, then you can consider taking Math 150/151.



All dental school admission committees place a special emphasis on the scores earned on the reading comprehension section of the DAT.  If you are particularly weak in English, there are study skill courses available to you.  Students who have taken Rhetoric and Writing 92A/B and 305W have done much better on the national exams.  It is important for you to read a variety of fiction and non-fiction other than science to enhance your scores on the reading part of the DAT and to become a more well-rounded applicant.



You are not required to take a language.  However, as a professional, proficiency in Spanish would be invaluable.  Many of the professional schools may suggest Spanish proficiency in their catalogs.




There are a variety of activities that will enhance your application to dental school.  They include clinical, research and leadership experiences.


Clinical Experience:  An essential part of your Predental Program is the experience you acquire in a clinical setting.  This type of experience gives you the opportunity to seriously evaluate dentistry as a career. Six months in a dentist's office or clinic provides a good overview of the profession.  Be sure to participate in at least one of the following:

Ø Volunteering in a dentist's office

Ø Preventive Dentistry clinic and field trips

Ø UCSD Clinic internship

Ø Flying Samaritans work in Mexico

Ø "On Your Own" internships which you arrange with a dentist you know.  (To receive academic credit, you must have significant contact.)  See our web page for details.


Research  Although research experience is not required by the dental schools, it provides a way in which you can use the knowledge you have acquired in a problem-solving environment.  Feel free to pursue any type of research that interests you, even if your interests take you outside the field of science.  There are many places to consider for research experience, but particularly popular with students is a summer research scholarship with the American Heart Association.  To compete for this scholarship, you must have completed one year of chemistry, biology or physics prior to the summer you will be doing the research.  There are several places available for you to go, most of them on medical school campuses, or you may wish to engage in research on campus as a 499 class.

Harding Predental Scholarship  A special scholarship was endowed by Dr. Harding, an SDSU alumnus.  Each year several students are chosen to spend a month at a large dental school.  Applications are due in March or April; see the Predental Advisor and the predental page on our web site for details.


Leadership: Dental schools look for leaders.  Some opportunities on campus are:


Ø Student government offices

Ø Student Health Advisory Board positions

Ø Student clubs positions, for example, the Predental Club, Black Student Science Organization (BSSO), Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED), Chicanos/Minorities for Community Medicine (CPM),  Postbac Support Group

Ø PPHA class coordinators for the Topics in Dentistry or Careers in the Health Professions

Ø Officer in Preventive Dentistry

Ø PPHA peer advisor




The DAT is a standardized exam that is administered by computer, at a designated testing center, "almost every day of the year."  The test comprises 4 sections:

¨        Survey of Natural Sciences

¨        Perceptual Ability

¨        Reading Comprehension

¨        Quantitative Reasoning


Some students can adequately prepare with their own texts and class notes.  Commercial study guides are also available and can be used to supplement your study.  Commercial preparation courses are available through Kaplan and Princeton Review.  They are expensive; a few scholarships are available through the PPHA office for students with demonstrated financial need. 


An applicant with a marginal GPA can strengthen his/her application with good DAT scores.  Conversely, an applicant with a high GPA can be weakened by low DAT scores.  It is, of course, advantageous to do as well as you can in both areas.  If you feel that your DAT performance does not reflect your ability, you can retake the exam, providing that you feel you can demonstrate a marked improvement.  However, it is NOT recommended that you take the exam for practice, or in hopes of slightly improving your scores, because ALL results will be sent to the schools to which you have applied.  Depending upon the school, the two scores may be averaged or only the most recent scores may be used; some schools will consider all scores.


Take the DAT in the spring, get your application ready by early summer, and have everything submitted at the beginning of the application period.  In this way the professional schools can evaluate you earlier and, hopefully, more thoroughly since you are not in the rush of applications in September/October.  If, for some reason, the professional school does not have a complete file on you, there is still plenty of time to correct the problem.  It is also obvious that the student who pulls everything together early is usually more definite about where he/she is going.




1st –3rd years:        Actively participate in the Preventive Dentistry Program

                                Take the Topics in Dentistry Class in the fall of your 3rd year for credit; sit in all other years

                                Attend first mandatory meeting in the spring of your 3rd year or two years before your

                                expected entrance to dental school


Summer between 3rd and 4th year--Complete first drafts of your application essay and your autobiography


4th year:              Continue to actively participate in the Preventive Dentistry Program

                            Attend the 2nd mandatory meeting in the fall, and the 3rd mandatory meeting in the spring

                            Participate in the Essay Peer Review

                            Sign up for a TV mock interview through Career Services

                            Complete mock application and GPA calculation sheet for Committee interviews

                            Take DAT in spring


Summer between 4th and 5th year:  APPLY TO DENTAL SCHOOLS BY JULY 1


5th year:              Volunteer work/Preventive Dentistry

                            Interview at dental schools

                            Anticipate acceptance to dental school



REQUIRED: These courses will satisfy the requirements for most dental schools.  Check the specific schools you are interested in for exact requirements. (Refer to the SDSU Catalog for prerequisites.)


SDSU Course #

Course Name



Biol 203/203L

Biol 204/204L

Biol 366/366L

Prin. of Cell & Molecular Biol (4)

Prin. of Organismal Biology (4)

*Biochem, Cell & Molec. Biol (6)

UCLA and others require 2 years (1 year or more with laboratory)


Chem 200

Chem 201

Chem 232/232L

Chem 432/432L

Chem 365

General Chemistry (5)

General Chemistry (5)

Organic Chemistry (4)

Organic Chemistry (4)

*Biochem, Cell & Molec. Biol (3)

1 year of general or inorganic and 1 year of organic. A background in Biochemistry is extremely useful for the DAT and 1st yr dent school


Phys 180A/182A

Phys 180B/182B


Phys 195/195L

Phys 196/196L   * Phys 197/197L

Fund. of Physics I/Lab (4)

Fund. of Physics II/Lab (4)


Principles of Physics (4)

Principles of Physics (4)    *

Principles of Physics (4)



Consult your academic advisor.


Psy 101

þ Intro to Psychology (3)



RWS 100

RWS 200

College Composition (3)

Intermediate Composition (3)

1 year

þ Some required by 5 schools including UCLA and UCSF; it is strongly recommended by 20+ others.


STRONGLY RECOMMENDED by dental schools: Recommendations vary widely from school to school. The courses below represent subjects recommended by at least 5 dental schools.

Bio 212:

Human Anatomy (4)*

Bio 474:

Histology (4)*

Bio 215:

Biostatistics (3) or Psych 270



Bio 350:

General Microbiology (4)*

Bio 590:

Physiology of Human Systems (4)

Bio 352 **:

Genetics and Evolution (3)

Comm 103

Oral Communication

Math 121/122:

Calculus for Life Sciences I/II (3,3) (Required by Penn, Harvard and some others)

*Also recommended by first year dental students        **May be helpful for DAT

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED by SDSU:  First-year dental students may find these courses valuable:

Bio 249:

Careers in Health Professions (1)

Bio 348:

Internship (1)

Bio 250B:

Topics in Dentistry  (1)

Bio 436:

Human Physiology Lab

Bio 277:

Medical Terminology (2)

Bio 497/499:

Research (1-3)

Bio 340A:

Preventive Dentistry (1)

RWS 503W: Technical Writing (3) or RWS 508:

Scientific Writing (3) – A MUST!!!  Preparation for scientific research writing.


Most dental schools require or recommend courses in humanities, art, social sciences, language, communications, and business.  Dental schools are interested in individuals with more than a scientific background. you are strongly urged to take courses outside of the sciences.  Suggested elective courses include:

Philosophy 330 - Medical Ethics Econ 101 – Principles of Economics Spanish (1 or more years) Acctg 201 – Financial Accounting PH 362 – International Health PH 305 –Medial Care Organization and Delivery Soc 101 – Intro to Sociology Sculpture/Jewelry making


Other business courses (finance, economics, management)