Applying to dental schools in the United States is a new and challenging experience for many international dentists. Most applicants did not go through a similar application process to become a dentist in their home country. Without proper information and guidance, the process can seem overwhelming. Often, the resources to guide international dentists through this process are limited. Assuming that a candidate has a dental degree/diploma from a non-U.S. or Canadian dental school, the following are some of the other aspects of the dental school application for international dentists.
- NBDE: the majority of dental schools require an applicant to take the NBDE Part 1 exam to apply. Some schools also require NBDE Part 2 as a pre-requisite to apply.
- TOEFL: This is an English language proficiency test required by schools for a foreign-trained dentists. This test demonstrates the applicant’s ability to perform well in didactic courses offered in English and shows that the applicant can interact with patients and other professionals in the United States. Some programs require a minimum overall score to apply and some programs require a minimum score in each of the speaking, listening, reading and writing component of the test. TOEFL iBT is the most common form of the test accepted in the applications.
- ECE/WES Evaluation: These evaluation services evaluate your transcripts and the curriculum in your dental school and provide you with an equivalent U.S. GPA.
- Experience: Dental experience in your home country and in the United States is preferred by the schools. Experience in U.S. shows an ability to understand and assimilate in the work culture here. This can be demonstrated by shadowing, dental assisting, volunteering, research and other professional work. It is preferable if the activity you invest time in is consistent with your values and career aspirations.
- Statement of Purpose: This is an essay describing your dental journey and the reasons you want to pursue a dental degree in the U.S. Applicants often underestimate its value and often find it challenging. This is a key component of the applications and tells your story in a compelling way. It gives the admission committee a chance to get a sneak peek in your ideas and personality, apart from what is stated in your CV.
- Letters of Recommendation: These are letters from the dean of the dental school, faculty, dentists, work supervisors or employers recommending an applicant as an ideal candidate for the program. Here are some tips for asking for a letter.
After receiving an application, some schools require a supplemental application, where additional questions have to be answered and necessary documents have to be submitted. The schools evaluate the applications, and if deemed desirable, invite the applicant for an interview and a bench test.
How do you select which dental school to apply to? Research schools on ASDA’s website and on the ADEA CAAPID website, which offers a program for international dentists. Some of the schools do not participate in the CAAPID and you must apply to the school separately. ASDA’s Guide for Predental Students is also a useful resource (and free for ASDA members) that includes admission statistics, specialty programs and values of the school all in one book. While applying to multiple schools is a safe bet, take into consideration which school is a best fit for you. Research the school’s program and curriculum and talk to dental students and alumni if available. Understand where your interests lies – research, community service, clinical skills, specializing after graduation, academics – then find out which schools fits best in your interests and career goals.
The process requires significant investment of time, efforts, dedication and commitment.
I hope this post is helpful and answers some questions. Please share your experience and queries in comments below. The ASDA community and fellow international dentists will help guide you through this process.
~Kekul Bharucha, predental