Choosing from the plethora of dental schools in the country is not something to take lightly; it requires a great deal of investment in both time and money. Don't make the mistake of simply enrolling in the first school that sends you an acceptance letter. You should make a number of considerations before choosing a dental school to ensure it is a perfect fit for your educational, social and career needs.
Location and Rankings
The school's location can be one of the biggest deciding factors for many students. While some want to stay close to home and family, others want to get out into the world and explore new locations. Your first step should be to examine how various dental schools are ranked in the parts of the country where you would consider living. Although the American Dental Association doesn't rank schools, it provides a free download showing reports on accredited predoctoral, advanced and allied dental education programs ranked by respected sources. If you find a favorably ranked school in an area you wish to live, investigate it further.
By observing classes you can better gauge a number of factors that will help you choose a good dental school to meet your needs. "U.S. News & World Report" advises students who are school hunting to sit in on a few classes; after all, "You are going to spend a lot of time in class, so the quality of the teaching and the accessibility of the professors should be top priority." This will help you get a good feel for the classroom setting and the teaching quality. You can contact various schools to make these arrangements.
Interview Current Students
When visiting dental schools, you should take the time to introduce yourself to current students and ask them how they like the program. Students give the best insight into the quality of a program, even so that teachers are asking students for their opinions in their efforts to improve teaching quality. According to researcher Chris Unger at Project Zero of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in his attempt to make improvements he asked students about their educational experiences, their opinions on the kinds of teaching they were exposed to, and how they felt about their schools as communities. You would be wise to ask these same questions in order to determine if the school would be your perfect fit.
Another way to find that perfect-fit dental school is to interview faculty members. As educational leaders and representatives of the school, they should leave you with a positive impression. Kathryn L. Cottingham, assistant professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth College came up with some of the following ideal questions that students should consider asking faculty members at prospective schools: "What is the long-term plan for this school?" and "What is the outside perception of this department?" You should also ask questions about teaching methods and the variations applied as well as what resources are available to foster student research.
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images