Academics & Coursework

Before applying, dental schools expect that applicants develop certain competencies. Students develop some of these competencies through undergraduate coursework, while they develop others through experiences outside the classroom. Dental schools review your application looking for indicators that you have developed these competencies. They will expect you to complete certain coursework, maintain a certain GPA, and achieve a sufficient score on the DAT in order to gain admission.



Choosing a major #

For predental students, your major doesn't matter nearly as much as the competencies you build. While you need to complete certain science courses, you don't have to major in a science field.

Dental school admissions officials usually say that they do not have a preference for one particular major over another. In fact, most of them say they do not even prefer science majors over non-science majors. Dental schools seek to admit students from all majors who have developed strong abilities in the sciences, as well as other skills.

Regardless of your major, dental schools will expect you to complete a rigorous set of coursework in the natural sciences. Being a strong student in the sciences isn't enough though. You will need strong analytical and critical reasoning skills. Good dentists must be able to relate to their patients on a personal level. Communication skills are important too.

For these reasons, there is no one major that is considered the best for dental school applicants. You could become a strong applicant by majoring in a non-science field, as long as you excel in your science coursework and demonstrate that you are fully prepared for the demands of dental school. You could also become a strong applicant by majoring in a science field while taking advanced-level coursework in the humanities and social sciences to develop your communication and critical reasoning skills.

Predental coursework #

Before applying, dental schools will expect you to attain certain competencies through undergraduate coursework. Requirements vary by dental school, but common requirements include at least one year of college coursework (including both lecture and lab components) in biology, general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. Additional requirements may include anatomy and physiology, additional upper-level coursework in biology, and biochemistry.

Dental schools have expectations that students who are building the necessary competencies should be able to excel in their predental science coursework, generally earning mostly A's and some B’s in predental science courses.

Research the requirements of the schools where you plan to apply. You can consult the individual dental school websites for information on admission requirements. The ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools provides information on admission requirements for US and Canadian dental schools.

Indiana University offers a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degree program on the IU Indianapolis campus. Students planning to apply should complete the coursework below and review the requirements for admission to the D.D.S. program.

IU School of Dentistry Requirements
IU Bloomington course(s) that can fulfill the requirement
Biological Sciences (20 credit hours) Courses must include:
  • Anatomy (lecture and lab): ANAT-A 225* (5 credits)
  • Physiology (lecture): PHSL-P 225* (5 credits) or BIOL-P 451 (4 credits)
  • Microbiology or immunology (lecture): BIOL-M 250, BIOL-M 380, or BIOL-L 321 (3 credits)
  • Molecular biology, cell biology, or biochemistry (lecture): BIOL-L 211, BIOL-L 312, CHEM-C 383 or CHEM-C 483 (3 credits)

BIOL-L 112 (4 credits) is a prerequisite for BIOL-L 211 and BIOL-M 250 and contributes towards the 20 credit hour requirement.
General Chemistry (8 credit hours)
  • General/inorganic chemistry I (lecture and lab): CHEM-C 117 and C127 (5 credits)
  • General/inorganic chemistry II: CHEM-C 118 or CHEM-N 331 (3-5 credits)

CHEM-C 103 does not count towards the general chemistry prerequisite.

Organic Chemistry (4 credit hours)
  • Organic chemistry I (lecture and lab): CHEM-C 341 and C343 (5 credits)
Physics (8 credit hours)
  • Physics I: PHYS-P 201 or PHYS-P 221 (5 credits)
  • Physics II: PHYS-P 202 or PHYS-P 222 (5 credits)
Social Sciences (3 credit hours)

Must include psychology or communication studies, e.g. PSY-P 101 or 102 or 155 or COLL-P 155

Humanities (3 credit hours)

Must include at least one of these courses: English composition, literature, philosophy, history, or foreign language

*ANAT-A 215 and PHSL-P 215 prior to Fall 2024 will be accepted to fulfill these requirements.

AP credit and dual credit courses are not acceptable for science prerequisites.

Online courses are not acceptable for science prerequisites.

Community college courses for social sciences and humanities are accepted.

Required science courses should be upper level (preferably 200-300 level) and they must be intended for science majors at a 4 year college or university.

The minimum credit hours to apply to the DDS program is 90 semester credit hours (or 135 quarter credit hours) of academic coursework. You must complete a minimum of 30 of the 90 semester credit hours at a 4 year college or university.

Complete as many prerequisites as possible prior to applying. Outstanding prerequisites must be completed by May 31st of the year you plan to enter the DDS program.

Completion of your bachelor’s degree is required at the time of matriculation to dental school.

Below are additional guidelines on courses at IU Bloomington that can be used to fulfill common requirements for dental school. Keep in mind that many dental schools have additional requirements, and you need to carefully research the requirements for individual dental schools.


Some dental schools require anatomy with lab, which can be fulfilled with ANAT-A 225.


Many dental schools require biochemistry. This requirement can be fulfilled with CHEM-C 383 or 483 or 484.


Most dental schools require two semesters of biology with lab, which can be fulfilled with BIOL-L 112, 113 and 211. Some require more coursework in biology or make additional recommendations. Recommended upper-level biology courses can include immunology, cell  biology, and genetics. Note that BIOL-L 111 provides a good background for some material on the Dental Admission Test.


Many dental schools require one or two semesters of English. These can include English composition, upper-level composition, intensive writing, or other professional writing courses.

General/inorganic chemistry

Most dental schools require two semesters of general/inorganic chemistry with lab. Courses to fulfill the first semester with lab are CHEM-C 117 and 127. A course to fulfill the second semester is CHEM-C 118 or CHEM-N 331.


Many dental schools require microbiology. This requirement can be fulfilled with BIOL-M 250 or 380.

Organic chemistry

Most dental schools require two semesters of organic chemistry with lab. Courses to fulfill this requirement are CHEM-C 341, 342 and 343.


Most dental schools require two semesters of physics with lab. Courses to fulfill this requirement are algebra-based physics PHYS-P 201 and 202 or calculus-based physics PHYS-P 221 and 222.


Some dental schools require physiology, which can be fulfilled with PHSL-P 225 or BIOL-P 451.

Academic record and GPA #

Your undergraduate GPA is one of the primary ways dental schools will evaluate your application for admission. What is a competitive GPA for admission to dental school? The average cumulative GPA for applicants accepted to dental schools in 2023 nationally was 3.64. The average cumulative GPA for IU Bloomington applicants accepted in 2023 was 3.64. The average cumulative GPA among matriculants to the IU School of Dentistry in 2023 was 3.61. A good benchmark for admission is to maintain an average cumulative GPA of 3.6 or higher.

Dental schools pay attention to grade trends and ranges also. A student who had a difficult first semester as a freshman but went on to earn A’s in rigorous science courses in future semesters could still be viewed favorably.

GPA calculations #

Dental schools do not just look at your GPA as shown on your IU transcript. Applicants apply to dental schools through a centralized application service, called AADSAS. The application service has its own method for recalculating your GPA. This allows the schools to more easily compare applicants, regardless of the grading system used at the student's college or university.

When you apply to dental school you will type information onto the application from the transcripts of all colleges and universities you have attended, including the title of each course, number of credit hours, and the grade earned for each course. Each course will be classified according to the subject matter of the course. This information will be used to calculate an overall cumulative GPA for you, as well as a science GPA, and other types of GPAs.

Science GPA

AADSAS calculates a special "BCP" GPA based on coursework classified as biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and physics. AADSAS provides a chart in the application instructions that explains how coursework in different subject areas is classified, since courses are not always classified the way one would expect according to the department at IU that offers a given course.

What is a competitive science GPA? The average science GPA nationally for applicants admitted to dental school in 2023 was 3.57. The average science GPA for IU Bloomington applicants accepted in 2023 was 3.56. The average science GPA among matriculants to the IU School of Dentistry in 2023 was 3.52. 

Course retakes #

Generally, many dental schools advise that students should not retake coursework, but rather proceed into higher level coursework where they can show improvement. Still, some students may consider whether or not to retake a specific course in order to earn a higher grade.

If you are considering retaking a course to enhance your application to dental school, you will want to carefully consider the impact of IU Extended-X policies, policies of the centralized application service (AADSAS), and the likelihood and impact of obtaining a higher grade in the course. Make sure to consult information in this Guidebook on Repeated Coursework and Impact of ‘Extended-X’ Policies on Application to Professional Schools.

Before re-enrolling in a course, you will want to create a plan for success, including such elements as devoting additional time to the course, developing new study skills, attending instructor office hours, and using tutoring services.

Building a strong transcript #

Building a strong transcript requires careful planning, excellent time management skills, and dedication. Make use of resources such as instructor office hours and tutoring. Tracking your study time and devoting about 25-30 hours per week to preparation outside of class times can enhance your success!

Parallel planning #

What is parallel planning? It's a smart strategy to ensure your success. There are many possible paths to your goal of a healthcare career! Some predental students convince themselves that the only way to achieve their dreams is by becoming a dentist – but the truth is that you could potentially be successful in a wide number of fields. A parallel plan is a plan you create that you can pursue right alongside your first choice of a career. Predental science courses can be challenging, and parallel planning allows you to efficiently change paths at some point if you discover you do not like or no longer want to pursue your primary career path.

How could you create a parallel plan? Explore your interests, goals, and values. Meet with a career advisor. Think about other goals you would like to achieve alongside being a dentist – for instance, would you like to encourage good nutrition and healthy lifestyles, improve access to dental care, or work in research? Your answers to these questions may help indicate additional career paths through which you could find meaning.