Pre-Professional Pathways are not offered as majors at Western, nor are they at most other universities, but they can be incorporated into or taken alongside any degree-granting major offered at Western.
Pre-Dentistry is not a major, but a specific program of study in math and science required for admission to dental school. Students should work closely with academic advisors in their major and the pre-dental advisors to assure that general university requirements, major, and Pre-Dental requirements are incorporated into their overall plan of study. Dentistry is a challenging, dynamic and rewarding profession.
Beyond the Classroom
Western's Pre-Healthcare Professions Advising Office provides mentoring and advising to students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare professions. The office works with students to enhance their chances of gaining successful admission to the professional school of their choice. Services range from individual academic advisement to preparing students for the final application process.
Western's Associated Students is home to 200+ clubs, including those for students pursuing healthcare professions.
Careers and Graduate Studies
Most dental students enter a practice after receiving their professional degree, either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.). Admission to professional schools of dentistry is competitive, so Western's Pre-Dental Pathway helps students plan their studies with care.
Most dentists are self-employed and establish a private practice alone or in partnership with other dentists. Employment opportunities also exist in the public health service, as teachers and researchers in dental education, commissioned officers in the armed services, and researchers or practitioners in industry. In addition, some dentists enter advanced education programs for training in a dental specialty.
Health Professions Advising Events
Typical programming events offered by Pre-Healthcare Advising include (but are not limited to):
Orientation Session: Getting you from WWU to professional school (DECAY)
Health Professional School & Grad School Info Fair, October 17
Winter Registration Walk-in Advising: Nov 13 and Nov 14, 12-2 in BI 415
Spring Registration Walk-in Advising: Feb 26 and Feb 27, 12-2 in BI 415
The Healthcare Professional School Application: A session overviewing the process
Fall Registration Walk-in Advising: May 20 and May 21, 12-2 in BI 415
What does it mean to be Pre-Dentistry at WWU?
Western does not offer a "Pre-dental" major, and there is no formula for getting into dental school. Selection committees evaluate applicants across multiple areas through a holistic review process. Important components include DAT scores, GPA (both cumulative and science), letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, community service, diversity awareness, manual dexterity, and an interview, as well as background checks (including legal, conduct, and social media records).
Dental schools emphasize the importance of a liberal arts education and do not recruit students from one specific major or discipline. This gives you flexibility in planning your educational program. Use your undergraduate years to explore many academic fields, to develop basic skills and knowledge, to demonstrate expertise and to experience a field of study (major) of your choice. Dental school admission is competitive, so make every effort to maintain high scholarship. Align with a major in which you both excel and enjoy. While Biology and Chemistry are popular choices, Pre-dental students have majored in a diverse range of disciplines including Anthropology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Business, Kinesiology, Languages (i.e. Spanish), and Sociology. Some pursue combined majors such as Anthropology/Biology, Biochemistry, and Cellular & Molecular Biology.
Regardless of your major, certain prerequisite courses expected by most dental schools include:
(a sequence of eight courses)
Note: It is imperative that students begin general chemistry as early in their program as possible
- General Chemistry series (includes labs): CHEM 161, 162, 163 [or Honors equivalent]
- Organic Chemistry lecture series: CHEM 351, 352, 353;
- with two accompanying labs: 354 and either 355 or 356 (depending upon major)
- Biochemistry: CHEM 471, 472
- General Biology series (includes labs): BIOL 204, 205, 206
- Microbiology: Consult with Pre-healthcare Advising regarding options
- Additional courses under advisement
- Physics series (includes labs): PHYS 114, 115, 116 [or PHYS 161, 162, 163 series]
(varies by school)
- Calculus: MATH 124, 125
- Statistics: MATH 240 [or major equivalent; i.e. BIOL 340 for Biology majors
- One year of English is highly recommended or required by some schools
- Introductory Psychology: PSY 101 (varies by school)
This document is for preliminary advising purposes only.
We encourage you to meet with a Pre-Healthcare advisor on a regular basis to determine a plan that is best for you.
- WWU students may join the Advisor’s Pre-dental Listserv. To join, go to www.wwu.edu/careers, click on Health Professions Advising (on the lefthand side of the page), and click Join Listserv
- Pre-Dental Club: Join this and other WWU Associated Students clubs at www.as.wwu.edu/clubs/.
Advanced Placement (AP)
Check with targeted schools whether they recognize AP as college-earned credit. Not all do. It is better to view any earned credits as qualifying to enroll in upper-division courses rather than as “testing out” of prerequisites.
Declaring a Major
Departments vary in how to declare majors. Behavioral Neuroscience, Biology, Chemistry, Kinesiology, and others allow students to declare as a “pre-major” while taking their specified prerequisites. Some majors require a specific GPA in certain courses. Declare early, even as a “pre-major”, to help shorten your time to degree. While working on any pre-major content, explore many disciplines to keep your options open.
Access to Classes
High demand exists for upper-division courses, especially in the sciences. Many departments grant enrollment priority to students declared in specific majors over those seeking enrollment for professional school purposes. Registration access procedures for impacted courses can change, and departments generally provide updates via their websites and email notifications, or by checking with the department’s program coordinator.
When you repeat a course, only your most recent grade is used when Western calculates your GPA. However, the class still shows up on your transcript. Although some students think that repeating a course will help them get into professional schools, this is almost always untrue. Professional schools will take into account ALL college-level coursework when performing their own calculation of your GPA, and this will include any courses you have repeated at Western. Still, in some circumstances it may be appropriate to repeat a course so talk to an advisor to be sure. Also, dropping a course can have an impact on eligibility for financial aid, scholarships, and athletic participation so consider your options carefully and speak with an advisor before making a decision.
Dental shadowing/observation in the range of 50-100 hours is commonly required by most dental schools. This helps one to gain exposure to the field and generate a professional letter of recommendation. Discuss your options with Pre-healthcare advisors.
The University of Washington requires a minimum of 50 hours. Exposure to diversity is beneficial.
Dental Admission Test (DAT)
Scheduling to take the DAT occurs with the American Dental Association. The test is conducted at Prometric Test Centers. Applicants should take the exam no later than August of the year preceding anticipated admission. DAT information is available at www.ada.org/dat.aspx.