Different dental hygiene programs will have varying degrees of difficulty when it comes to being accepted and it’s always wise to apply to more than one if relocating is an option for you. Applying to several programs will greatly increase your chances of being able to begin dental hygiene school as soon as possible.
Many programs only accept students once a year in the fall semester, therefore, if you are not accepted you will have to wait an entire year to reapply. There are several factors that affect how competitive it will be to be accepted into the dental hygiene program of your choice:
Enrollment – How many applicants does the program accept each year? Some programs are very small and accept as few as 12 students a year, some 24, and some even accept up to 36. The number of applicants varies each year but you can bet that many schools have well over 100 applicants vying for one of those spots.
Average GPA of accepted applicants – Is your GPA competitive enough to get into the program? Most likely there is also a minimum GPA that you will have to have in order to even apply. If you have a GPA lower than 2.5 then that is a good indicator to the program director that you may not be successful with the curriculum that will be required of you in the program.
Prerequisite courses complete – All dental hygiene programs will have a list of prerequisite courses that they would prefer be completed before admission into the program. Some programs will allow you to finish up prerequisites while in the dental hygiene program, but this will only make your already heavy load much more difficult. Also, if there are other applicants who have completed all their classes and you are still lacking a few, most likely they will be accepted ahead of you.
Is there a Point System? – Some colleges will rank you based on a point system. For example: each “A” you make in a prerequisite science based course will be worth 12 points, “B”, 8 points, and most likely a “C” will not be awarded any points at all or very little. There may be extra points given for experience in dentistry or volunteering or even something as unfair as simply living in the district of the college.
HESI scores – This Health Education Systems, Inc admissions assessment test has several different sections that focus on different subjects. Your score on this exam will be used as part of the rating process for admission.
Criminal background check and drug screening – You must be able to pass both a criminal background check and drug screening in order to be a qualified candidate for admission into most programs.
Observation hours – Many programs will require at least some observation hours of a dental hygienists in order to apply to their program. 8 hours is pretty standard and they may request that observation take place in two different settings. This is will help you to understand more about the career in general and what exactly you will be doing when you graduate. Having your teeth cleaned every 6 months only gives you a small glimpse into the daily schedule of your dental hygienist.
My recommendations for optimizing your chances of being accepted into dental hygiene school would be to apply to more than one, if possible, make sure all prerequisite courses are complete and your GPA is your personal best, and take the time to study and do well on your HESI exam.
Be persistent and if you are not accepted the 1st round then find out what you need to do to make yourself a more competitive applicant and of course, try again! Dental hygiene can be a very rewarding career if that is what you are passionate about, so do not give up on that dream.