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3 Pieces of Advice for the IDP Student Applicant

It is my pleasure to introduce a special guest writer - our friend and colleague Rahul Nagda, BDS, DDS. Rahul completed the IDP program at UCSF in 2020 and he is a current second-year pediatric dental resident at the UCSF School of Dentistry.

Because the IDP student experience is vastly different than that of the domestic US experience, Wilson and I sought the perspective of our knowledgable friend on how he navigated a new educational system in the United States and found success in gaining not only admissions to dental school but also pediatric residency. We want to share his advice in hopes that you, whether you are an IDP pre-dental student or a current IDP dental student, may gain a new perspective on chartering your American Dream through dentistry here in the US!

Simply put, why is the IDP admissions process so incredibly competitive?

"It is so competitive due to supply and demand issues. On average, there are about 25 IDP students/schools and over 1,000 students apply every cycle. There is a 2-5% chance of acceptance. A lot of schools wish to have diverse students in the program. I encourage you all to have a realistic goal and believe in yourself. Dentistry in the US is becoming really challenging. "

Here are three summarized key points of advice that Rahul has to share for all international pre-dental colleagues:

1. The IDP application process is an extremely expensive one. What advice do you have for the students managing the finances of this journey?

To be honest, one major hurdle that can often hinder students from applying to the IDP program is the finances. The IDP school is on average $300,000 with costs rising.

The advice I would offer you is to consider is three-fold financially:

  • IDP students are not eligible for federal loans. Try finding a cosigner to cosign those loans.

  • Private loans are an option for you as well but have higher interest rates.

  • Consider seeking a family sponsor to help you fund this educational investment.

2. What do you think is key to getting accepted to an IDP program the first time around?

  • For me, a personal statement is a key to your application. Most candidates are very well qualified, so this is the distinguishing factor. Everyone needs to put in the effort to write this and make sure this is a writing document of your own. At the same time, do not plagiarize and stay true to your own story. Jenny and Wilson are experts in this field and have helped many IDP and domestic students craft a personal statement that makes them stand out among many other applicants! I would recommend reading their associated personal statement blogs and seeking their help.

  • Second to that would be strong letters of recommendation from US-trained dentists. It is important to show that you have thoroughly explored and understood how dentistry is delivered in the United States. You can do this through volunteering at a dental school or working as a dental assistant. I would also recommend looking on social media, there are many online communities on Instagram and Facebook for pre-dental IDP students.

3. How can I stand out among other numerically qualified applicants?

  • Get involved in understanding dentistry in the United States! You can do this through pursuing a master's degree, research at a dental school, community service, or a preceptorship. Two common west coast preceptorships are offered at UCLA and UCSF. For me, volunteering at UCLA School of Dentistry as a research assistant helped me better understand what the American education system is looking for. By having in-person mentors, I was able to secure strong letters of recommendation.


For a more in-depth conversation on Rahul's IDP experience, please view his vlog here:


If you are an IDP pre-dental student and would like to seek assistance in your personal statement or mock interview practice, please email us at or send us a message in our chatbox to your right.


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