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How Dental Students Can Shave a Year Off Their Studies 

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by Carol Best
photo of KCU-Joplin Dental School
Pre-dental students at MNU can apply as sophomores to KCU-Joplin's College of Dental Medicine (above) for early admission.

MNU and Kansas City University-Joplin College of Dental Medicine have entered a partnership allowing qualifying MNU students early admission to the dental school. The program will save students time and money while earning their degrees, and they can bypass the usual process of dental school admission.

Students will benefit by saving time, money and stress if they apply and are accepted to the program. MNU Senior Alyssa Robinson is applying for admission to KCU-Joplin in the traditional manner. However, she wishes the program would have been available when she was a sophomore.

“Knowing I had a spot in dental school as a sophomore would have given me great relief as there would have been a lot of worry and stress taken off of my shoulders allowing me to focus more on the endeavors I was pursuing,” Alyssa says.

Not having to prepare to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) would also have saved her time studying and money taking practice tests. Not to mention the stress of earning a high enough score for acceptance.

As it turns out, KCU-Joplin is her first choice for dental school and she’s hopeful about admission.

“Going on a visit to the KCU-Joplin dental school showed me how similar it was to MNU and that it had many of the same qualities that made me fall in love with MNU in the first place,” she says.

Happy students she encountered there and numerous resources like tutoring, study sessions, and extracurricular clubs and activities are a draw for Alyssa.

“The smaller size also gave me the impression that classes would be more personable and give me more one-on-one time with professors, ultimately helping with my learning experience,” Alyssa says. “These reasons have made KCU-Joplin my top pick of dental schools. Not only do I think I would enjoy myself the most there, but I also think I would get the best learning experience.”

Qualifying MNU students can apply for a coveted spot at KCU-Joplin’s dental school based on several factors, including a minimum ACT score of 24 and an overall GPA of 3.25 in science courses at MNU. The students chosen for admission then become first-year dental students at KCU during their senior year at MNU.

“Because KCU-Joplin will hold a certain number of spots for MNU students each year, our applicants know they have a higher chance of being accepted,” says Assistant Professor Dr. Jill Speicher. “When they are accepted, they know their pathway into dental school is set in their sophomore year as long as they maintain their grades.”

Speicher says the partnership is a benefit not only for MNU and its students but also for communities that are underserved.“The KCU-Joplin campus does outreach to the underserved with dental needs in their region, so teaming with KCU fits our mission and values at MNU.”

KCU-Joplin College of Dental Medicine seated its first class of 80 dental medicine students in August 2023. The school features a $65 million high-tech learning environment meant to help ease the shortage of dentists. According to its website, Missouri alone has an estimated shortage of more than 700 dentists, Oklahoma requires 166 more dentists, and both Arkansas and Kansas need more than 100 to address these shortages.

The educational partnership between MNU and KCU is largely due to MNU benefactor and former Board of Trustees Chair, Larry McIntire, DO. McIntire helped create a similar program between the universities in 2017. It also allows sophomores at MNU to apply for a seat at its medical school and if accepted, forego the MCAT and senior-year stress about getting into medical school. This year two MNU students plan to apply for the program.

Students who are considering a dental or medical career should contact their MNU academic advisor as early as the beginning of their freshman year. Learn more about the program at mnu.edu/pre-professional-programs/kansas-city-university-and-mnu-cooperative-program.

MNU also has pre-professional partnerships in engineering with Washington University St. Louis and veterinary biomedical sciences with K-State Olathe. Faculty advisors help students prepare for professional careers during their MNU studies with guidance, mentoring and special programming.