6 Alternative Routes To Dental School If You Have Low GPA And Low DAT Score

Do you plan to get into a dental school but are worried about your low GPA or DAT score (or maybe both)? Are you wondering if there is still hope? Good news for you - there is!

dental scans
Photographer: Quang Tri NGUYEN | Source: Unsplash

To ask yourself the question “Is it possible for me to be accepted into a dental school?” you must first know where you stand statistically. Statistics play a key role in deciding whether a student is or is not qualified for dental school. This includes GPA and DAT scores.

The good thing about the DAT is that you can take it thrice, and they'll report your best score. But the fact that you couldn't get a satisfactory score on the first try may negatively reflect on your Dental school application.

To give you an idea, the average applicant normally has a DAT score as follow:

These DAT scores are "OK" and even with these DAT scores, you might encounter difficulties landing an interview in some cases and even more difficulties if your GPA is low.

You should know that some, not all, dental schools have a DAT score cut off. This is also true for GPA.

Most students who have successfully applied to and have gotten accepted in dental schools usually have a DAT score of 19 Academic Average and 19 Total science.

For reference, the average GPA for matriculation is around 3.5 for both cumulative (CGPA) and science (SGPA). Therefore, we will define a "low" GPA as 3.0-3.3 and a "very low" GPA as <3.0.

6 Alternative Routes To Dental School When Your GPA & DAT Scores Are Too Low

There are several options but some may be better than others depending on where you stand in regards to your GPA. Here are a few alternative routes to dental school.

1. Post-Baccalaureate Program

Some of you are deciding between a master’s or a post-baccalaureate program. To be honest, everyone is different. However, you can consider the post-baccalaureate program when you have a GPA that is lower than 2.75.

You will need to find a post-baccalaureate program to attend as your current GPA will not pass the cutoff for dental school. This option is also recommended for anyone with a GPA that is lower than 3.0. The reason for this is that the credits earned in these programs will directly affect your undergrad GPA.

You need to make it a priority to get an A in every credit as this will maximize the opportunity of bringing your GPA above a 3.0.

Not only will a 2.75+ GPA now qualify you to apply to dental school but the dental school will be able to see that you have an upward trend in your GPA and that you are capable of doing well in your classes.

The upward trend in your GPA will essentially indicate that with a little dedication, you're capable of earning high grades and this looks good to the eyes of the committee.

Note: Only post-baccalaureate affects your undergrad GPA. Other programs such as a master’s program and dental hygiene school will not raise your GPA and thus will not help you qualify for dental school if you have a sub 2.75 GPA.

2. Master’s Program

If your GPA is just above a 3.0 but still not optimal, you may want to think about getting into a master’s program. The GPA is indeed crucial for your dental school application, but the application is considered as a whole.

GPA score isn't the only thing that can convince dental schools to accept you. You can make up for a low GPA with good DAT scores or other experiences such as a Master's Program.

It is recommended to find a 1-year program to apply for, as this will allow you to beef up your application in a short amount of time.

A master’s program allows you to show the dental school that you are capable of doing well in grad-level courses. This also allows you to stay academically active which is a plus on your application.

If your first attempt at dental school results in rejection, because of a low GPA or Low DAT score - go for a master's program. The acceptance number of students in dental school with master's degrees is increasing every year.

3. Dental Hygiene School

Applying to dental hygiene school is similar to doing a master’s program. However, dental hygiene is a 2-year program which means that it will take an extra year before you can apply to dental school. This option may be good for some students. But if you know you want to be a dentist, we would recommend taking a faster route.

4. PhD

Enrolling in a 4-6 year Ph.D. program is not the most efficient way to get into dental school. There may be a few students out there who went this route but this is definitely not the easiest or even the best way of compensating for a low GPA.

5. Going Foreign

The idea of going to a foreign dental school usually crosses the minds of students who are struggling to get into dental school in the United States or Canada. However, it is not a short or easy process of taking your foreign degree and making it valid in the states.

First, you need to realize that there are a few ways of increasing your chances of getting into dental school with a sub-par GPA. Each of the ways will take considerable effort at proving yourself academically. There is no shortcut around this one.

If you are in a situation where you feel your GPA is low put in all the energy you have possible to get A’s in your courses from here on out. An upward trend is a positive in the eyes of the admissions committee and it is never too late to start!

Remember, while this is an option to compensate for a low GPA and fulfill your dreams of becoming a dentist, it isn’t ideal by any means. If you decide to go down this route, do thorough research to prepare for all the possible pitfalls associated with it.

6. Scoring High On The DAT

Out of all the other alternative routes to dental school, this is perhaps the most feasible. So far, everything we have written in this article was based on the assumption that both your GPA and DAT score is less than ideal, making you incapable of getting into a dental school.

However, if your GPA is low, but you have outstanding DAT scores, there is a fair chance that you might get into a dental school (unless your GPA is below the cut-off limit). So if your GPA is above 2.75 but still pretty low, work hard on your DAT.

Apart from giving your highest effort in studies, there is another option you might consider to earn a decent GPA and DAT score. This final option—strong extracurriculars, shadowing, and personal statement— is for both low and very low GPA students as a supplement to the other possible options.

With more holistic approaches to application evaluation, one can really shine if the rest of their application outside of the DAT and GPA is stellar. This is evident in the many stories you hear of applicants with low GPAs and DAT scores getting accepted.

However, the reason these students are successful is not solely from the number of hours and activities they have. These students with less than competitive applications can write a compelling and moving narrative around why they want to be a dentist and why they deserve a shot.

This is where your personal statement comes in.

You need a stellar personal statement that ties your entire application together into a strong narrative. By using your personal statement as a framing tool for a strong application narrative, you can shift admissions committees in your favor.

To do this, you will need to spend time reviewing your entire application, plan a narrative and then begin to weave your high-quality shadowing/extracurriculars within that narrative.

Final Thoughts

For many pre-dental students looking to apply to dental school, the largest hurdles to admissions are a low GPA and low DAT. While many schools are taking a holistic approach to application evaluation, GPA or DAT score still is, and always will be, a major factor in application evaluation.

The higher the GPA, the higher your chances of admission will be. It is important to know that, if your GPA is low, then the Dental Admission Test (DAT) score will be crucial in deciding whether you will be accepted. But you should know the minimum requirements for universities to which you are applying.

Looking for a tool that can assist you in preparing for the DAT exam? Get started with PATcrusher today to access the most comprehensive PAT Resources for the DAT.

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