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Advice on my direction...trying again after a couple of years (non-traditional student)

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MOMLOA

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Hello,

For the TL;DR - 25 years old, want to go to dental school after failing 2x and not trying for the past 2 years. Great GPA in undergrad in biology and 18 DAT last time I took the test. Where should I start?

This is my first time on SDN so I guess I'm doing something different this time. I tried to get into dental school for 2 years after graduating college, got an interview each year, no success. I got wrapped up in life and working and wanting "things" and experiences I could have when I was young. I thought I would be able to lead a fulfilling life this way and be successful. I am happy because of the people around me, but I am not fulfilled and do not see myself being fulfilled in what I'm doing.

I graduated with a BS in Biology from ODU with a 3.81 and science of 3.9. My DAT score was a little measly at 18 overall but a 22 on the PAT. I shadowed a couple hundred hours, did volunteer work, but didn't get involved in many extracurriculars or leadership opportunities. I was fortunate to not have to work while in school which is something that came up in the interview in the form of what I did with all my time. I had no good answer as at that point I thought my grades would carry me, boy was I wrong. Basically I didn't know what tired was, I know now and have grown up quite a bit in the last 2 years.

So now I want to do it the right way. I understand that I need to take some classes while I'm prepping my application, studying for the DAT, and building my leadership and shadowing experiences. I was wondering what courses you guys would suggest? I never took Pathology or A&PII, so I figured that would be a good start. I intend on working full time during this endeavor so I'm not stopped by the big question they had for me before about what I'm doing with all my time.

I plan on joining the ASDA and getting involved as possible and am currently purchasing DAT materials. I'm not going to go to an interview without at least a 21 on the DAT. I figure if I can't do that, I'm probably not very capable of dental school.

Thanks for all your help and reading this long post.
 

workofshart

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I guess you could take the classes that are "strongly recommended" by a lot of dental schools like A&P, histology etc. Shadow some dentists again, maybe volunteer and keep working. If you do those things and get above a 20+ on the DAT I think you will be fine! Btw make sure you get all new letters and if you go to school with a pre-dental society get involved with that I think it will count more than an ASDA membership.
 

CareerNumTwo

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Honestly, with your GPA, I wouldn't worry about taking any other classes unless they are required wherever you want to apply. Just make a concerted effort to destroy the DAT. Might want to do some mock interviews to make sure that wasn't the issue. Lastly, while you didn't have much by way of leadership or extracurriculars, your story has changed. You can talk about examples from your work experience and, in my opinion, you reapplying a third time demonstrates determination.
 
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redhotchiligochu

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Hello,

For the TL;DR - 25 years old, want to go to dental school after failing 2x and not trying for the past 2 years. Great GPA in undergrad in biology and 18 DAT last time I took the test. Where should I start?

This is my first time on SDN so I guess I'm doing something different this time. I tried to get into dental school for 2 years after graduating college, got an interview each year, no success. I got wrapped up in life and working and wanting "things" and experiences I could have when I was young. I thought I would be able to lead a fulfilling life this way and be successful. I am happy because of the people around me, but I am not fulfilled and do not see myself being fulfilled in what I'm doing.

I graduated with a BS in Biology from ODU with a 3.81 and science of 3.9. My DAT score was a little measly at 18 overall but a 22 on the PAT. I shadowed a couple hundred hours, did volunteer work, but didn't get involved in many extracurriculars or leadership opportunities. I was fortunate to not have to work while in school which is something that came up in the interview in the form of what I did with all my time. I had no good answer as at that point I thought my grades would carry me, boy was I wrong. Basically I didn't know what tired was, I know now and have grown up quite a bit in the last 2 years.

So now I want to do it the right way. I understand that I need to take some classes while I'm prepping my application, studying for the DAT, and building my leadership and shadowing experiences. I was wondering what courses you guys would suggest? I never took Pathology or A&PII, so I figured that would be a good start. I intend on working full time during this endeavor so I'm not stopped by the big question they had for me before about what I'm doing with all my time.

I plan on joining the ASDA and getting involved as possible and am currently purchasing DAT materials. I'm not going to go to an interview without at least a 21 on the DAT. I figure if I can't do that, I'm probably not very capable of dental school.

Thanks for all your help and reading this long post.
OMG! I'm kinda sounding like a valley girl here but I am in a very similar situation life-wise. Traditional applicants who get financial help from mommy/daddy/rich uncle do not understand what it takes to survive in the real world.

You have the opposite problem as me. With a strong science, no need for postbac or extra classes (unless if you REALLY) want to, but I would retake the DAT and shoot for 20AA (as long as you didn't retake more than 2 times) since your GPA is not the issue.

And yes, get involved with some type of dental organization or dental society. Because of so many tryhard undergraduate "traditional" applicants, you do not want to give adcoms any excuse that you are not "committed" to dentistry.

I am currently waitlisted for an interview for a mediocre dental program.... I suppose my situation is borderline but get as much dental experience as you can, good luck!
 

MOMLOA

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Thanks for all the comments guys. I thought my situation was much more grim. I'm currently in the process of trying to get in touch with a few dental admission directors directly to ask what they want to see from me and things they'd like to see that they don't see often if they'll answer that question.

to redhotchiligochu...I have to put it out there because it's quite the lesson I've learned (some of my growing up) and a lesson I've tried to spread since leaving school. I was able to not have a job because of my parents support and it got me in trouble and eventually was a detriment to my education. When you graduate college, you need to know what struggling feels like and what tired really is; if you don't know those two things, you aren't utilizing the opportunities college provides to the fullest.

I know many schools like you to have letters from teachers. Does anyone know how that applies to non-traditional students like myself who won't be face to face with teachers? The one problem with a letter from my job is that they will not be happy when I leave. It's a small company of ~25 people and we work territories that take about a year to train into properly so I'm not sure if I'll be able to get a letter from the owner. I'm intending to take classes online just to help myself out and practice more time management.
 

redhotchiligochu

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Thanks for all the comments guys. I thought my situation was much more grim. I'm currently in the process of trying to get in touch with a few dental admission directors directly to ask what they want to see from me and things they'd like to see that they don't see often if they'll answer that question.

to redhotchiligochu...I have to put it out there because it's quite the lesson I've learned (some of my growing up) and a lesson I've tried to spread since leaving school. I was able to not have a job because of my parents support and it got me in trouble and eventually was a detriment to my education. When you graduate college, you need to know what struggling feels like and what tired really is; if you don't know those two things, you aren't utilizing the opportunities college provides to the fullest.

I know many schools like you to have letters from teachers. Does anyone know how that applies to non-traditional students like myself who won't be face to face with teachers? The one problem with a letter from my job is that they will not be happy when I leave. It's a small company of ~25 people and we work territories that take about a year to train into properly so I'm not sure if I'll be able to get a letter from the owner. I'm intending to take classes online just to help myself out and practice more time management.
Absolutely, I understand your pain regarding your current employment. Most traditional students do not realize that the 9-to-5 world is about corporate slavery, and that for you to publicly admit your future plans for a higher profession is career suicide.

Still regarding office politics, surely you can have a coworker that trained you as someone to get a LOR? BTW many dental schools actually don't care about getting a letter from a boss, so if you don't get one, it's no big deal. What most dental schools want are 2 science LOR's and 1 dentist LOR. If you feel that it's risky to ask your boss for a LOR, then I wouldn't.

Lastly, for school LOR's I'd send them a friendly email. GIVE AT LEAST 2 MONTHS! Professors are actually very busy people and sometimes they forget. My app got delayed by 2 weeks because of it, so be aware of that.


Edit: forgot to add about professor LOR
 

redhotchiligochu

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Idk what that's supposed to mean but I gave OP my best advice. I don't want my waitlist situation to decrease the credibility of my advice, but I want to highlight the fact that the application process is very fickle and that I happen to be on the receiving end of it this early in the cycle.
 

optimisticdent

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Idk what that's supposed to mean but I gave OP my best advice. I don't want my waitlist situation to decrease the credibility of my advice, but I want to highlight the fact that the application process is very fickle and that I happen to be on the receiving end of it this early in the cycle.
He's referring to you calling MWU-AZ a mediocre program haha
 

frozenicecreamDMD

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OMG! I'm kinda sounding like a valley girl here but I am in a very similar situation life-wise. Traditional applicants who get financial help from mommy/daddy/rich uncle do not understand what it takes to survive in the real world.

You have the opposite problem as me. With a strong science, no need for postbac or extra classes (unless if you REALLY) want to, but I would retake the DAT and shoot for 20AA (as long as you didn't retake more than 2 times) since your GPA is not the issue.

And yes, get involved with some type of dental organization or dental society. Because of so many tryhard undergraduate "traditional" applicants, you do not want to give adcoms any excuse that you are not "committed" to dentistry.

I am currently waitlisted for an interview for a mediocre dental program.... I suppose my situation is borderline but get as much dental experience as you can, good luck!

seriously, what is up with you? excuse that you work in special ed, which makes your life miserable, has nothing to do with the attitude. you pick that job. or else, you are forced into that job, it is just on you.

and no, not ALL undergraduates (aka traditional students) have rich sugar mommy/daddy/uncle to pave their way with money. A lot of us have to work hard, sometimes much harder than a person with full time work and taking a few classes (who usually whine and complain about how hard their lives are). Additionally, most of us had to work, do EC, and study while we were relatively young (18-22 yr old). So the discipline and commitment we owned are pretty much all time high.

But you know why none of us traditional students complain about how hard we work? because we make it into dental schools in one shot. Unlike you, who were given a shot in college, for some unknown circumstances, blew it. Now, you have to retry to fix the mistakes and hopefully matriculate, yet grow bitter about how your life has become.

you know what are more special about non-trad than trad students? its that they are willing to spend time to turn their life around and finally find a purpose in life when they finally mature. Not some nontrad who applied with near mediocre stats, got waitlisted, and bashed the school you got waitlisted at.

I said this in another post but let me repeat myself: if you get waitlisted at MWU AZ this early in the cycle and your stats are like that, the future possibility of getting more interviews is grim, and if you land some, the chance of scoring an acceptance is even grimmer. This, again, is just a general statement, but most likely, it will apply to you. Get in postbach, SMP, master and pull that GPA up along with ur DAT.
 
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redhotchiligochu

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seriously, what is up with you? excuse that you work in special ed, which makes your life miserable, has nothing to do with the attitude. you pick that job. or else, you are forced into that job, it is just on you.

and no, not ALL undergraduates (aka traditional students) have rich sugar mommy/daddy/uncle to pave their way with money. A lot of us have to work hard, sometimes much harder than a person with full time work and taking a few classes (who usually whine and complain about how hard their lives are). Additionally, most of us had to work, do EC, and study while we were relatively young (18-22 yr old). So the discipline and commitment we owned are pretty much all time high.

But you know why none of us traditional students complain about how hard we work? because we make it into dental schools in one shot. Unlike you, who were given a shot in college, for some unknown circumstances, blew it. Now, you have to retry to fix the mistakes and hopefully matriculate, yet grow bitter about how your life has become.

you know what are more special about non-trad than trad students? its that they are willing to spend time to turn their life around and finally find a purpose in life when they finally mature. Not some nontrad who applied with near mediocre stats, got waitlisted, and bashed the school you got waitlisted at.

I said this in another post but let me repeat myself: if you get waitlisted at MWU AZ this early in the cycle and your stats are like that, the future possibility of getting more interviews is grim, and if you land some, the chance of scoring an acceptance is even grimmer. This, again, is just a general statement, but most likely, it will apply to you. Get in postbach, SMP, master and pull that GPA up along with ur DAT.
I see your point and although I both agree and disagree with what you're saying, I don't think you have to call me out personally on a public forum. You may have a judgement toward me and that's fine, and I don't need to clarify what else I've been through to get to this point, but thanks anyway.
 

MOMLOA

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Honestly, with your GPA, I wouldn't worry about taking any other classes unless they are required wherever you want to apply. Just make a concerted effort to destroy the DAT. Might want to do some mock interviews to make sure that wasn't the issue. Lastly, while you didn't have much by way of leadership or extracurriculars, your story has changed. You can talk about examples from your work experience and, in my opinion, you reapplying a third time demonstrates determination.
I see your SN is career number two...I'm wondering that since I haven't kept up with my alma matter teachers what I should do for LORs? I know I can get a good dentist to give me one but I'm a little SOL unless I take some science classes for professor LORs. I'm looking into a local leadership program that I think could produce a good LOR from some business and city leaders where I live. Most colleges require more than 2 though.

Here's kind of my basic plan...
Keep working full time and try to shadow as much as possible and shadow different specialties 250+hours total
Do volunteer work where available even if it's not related to dentistry; community upbringing type work
Hopefully get into a local leadership program that literally graduates you after 10 months
Start keeping note of my usual crafting, building, and personal interests. I do pretty well with my hands; kind of build a portfolio to show interviewers.
Possibly take online classes like physiology and histology which I don't have and a lot of DS require
Get at least a 21 on the DAT

I'm hoping if I do these things it would be hard for me to even ruin my interview if I was trying. I'm willing to go wherever I need to be a dentist. There are certain schools I'd like to go obviously though.
 

CareerNumTwo

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I see your SN is career number two...I'm wondering that since I haven't kept up with my alma matter teachers what I should do for LORs? I know I can get a good dentist to give me one but I'm a little SOL unless I take some science classes for professor LORs. I'm looking into a local leadership program that I think could produce a good LOR from some business and city leaders where I live. Most colleges require more than 2 though.

Here's kind of my basic plan...
Keep working full time and try to shadow as much as possible and shadow different specialties 250+hours total
Do volunteer work where available even if it's not related to dentistry; community upbringing type work
Hopefully get into a local leadership program that literally graduates you after 10 months
Start keeping note of my usual crafting, building, and personal interests. I do pretty well with my hands; kind of build a portfolio to show interviewers.
Possibly take online classes like physiology and histology which I don't have and a lot of DS require
Get at least a 21 on the DAT

I'm hoping if I do these things it would be hard for me to even ruin my interview if I was trying. I'm willing to go wherever I need to be a dentist. There are certain schools I'd like to go obviously though.

Yes, I'm pursuing my second career. I've been in the Army for the past 10+ years and I've been on the dental track for the past year. I think you have a good plan, though it's a bit overkill in some areas...

Shadowing: Honestly, you said you already have a couple hundred of shadowing hours. The requirement for most schools is 100 hours, with some specifying a certain amount with a general dentist. There is a diminishing return on marginal utility for any hours above that (ie: someone with 100 hours looks a lot better than someone with 50 hours, but someone with 200 hours doesn't look that much better than someone with 125 hours...). If you already have 100+ hours, I wouldn't focus on this area. You should use that time for something else.

LORs: I guess I'm fortunate in that I actually have to take my pre-reqs now so this isn't an issue for me. Yes, for most schools the requirement is two faculty (science professors preferred) and one non-faculty (usually one of the dentists you shadowed). Since you did so well in school, is there any chance your former professors might possible remember you? If not, there's nothing wrong with taking one class per semester at a local university in order to establish that relationship.

Volunteer hours:
Yes, this is important so that you can demonstrate you're a well rounded person who wants to give back. However, this is more important for some schools than for other (ex: ASDOH). Do your research. If you want to attend a school that really values volunteerism above other things, then you'll have to aggregate anywhere from 300-500 hours. If not, sticking around 100-200 hours is sufficient. (Best bet is to call the schools directly and ask what they prefer to see.)

DAT: This is should be your focus. In terms of being a good applicant, in order to secure interviews, my impression is that GPA is 35%, DAT is 35%, and everything else is some fraction of the remaining 30%. It's good that you are keeping up the other activities but they aren't really going to give you the biggest bang for your time spent. If you can get your DAT to a 20 or higher, you will be a shoe in with your GPA.

Online classes: They won't hurt but, again, if I were you I would spend time studying for your DAT instead of some random upper bio online classes. A 21+ on the DAT would be much more useful to you than a random online histo or physio class.

Leadership program:
Sounds like an interesting program. I think it's a lot easier to demonstrate leadership while still in school since you can take on a leadership role in these clubs. I don't know what your job is but is it possible that something you do at work could be construed as leadership/management/anything like that? It's all about how you word things on your app...

good luck.
 

CareerNumTwo

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I see your point and although I both agree and disagree with what you're saying, I don't think you have to call me out personally on a public forum. You may have a judgement toward me and that's fine, and I don't need to clarify what else I've been through to get to this point, but thanks anyway.
Not to butt in on this, but I think your first problem was calling MWU a mediocre program... There are tons of people who would kill to get into that school if they could afford it. There are plenty of people who absorb the debt to go there even though it may not be the most financially intelligent option. Why do they do it? Because MWU is are one of the most clinically strong schools in the country. Their students graduate with a TON of experience. I've spoken with several MWU's students and some of them chose MWU over what are considered top 10 dental schools because of their experience during interviews. Ultimately, no school is a bad school... At the end of the day, students graduate as a DMD/DDS regardless of where they go.

Most traditional students do not realize that the 9-to-5 world is about corporate slavery, and that for you to publicly admit your future plans for a higher profession is career suicide.
I tend to with @frozenicecreamDMD's response. I also think something you said is odd... If your future plan for a higher profession is to become a dentist, why exactly would publicly admitting that plan be career suicide? If you mean that you might lose your current job after admitting you are trying to get into dental school, I don't see this as a problem because 1) you will have more time to focus on getting into dental school, and/or 2) you work with some really crappy people and probably need to find a better job in the mean time.
 

redhotchiligochu

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Not to butt in on this, but I think your first problem was calling MWU a mediocre program... There are tons of people who would kill to get into that school if they could afford it. There are plenty of people who absorb the debt to go there even though it may not be the most financially intelligent option. Why do they do it? Because MWU is are one of the most clinically strong schools in the country. Their students graduate with a TON of experience. I've spoken with several MWU's students and some of them chose MWU over what are considered top 10 dental schools because of their experience during interviews. Ultimately, no school is a bad school... At the end of the day, students graduate as a DMD/DDS regardless of where they go.


I tend to with @frozenicecreamDMD's response. I also think something you said is odd... If your future plan for a higher profession is to become a dentist, why exactly would publicly admitting that plan be career suicide? If you mean that you might lose your current job after admitting you are trying to get into dental school, I don't see this as a problem because 1) you will have more time to focus on getting into dental school, and/or 2) you work with some really crappy people and probably need to find a better job in the mean time.

No one admits this on the internet but OK, I'm just salty that I didn't get an interview invite at MWU.

Yes it is odd, and with the majority of us being left-brained, logical, and hardworking, it is weird to hear about animosity among co-workers and superiors who's been stuck doing the same thing for 10+ years without a promotion or raise, but you have to see it from their point of view. Why the hell would a 40 or 50 something want to hear that some hotshot guy in his 20s has options in life? Lot of them happen to have kids, divorce, health issues, and other unfortunate things and for them to hear someone who hasn't had those setbacks to pursue greener pastures is, yeah, gonna be jealous.

I'm sure with your 10+ career with the Army and maybe other forms of employment you've had you've had great experience. Without anyone judging who I am as a person or anything, MY personal experience with the corporate world hasn't been all that positive, and that has actually been my motivation to pursue a completely different field of dentistry. Mainly, I can be my own boss, along with other non-materialistic and outreach-related perks that I've elegantly mentioned in my PS in a more politically correct way ;)

Edit: man I can't get all my thoughts out at once!!
 
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MOMLOA

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I appreciate the posts guys, didn't really want the thread jacked into this other stuff but I understand how frustrating the whole process can be. At the end of the day I feel like you know when you walk into that interview if you are going to get in because you know you deserve it and you've done everything you can. I feel that way because it's the same way I feel about job interviews; if you have honest, solid answers and examples to follow up what you're saying and why, no matter what questions they ask, you you can field them. Maybe this is just good interview skills but I've never left a job interview and said to myself I've got this job and not gotten it, on the other hand every single one I've left and questioned, I didn't get.

One last thing on the shadowing and volunteering. The problem with those 200 hours is they were done 2-3 years ago and the volunteering as well. I really let things like wanting a house and financial security take hold of me quickly and I almost dropped all thoughts of dentistry. I got discouraged too easily because I just wasn't ready for an endeavor like dental school. So I think I need to do some shadowing again and possibly classes because if I apply it would look like I'm just jumping in with a new DAT score and saying alright there you go, I can study really hard.

I will get advice on my personal statement later but for now I intend to write it about growing up since college, learning what's important, and how I'm not letting life lead me anymore, I'm going to lead my life where I want it and how in doing this I have much more ability to do good and effect change in the world. (and how much I love run on sentences)
 
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frozenicecreamDMD

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No one admits this on the internet but OK, I'm just salty that I didn't get an interview invite at MWU.

Yes it is odd, and with the majority of us being left-brained, logical, and hardworking, it is weird to hear about animosity among co-workers and superiors who's been stuck doing the same thing for 10+ years without a promotion or raise, but you have to see it from their point of view. Why the hell would a 40 or 50 something want to hear that some hotshot guy in his 20s has options in life? Lot of them happen to have kids, divorce, health issues, and other unfortunate things and for them to hear someone who hasn't had those setbacks to pursue greener pastures is, yeah, gonna be jealous.

again, first rejection hurts but getting used to it only helps. Second, enroll in those damn postbach and masters unless you want to get stuck being a corporate slave teaching special ed.

and why should you care about your co workers having problems? you just focus on my own plan. But having worked in a hostile environment of over jealous, older worker, I sympathize with you on this.

they complain they can't get a rise or promotion because their work simply doesnt deserve a raise and a promotion. Teaching special eds, more or less, are trained care takers. you have other options of regular teaching, why not switch? again, this is like you are forced into it and blaming yourself.


I appreciate the posts guys, didn't really want the thread jacked into this other stuff but I understand how frustrating the whole process can be. At the end of the day I feel like you know when you walk into that interview if you are going to get in because you know you deserve it and you've done everything you can. I feel that way because it's the same way I feel about job interviews; if you have honest, solid answers and examples to follow up what you're saying and why, no matter what questions they ask, you you can field them. Maybe this is just good interview skills but I've never left a job interview and said to myself I've got this job and not gotten it, on the other hand every single one I've left and questioned, I didn't get.

One last thing on the shadowing and volunteering. The problem with those 200 hours is they were done 2-3 years ago and the volunteering as well. I really let things like wanting a house and financial security take hold of me quickly and I almost dropped all thoughts of dentistry. I got discouraged too easily because I just wasn't ready for an endeavor like dental school. So I think I need to do some shadowing again and possibly classes because if I apply it would look like I'm just jumping in with a new DAT score and saying alright there you go, I can study really hard.

I will get advise on my personal statement later but for now I intend to write it about growing up since college, learning what's important, and how I'm not letting life lead me anymore, I'm going to lead my life where I want it.

just do another 30-40 hours to refresh your memory on the procedures. when the interviewer asks you a question about shadowing, you should just tell them to prove you were there. thats all they need to confirm your hours. Thus, you can count your previous 200 hours too but make sure you remember enough stuff to back it up. Just take the DAT again and score high in it, then do a year of post bach of upper div science just to prove them you still have it, then you are set.

by the way, dental school interviews are very different job interviews, the applicant pool is much greater and sometimes very similar to each other that a little plus can set you apart. I got in at the interviews I thought I screwed up and didn't get in the ones I thought went well.
 
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