Help with non-trad admissions process.

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Sep 6, 2023
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Hi all,

I am new to this process and was asking for some advice. I thank you all in advance.

Basically I am asking for some advice on how to achieve my goal to be admitted into a US dental school as soon as I can. I would be a non-trad in that I am in my mid twenties with 30 months of biotech work experience.

While in highschool I achieved straight A’s, in college the lack of structure and my lack of drive resulted in me finishing just above a 2.9 gpa with a biochemistry major and a quantum physics and chemistry minor from College. In college I was one of those kids who was not doing homework, not attending class unless I loved the subject and just shooting for good test grades to get my minimum requirements in my degree unless I truly loved the class or it was a lab. I would skip class and just read books haha I wasn’t even partying I was just obsessed with learning other things and “not wasting time” if I felt I could score well on the test questions. I guess I was an anti-gunner haha. I wanted to graduate and carve my own path in research/entrepreneurship. At the time, I wasn’t interested in any other track but work/research in industry. For more context, I was majoring in Qphysics until I realized I could graduate in biochemistry sooner. So my minor in that subject is one academic year from a major.

However some things happened in my personal life and senior year I wisened up and gained a drive. In my hardest classes I received a 3.6 my last year.

After graduation, I moved across the country to a diagnostic lab and worked a lab job that required strong manual dexterity. I also gained some experience with research projects and big data. I also challenged myself working 80 hour weeks in a stressful healthcare setting to see how I could handle it—I had good quality of work and was still pleasant to be around haha.

After I felt like I wasn’t getting much more out of the job in terms of learning, I moved to a different part of the country and shortly after got a new job in a biotech startup. Here I learned a lot of new lab processes and equipment skills, participated in a lot of meetings and presentations, led tech dev, got authorship in a publication in a major journal and also learned a ton of new creative problem solving skills from random startup chaos.

However, I decided to move back home very recently and decide what I really want to do. For the first time I feel like I have found a clear drive to a specific goal that won’t diminish. While I am a very hard worker and my previous bosses will vouch for me—this is reflected from my work experience not my academics. Throughout my experiences I have learned that I love working with my hands in a clinical setting, I am a big people person,(introverted in college) and research isn’t all I chalked it up to be.

I have C’s B’s and A’s in all science pre-reqs for dentist school but physics 1 I got a D.

1. Will dental admissions accept an A in a higher level Qphysics class or must I retake physics 1?

2. Am I pretty much forced to do a post bacc or masters program in my shoes, and if so, which do you think is best? If masters, I would probably shoot for ochem or some sort of stats/data science. Maybe Qphysics but i don’t wanna pigeonhole more into academia.

I have strong letters of rec I can receive from previous work bosses.

3. Is it best for me to get a job under a dentist for now or is it not as important and a mid level position in a biotech company would be more helpful?

I plan on reaching out to local dentists to shadow. It is my undergrad gpa that worries me.

Thank you all once again,


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Sounds like you need to shadow dentists and even become a dental assistant. There is no reason why you should travel down this road unless you know you want to do the work.

US vs. UK. Very different processes and paths.
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I agree and refined my initial post some. I plan on shadowing dentists and learning more. My concern is if everything else falls into place, how much will my undergrad gpa hurt me in lieu of my work experience and a good DAT score? Like if I work for a dentist and love it, retake physics 1 and do well on the DAT I’m good? Or am I forced into retaking classes to “prove” I’m ready? I would much prefer the former over the latter. I personally believe what I’ve done in industry to be more rigorous than my early undergrad classes, but am unfamiliar with how admissions typically feels about this. I’ve called some schools and just been told they’ll take everything into account.

Thank you for your response.
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Focusing on US

How long ago were these classes? Where did you go to school?

You need to demonstrate reinvention with at least a solid performance in upper level biomedical science classes. You also need shadowing hours and perhaps more to show a dedicated career turn. Community service especially to marginalized communities will also enhance your profile.

Read up on ADEA GoDental (website and newsletter). Talk to admissions offices about postbac vs SMP. See if you qualify for GPA repair.
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I graduated around 3 years ago.

The college is one of the first five on this website Best Colleges in Virginia | BestColleges.

Sorry I am weird about sharing things online, my bad. My 3.6 gpa senior year is averaged from my last two semesters with the majority of my credit hours being generally 4000/3000 biochem/science or 3000 Qphysics classes. This year consisting of my most intense courses I took throughout undergrad. I know one biochem class that year had a fail/withdraw rate of about 2/3 students. If you were to average my junior with my senior year, then my cumulative gpa would be around a 3.2.

I am calling local dentists in my area and asking to shadow on Monday.

In terms of volunteering, I worked optional overtime in a healthcare setting in my first job to diagnose disease during an outbreak for about 2 months(the duration of the outbreak) among my 18 months there—consistently working 12+ hours a day on weekdays and weekends. This job also demanded strong manual dexterity—the lack of would lead to false diagnosis which was a big no-no.

In College I did occasional fundraising and helped out the community with free labor but nothing scheduled on a weekly basis.

Throughout middle school and highschool I helped found a society where other classmates and I tutored kids with disabilities and did extracurricular activities together. I participated in that quite consistently. Probably 200-300 hours in total.
Let's get the shadowing in then. If you don't like what they do every day (multiple dentists, multiple practices, include general dentistry), then you know. Be a volunteer at the state dental association meeting and see if you can embrace the challenges addressed. Networking is essential.
Something you’ll need to consider is the majority of dental schools require 2 LoR’s from science professors, and for them to be any good and not just checking a box, they should be recent (preferably dated the same year as when you apply) and the professor should be able to talk about in without being generic.
Additionally, health professional schools care a lot about values. Your story is important. You need to show commitment over time to dentistry and to helping other people. I don’t want to discourage you, but it isn’t enough that your job was more rigorous than your school work. If you neglected your school work before because it was uninteresting, who’s to say you won’t get bored of dentistry? Drilling and filling for 30 years could get very monotonous.
Some good news, your research experience works in your favor. Dentists don’t need to do research, but they certainly need to understand it to keep up on CEs and best practices. Schools want students who will represent the best of the profession. It’s also helpful that your grades improved near the end. That’s progress in the right direction.
Shadowing is the right move for you right now. You’ll undoubtedly have to answer the question: “why dentistry?” You like clinical work. Why not medicine? PT? You’ve worked in healthcare settings, so what is it about teeth that interests you? Remember: your story matters. You have to think from an adcom perspective. Why should we let person X in over the thousands of other applicants we have?

TL/DR: you can totally be a dentist, but you need a good reason to do so. Go find that reason by demonstrating a commitment to the field, not just by working hard in general. Your story matters.

P.S.: it’s great that you did service in middle/high school, but don’t try to count those as hours when you apply. It’s best to stick with experiences from college on. Best of luck!
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