Untraditional Path: Graduating College Senior economics major who wants to pursue dentistry and needs pre-req help

Aug 16, 2020
  1. Pre-Dental
tldr background: I am a rising senior first gen student about to graduate a semester early (Dec 2020). I study economics, and originally planned to minor in political science. I have never considered anything in healthcare (besides my experience at PPFA but corporate nonprofit side), and given my weakness in chemistry (never took ap chem in high school). This summer interned at a bank, thinking a career in finance was the best thing ever, lied to myself these past two years and realized I will not succeed because while economics is exciting to learn, finance is soul sucking and will make me miserable. Did some research and want to give my all into dentistry. (pm if you want to hear more, took it out because a wall of text is offputting haha)

So clearly, a rising senior who intends to graduate early and plans to change career paths now is a risky move. I'm more confident this time after being honest and thorough with myself and researching the career, and will be more or less after shadowing this upcoming semester. As an economics major I haven't taken any pre-reqs. I have taken math courses like calc including stats which is recommended, but none of the required bio, chem, orgo, or physics classes.

I understand there are post-bac programs for people who need pre-reqs but at the moment I don't think it's financially wise to do a post-bac. I'm not sure if this works, but I plan to take my first pre-req in gen chem (ditch political science minor), graduate early as intended, then go to my state uni to take all the pre-req courses as a non-degree student. My goal is to go to my state dental school, which won't put me with $400K+ in loans! I've read to not take gen chem and orgo chem at the same time, which is why I've spread out the courses. I've also read physics isn't tested on DAT so I can take that sequence after my application is submitted.

  1. Is it alright to take pre-reqs at local uni instead of my private college? I don't want to graduate from my current undergrad two years later just for the pre-reqs and pay full tuition since I will no longer be scholarship eligible then...
  2. Would you change anything about the timeline? Speed up pace of courses taken?
  3. Would it make sense to take gen chem and orgo chem at the same time with bio?
(if you have inspiring stories about switching, please share!)

I looked at adea.org's timeline and modelled my timeline after it. I am pretending to be a "sophomore" in the process.

Fall '20Spring '21SummerFall '21Spring '21SummerFall '22 - Spring '22
instead of taking last class for my political science minor:local uni as nondegree student and take:local uni and take a summer course:local uni:study and prepare application!local uni and prepare application:local uni
take gen chem I as my first pre-reqbio I; gen chem IIorgo chem Ibio II; orgo chem IIstudy and take the DATphysics I; submit applicationphysics II; upper level electives
graduate from undergrad!shadow & volunteer""""continue application process

Thank you for your help! I would also love to hear your story as well if similar!
Last edited:


2+ Year Member
Nov 11, 2017
  1. Pre-Dental
here's a few things after reading through this.
a. First and foremost, get atleast 50hrs shadowing. I know you dont like your current career choice but changing everything then deciding dentistry isn't for you isn't a good move either. Read everything about the negatives on forums, see how patients can be, running a business(yes a practice is a business), real work-life balance for recent grads(which is not 9-5, 4 days a week), etc etc.
b. Take your pre-reqs anywhere except community college. its looked down upon and some schools will not except community college pre-reqs.
c. your timeline looks good but can definitely be sped up. see how well you handle Chem and bio together but you should be able to take other summer classes with orgo and physics. this will allow you to take more upper level classes because alot of schools require biochem, microbio, psych, 2 writing requirements as pre-reqs and without those you really can't apply to many schools. Also general chemistry is almost always a prerequisite for orgo so can't take them at the same time.
d. Getting into dental school is a process in it of itself. There is alot more to it than just having the pre-reqs and a DAT score. look up successful people on here to learn more but not having a track record of leadership and/or community service can hurt you alot, on top of having competitive stats.
E. last point is back to point a. This can be encouraging or discouraging depends on how you look at it. If you want to be a dentist so bad, you will eventually get in somewhere and be a dentist. you might fail a pre-req, or not do well on the DAT and be set back a year or two and not apply until 2023, then maybe your app isn't well rounded (low GPA, DAT, shadowing hours, no LORs) and dont get in anywhere that cycle. you apply the year after in 2024 and only get into an expensive private school and coming out with 400k+ in loans and won't have an income until 2028 and will be 30yrs old. If that sounds okay then go for it, but be fully aware of what can happen and how competitive it is.
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Nov 19, 2019
  1. Pre-Dental
What are your plans once you graduate? Will you be working part-time or full-time during the time you’re taking prereqs?

so I did the same thing you did, except I worked for 2.5 years before making the switch.

Your schedule is fine, but will definitely be pretty light if you are only volunteering and shadowing and taking two classes + lab. Same thing with your full semester for DAT studying, you’ll have a ton of free time. For most people 12 weeks is more than enough, and they usually have other classes (it usually is a lighter load though)

OK, so the hardest thing for me was getting good letters of recommendation. And it was the hardest in the sense that I had to put a ton of effort and be very intentional to the point that it definitely didn’t feel natural. You will not have taken any upper level science courses by the time you apply so you’re going to have to get them from those basic science courses that have tons of kids in them. You need to figure out how you’re going to stand out and build a relationship with a professor who likely teaches multiple sections with hundreds of kids. Most schools require two LORs from science professors, some require 3. Consider filling your time with research to have at least one solid track record with a Science professor who can hopefully write you a strong letter.

The biggest thing is seeing how you like chem and bio courses this fall and shadowing as much as possible To see if this is something you’d actually enjoy.

remember, at the end of the day it is just a job and a way to make money, regardless of what people say. We work because we need income to live. There are tons of dentists who think the work is just as soul sucking as banking. I have tons of friends and family who did banking then went in to private equity or VC. Some are gearing up to retire (around age 30) and live Off of the passive income their investments generate. These people are now doing whatever they want and have that financial freedom to be able to do so (City/state politics, teaching, solely managing their investments,and I’m sure you’ve hear similar stories). Anyway, point being the grass isn’t always greener. Make sure it’s worth the debt, the time commitment And foregone income and that it isn’t just the novelty of something new and exciting that has interested you.
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Jul 25, 2020
  1. Pre-Dental
I would recommend you first take chemistry and biology at the same time and get them out of the way. Once those are done immediately do organic chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology. The other people posted on here are correct to say you will need more than just the basics to apply to practically any school. But honestly, before you really make the jump I would shadow and research first. This career is not for everyone and it will require immense dedication from you to not only get into dental school but to actually complete dental school and have a career afterwards. As for letters of recommendation that someone above mentioned, if you can only receive them from the basic sciences and don’t have the opportunity to do research, then make sure you’re frequently attending office hours and keeping in touch with that professor. Introduce yourself on the first day and go up to them throughout the semester. It takes a little bit of strategy and effort to win LORs from professors of large classes but is doable. I also recommend sitting in the same seat every day and asking questions in the class because sometimes that’s enough for them to remember you (happened to me with a microbiology professor who remembered me in a class of 400 kids for where I sat and the questions I asked). If you want to talk about it anymore feel free to message me!
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