I was recently contacted by a student asking if I had any tips for students who are applying to dental school for a second or even third time. Because I did not know the details of this student’s application, just like I don’t know the details of your application, I came up with five general scenarios of why students do not get into dental school. It is important that you evaluate your situation so that you can make the weak areas of your application strong. Reapplying without evaluating and changing the weaknesses of your application will likely land you many more rejections in the future.
Scenarios of Why an Applicant Might Be Rejected From Dental School:
1. Low GPA– The average GPA for students matriculating into dental school is about 3.5. If one’s GPA is 3.3 or below they may have difficulty receiving interviews. In this situation, I would definitely focus on getting As in the upcoming semesters. If you are near graduation or have already graduated I would recommend checking into a post-baccalaureate program in order to raise your GPA. In addition, I would advise dropping any extracurricular activities that may be hindering you from receiving As in your courses, as those activities will do you no good if their GPA is too low.
Click here to see dental schools ranked by GPA
2. Low DAT– The average DAT score for students matriculating into dental school is about a 19AA. Students with an AA of less than an 18 will definitely have difficulty getting accepted into dental school. Also, if the student has any section below a 17 (with the exception of math which can be 16 or maybe even a 15 depending on the other scores) they may want to heavily consider the option of retaking the DAT. A low science score, reading score, or perceptual ability score is a red flag to the admissions. To give yourself the best shot at getting in, plan on getting an academic average of 19 or higher with no sections below a 17. If you fit into this category remember to give yourself adequate time for preparation. Only reschedule your DAT when you know that you are prepared and can score achieve your desired scores. Use practice test software such as Crack DAT PAT, Top Score Pro, and DAT Achiever to judge whether you are ready or not for the exam.
Click here to see dental schools ranked by DAT score
3. Did Not Apply to Enough Schools or Even to the Wrong Schools – There are two scenarios within this topic. The scenarios are as follows;
a) The student has good GPA and good DAT scores but did not apply to enough schools – For the sake of this example, let’s say that the student has a 3.7 GPA and a 19AA with a 20TS. This student’s statistics are very good but if they only applied to 3 or 4 schools they still may not gain acceptance to dental school. Keep in mind that there are 1,000-4,000 students applying to each school and there may only be 50-120 seats available. In addition, if this student only applied to schools such as UCLA, Harvard, University of Washington, or any school that is not out of state friendly, their chances of getting an interview invite is much less due to the competitiveness of these schools statistics. If I were in this student’s situation I would apply to 8-12 schools with 2-3 schools that may challenge my statistics and the remainder of the schools matching my statistics a little closer. If you are one of these students keep in mind that statistics are not everything. Evaluate your application to make sure you have a good personal statement, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation.
b) The student has slightly below average or average GPA and DAT score (3.4 GPA with an 18AA) – This student’s statistics are slightly below average. However, they definitely still have a chance at getting an acceptance as long as there are no major red flags on the DAT (scores below 17) and they’re met the other dental school prerequisites. However, a student with such statistics needs to apply to at least 15 schools. Yes, this may cost them money but it could save them a whole year and the application fees. In addition, this student should plan on applying at the beginning of the cycle (June 1) in order to give them the best chance at gaining an interview. If there are any red flags with the DAT score a retake is recommended before applying for a second or third time. As mentioned above, this applicant should evaluate their application to ensure they have a good personal statement, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation.
4. Interviewed But Not Accepted – For the most part, once a student gets an interview they are on an even playing field with the other applicants. The interview is for the schools to see who you are and to see if you are who you say you are on your application. Remember, if you have an interview this means they like the way you look on paper! Remember, even if you have a 23AA if you blow the interviews you may not get accepted to dental school. Tip: Practice being interviewed by attending mock interviews put on by a nearby university, and have family members or friends ask you interview questions. This will allow you to polish your interviewing skills so that you can give clear, confident answers during your interview.
5. Applying Too Late in the Cycle – Some students do not realize the importance of applying early. I personally did not take the DAT until late August which caused my application to be incomplete all the way up until mid-September. However, I was not planning on applying until the next year but decided to give it a shot anyways knowing that I may not get as many interviews or even an acceptance. That was a risk I was willing to take. There is definitely still a possibility of getting in if you apply late but chances are much smaller. I was told by about 4 to 5 schools that if I would have applied earlier I probably would have received an interview. As long as your DAT is done and it is done well then I would plan on completing the application on or as close to June 1st as possible. Tip: Copy the current application to a word document and fill it out during the spring. Make sure that you have professors/dentists that can have letters of recommendation completed by June 1st and then plan on spending the first few days after June 1st finishing the application and getting everything completed.
As mentioned several times throughout this article, statistics are not the only thing that make or break an application to dental school. A well-written personal statement, quality letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and a successful interview all play a role in whether you will be accepted to dental school.