Low GPA: Alternative Routes to Dental School

low-gpaDo you have a low GPA and still want to gain acceptance into dental school? Are you wondering if there is still hope? I am writing this article to help anyone who has doubts about their ability to get into dental school (due to GPA) find out if it is truly possible for them to fulfill their dream and the best ways to do it.

In order 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. The main statistics are GPA and the score for the dental admissions test (DAT). I am first going to briefly mention the DAT and then move onto GPA and what to do if yours is low.

The nice thing about the DAT is that you can retake it up to three times. However, you will want to make sure you do well on it the very first time. So, what is the average for the DAT? The average student that takes the DAT, according to the ADA statistics, receives a 17.5 academic average, 17.5 total science, and an 18 on perceptual ability. Note that these are the statistics of those who attempted the exam. The actual statistics of those who matriculate into dental school are in the range of 19 academic average and 19 total science. Each individual school is going to be different and this will have to be taken into consideration when applying to dental school (view “Dental Schools Ranked by DAT Scores” for more details). So if you have a low DAT then you will want to make sure you study hard and retake it for a higher score. No way around this!

Often times I hear pre-dental students say “I have a low GPA, can I still get in?”. The answer to this question is not that easy. Simply put, it depends. No one really knows until you give it a shot but hopefully by the end of the article you can make a sound judgment on whether your GPA is good enough and what to do if you have a low GPA.

Top Dental Schools Ranked By GPA
Top Dental Schools Ranked By GPA

The first question you ought to ask yourself is “where do I stand in regards to my GPA?”. Let me help you out. The average GPA for matriculating dental students is about a 3.5 overall GPA. Once again, there are going to be several schools with a higher average GPA and schools with a lower average GPA (view “Dental Schools Ranked by GPA” for more details). However, many students still pose the question of whether their DAT score is high enough.

Most dental schools have a cutoff GPA for both an overall and science GPA of 2.75. This means that if you have anything below a 2.75 that your application will automatically be rejected. In addition, if your GPA is anywhere close to or below a 3.0 it is going to be difficult to land interviews for dental school.

What do I do if my GPA is too low?

There are several options but some may be better than others depending on where you stand in regards to your GPA.

1. Post-Baccalaureate Program

If you have a GPA that is lower than a 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. I would also recommend this option for anyone with a GPA that is lower than a 3.0. The reason for this is that the credits earned in these programs will directly affect your undergrad GPA. It will be essential that you 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 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.

Note: Other programs such as a masters program and dental hygiene school will not raise affect your GPA and thus will not help you qualify for dental school if you have a sub 2.75 GPA.

2. Masters Program

If your GPA is above a 3.0 but still not optimal you may want to think about getting into a masters program. I would recommend finding a 1-year program to apply for, as this will allow you to beef up your application in a short amount of time. A masters program allows you to show the dental school that you are capable of doing well in grad level courses. This also gives you the opportunity to stay academically active which is a plus on your application. If you are not accepted the first time that you apply to dental school, then a masters program is a good option. Each year there are more and more students being accepted to a dental school that has a master’s degree.

3. Dental Hygiene

Applying to dental hygiene school is similar to doing a masters program, however, dental hygiene is a 2-year program which means that it will take an extra year before you are able to apply to dental school. This option may be good for some students but if you know you want to be a dentist I would recommend taking a faster route.

4. PhD

If you feel like you need to go this route then do what you need to do but enrolling in a 4-year PhD program is not the most efficient way to getting 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 here in the United States. There is a lot more to this issue than I am qualified to talk about but I will say that it is not a short or easy process of taking your foreign degree and making it valid in the states.

Yes, this was a long answer to a short question. However, I wanted to help you realize that there a select few ways of increasing your chances at getting into dental school with a sub-par GPA and that each will take considerable effort at proving yourself academically. There is no short cut 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 As 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!

6. Scoring High On The DAT

seal-of-dentistryFor this to work, you need to score REALLY high on the dental admissions test.  The good news is that the whole purpose of this blog is to help pre-dental students (I was once in your shoes) study for the DAT and get into dental school.  And not some sketchy one, either.  I even wrote an article to help you avoid misconceptions a lot of students have about dental school, and common mistakes they make.  It’s all about what we wished we had known before dental school.