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What GPA Do I Need to Get into Dental School?

Introduction

Dental schools review your application holistically. This means that acceptance into dental school is based on the combination of many factors, like academic performance, extracurricular activities, your personal statement, interview, and quality of your dental school application. An important factor that dental schools consider is an applicant's undergraduate grade point average (GPA).


So, what GPA do you need to get into dental school? The answer depends on the specific dental school you are applying to, as well as other factors such as your dental admission test (DAT) scores, letters of recommendation, application quality, and interview performance. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you understand what kind of GPA you should aim for.


GPA requirements and Types

First of all, it's important to note that dental schools typically have a minimum GPA requirement that you must meet in order to be considered for admission. According to American Dental Education Association (ADEA’s) data, the average GPA in U.S dental schools shows an upward trend in the past few years, with an average GPA of 3.55 for applicants in recent years.


However, the exact minimum GPA varies from dental school to dental school, but most dental schools require a GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Some schools may have a slightly higher minimum GPA requirements, such as 3.2 or 3.4. Therefore, it is best to check the recent matriculation statistics of the specific dental schools you’re planning on applying to. This will let you analyze their typical accepted candidate’s GPA.


Second of all, there are multiple GPAs calculated in your dental school application. This includes the undergraduate overall GPA, the science GPA, the BCPM (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math) GPA, non-BCPM GPA and GPA for post-baccalaureate or graduate schooling, if applicable. These categories help dental schools better analyze your performance in different types of courses.


Required GPA Transcripts

Note that you’ll have to calculate your GPA (all the types above) yourself for dental school applications. However, transcripts for each undergraduate institution are still required, including for community colleges. This eliminates the myth that your GPA “starts over” upon transferring to a 4-year university. While your GPA for community college does not transfer to (or combine with) your university GPA, dental schools will analyze your academic performance from all institutions. Therefore, it is important to perform well academically, whether you're at a community college or 4-year university. It’s also necessary to check with dental schools you’re interested in when it comes to community college and foreign credits because some dental schools do not accept prerequisite courses that are completed at a community college, like Boston University's dental school.


GPA is Just One of Many Factors

However, meeting the minimum GPA requirement does not guarantee admission to dental school. In fact, most dental schools have a much higher average GPA for admitted students. According to ADEA, the average GPA for dental school applicants in 2020 was 3.55, while the average GPA for admitted students was 3.6.


Of course, there are many factors that can affect your chances of admission besides your GPA. For example, a high DAT score can help offset a lower GPA, while a strong personal statement and letters of recommendation can highlight your strengths and accomplishments outside of the classroom. It's also important to have relevant extracurricular activities and clinical experience, such as volunteering in a dental clinic or shadowing a dentist. Other valuable experiences include research participation and dentistry work, such as a dental assistant or sterile tech.


How is GPA Analyzed?

In addition, dental schools may consider the rigor of your undergraduate coursework when evaluating your GPA. For example, if you took a challenging course load in a science-related major, such as biology or chemistry, and performed well, that can be viewed more favorably than if you had an easier major with similar grades. Dental schools may also consider the trend of your grades over time, and whether you have shown improvement or faced challenges in your academic career. Also note that dental schools consider your Science and BCPM GPA. This helps them gauge your potential performance in dental school as many courses are related to science, and especially biology.


No matter what major you choose to pursue, the grades of the dental school’s prerequisites are prioritized over other courses. This helps to establish an even playing field. For example, whether you are a Biology or Business Major, you may have to take Biochemistry (a common upper division prerequisite) which requires you to take general and organic chemistry first. Academic performance in a course like biochemistry speaks volumes about a student as it is rigorous and comes after the oftentimes easier, lower-division prerequisite courses like Organic Chemistry. Therefore, doing well in upper-division science courses is important for dental school admissions.


Dealing with a Lower GPA or Bad Grade(s)

What happens if you have a lower GPA than average pre-dental applicants for a specific dental school? This is where the holistic admissions process comes into play. Your GPA isn’t meant to define you. As a young adult, there are countless responsibilities you may be balancing which can limit the time for studying. The admissions committee is aware of this and encourages students to apply for dental school regardless.


One way to combat your lower GPA when applying to dental school is to focus on performing well in your future classes, and showing an uptrend in your GPA. This shows your determination as ending with an uptrend in upper-division science courses suggests you have made positive changes to how you study or manage time. Another way to combat this is to score high on your DAT exam. Since this exam is difficult and includes a variety of sciences, it will show that you are capable of comprehending a large amount of material.


You may experience a few outliers in your undergrad. For example, if you had one semester of B’s and C’s while your other semesters conclude with A’s and B’s, you can explain this in the "unique circumstances" essay. There are a variety of circumstances one can face such as sickness, personal issues, and more. Similarly, you can explain that one "C" or "D" grade among A’s and B's. While there is an essay for you to discuss an outlier event, it is difficult to explain a continuous trend of low grades. Therefore, it is important to implement the right studying strategies and environment to be successful in classes.


Conclusion

Overall, while there is no one "magic number" for what GPA you need to get into dental school, a high GPA is an important factor in the dental school admissions process. Aim for at least a 3.0 GPA to meet the minimum requirements, but strive for a higher GPA, like a 3.7 or higher, to show your academic competitiveness to dental schools. With that being said, this also doesn’t mean a GPA of 3.9-4.0 can guarantee admission into dental school either. In fact, many applicants with a high GPA fail to receive interviews every year as they fail to put together an application that stands out.


It is necessary to understand that while academic performance is important, it's not the only factor that dental schools consider - so be sure to focus on developing a well-rounded application that highlights your strengths and accomplishments in all areas in your undergrad.


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Meet one of our Predenting authors: Nidhi Tanwar!

Since her shift to the U.S. from India at just 7 years old, Nidhi’s passion to study grew. Eventually, she graduated with a degree in STEM and discovered her love for dentistry. After receiving multiple dental school interviews and acceptances, she hopes to help pre-dental students find success by sharing advice, knowledge and experiences through articles on Predenting and her dental Instagram page. Follow @teethbytanwar to connect with Nidhi and join her journey at Texas A&M School of Dentistry.

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