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20 October, 2023

Taking the DAT as a Non-Traditional Student

There are many advantages of taking the DAT as a non-traditional students. In this article, we will discuss some of the benefits of taking the DAT as a nontraditional student.
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Many pre-dental students follow a straightforward path to dental school; they study for the DAT during their undergraduate career, apply for dental school during junior year and start dental school immediately after graduation. However, for non-traditional students, myself included, life takes them down a different course. In this article, we will discuss some of the benefits of taking the DAT as a nontraditional student while sharing some advice from my own experience.

Benefits of Taking the DAT as a Non-Traditional Student

Completed Pre-Requisite Courses

By the time most non-traditional students are preparing to study for the DAT, they have already earned their undergraduate degree and taken all basic prerequisites such as Biology, General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry. Unlike traditional pre-dental students, who can find themselves in the precarious situation of studying a DAT subject for the first time in addition to their coursework, non-traditional students should already have a foundational understanding of each area of the DAT, which they can build upon during their studying. It is much easier to review a subject than to learn it, so non-traditional students may find that they have an easier time grasping the material covered on the DAT. This allows them to devote more time to weaker areas and practice tests, which can ultimately lead to a score higher on test day.

Greater Control Over Study Schedule

For many non-traditional pre-dental students, their free time is just that: free. Traditional pre-dental students have to worry about time-consuming extracurriculars, homework, or exams that are out of their control and don’t always follow a regular schedule. This can make it difficult for traditional students to find enough free time to focus solely on studying. Although non-traditional students may also have responsibilities, such as jobs, that require attention, they may discover that their schedules are more established and concrete. With a more stable schedule comes greater control over the time you devote to studying. This control is priceless as it ensures that you’re giving the DAT the time and attention necessary for you to succeed.

Ideally, you should apply to every public school in your state of residence. In general, programs subsidized by the state mostly accept students from their own specific state. Therefore, your best chance of admission is at your state schools. Also, your in-state school is most likely the cheapest option. Therefore, it is a no-brainer to apply to all public schools in your state.

Advice for Non-Traditional Students

Time Management is Crucial

Although we just said that one benefit of taking the DAT as a non-traditional student is the ability to take greater control over your schedule, you can only make use of this advantage if you manage your time wisely. Use a planner or set daily study goals to ensure that you’re making the most of your study time. For inspiration, check out DATBooster’s 10-week study schedule here.

Participate in Other Dental-Related Activities

Studying for the DAT can be a long, exhausting process and many pre-dents will at one point find themselves questioning if all the effort they’re devoting is even worth it. Whereas pre-dental students still pursuing their undergraduate degrees have pre-dental organizations and classwork to remind them of their devotion to dentistry, many non-traditional students may find that they lack resources to help them keep their faith. Non-traditional students should therefore seek out dental-related activities, such as shadowing or volunteering opportunities, that serve as motivation to keep studying and reminders of why they chose this career path.

Don’t Compare Your Journey

As a non-traditional student myself, I know how easy it can be to feel like you’re falling behind. Many non-traditional students are older than the typical pre-dental student, meaning it can be difficult to ignore the sense that your clock is ticking. These feelings, combined with the exhausting process of preparing for the DAT, can make non-traditional students feel overwhelmed or intimidated.  However, if nobody’s told you this before, let me be the first to tell you; there is no “right” path to dentistry. Everybody’s journey is unique and the experiences that distinguish you will not only help you become a more interesting applicant but will also serve as a testament to your devotion to dentistry. Stay the course, keep studying and don’t forget that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to preparing for the DAT, pre-dental students should pick a time in their life when they can devote an extended period to studying. For traditional students, this often means studying during a school break or an easy semester. However, if you feel that you cannot complete your studying during a short school break or with the stress of coursework, there’s no shame in deciding to delay your DAT until after graduation. The non-traditional path is becoming increasingly popular, with the ADEA reporting in 2010 that the average age of first-year dental school enrollees was 24. Regardless of whether you’re a traditional or non-traditional student, make sure to find the most effective way to prepare for the DAT, so check out the articles below for advice on how to make the most out of your studying: