If you prefer videos, watch the youtube video where I tell you all about getting into dentistry after failing my A-Levels!
Getting into dentistry can be really difficult for most people and in this blog post, I’ll be taking you through my journey of how I got into dentistry after failing my A-Levels, achieving just a BBCD.
My name’s Ali and I’m a final dental student studying at Newcastle and the reason I decided to make this video was to help anyone who is in a similar situation to what I was in back in my A-levels, struggling to get into dental school.
From the beginning
I got good GCSE’s, bar a B in English and at the time I didn’t think it mattered much but before I knew it, I was already behind in this race. Later on, I found out that I couldn’t apply to dentistry to certain unis with a B in English and that I would have to retake it while I was doing my A-levels and considering there were 14 dental schools to apply to at the time, any less and I was already majorly disadvantaged. I remember having the option to retake and make it an A but I really hated English and some unis didn’t even accept retakes so I decided to cut my losses and try to do well in my A-levels.
Why I failed!
I chose the very typical subjects of maths, biology, chemistry and physics and I was so focused on extra-curricular activities, setting up a charity (YAPCA), volunteering at care homes, finding new friends in sixth-form, among many of other things I can’t even remember today. I ended up getting BBCD for my AS. And those were basically my predicted grades too and on top of that, I got the lowest score I ever heard of anyone I know getting in the UKCAT at 540 so no dental school was going to accept me and I knew that. At the time, I thought about giving up and just settling for a course I didn’t really want to do which was Mechanical engineering and I actually applied and got offers, but I just knew I really wanted to do dentistry.
Use your support system
To be honest, it was a really difficult time in my life and I would just sit there listening to depressing music in my car, hating life and I was young and lost and didn’t really know what to do with my life and then one day my family sat me down and we had a long serious discussion about what I wanted to do with the situation I was in and after expressing that I still wanted to pursue dentistry, I was really lucky to have such a supportive family who would push me in the right direction.
If you’re currently in a similar situation and there’s one piece of advice I could give you right now, it would be that verbalising a problem to the people who care about you the most can give you so much strength and they could help to give you the best solution. Because of it, I went back to A2 with a killer mindset that I was going to retake everything from AS and do my A2 at the same time and re-apply after I take a gap year. I remember I was taking on 18 exams while all my friends just had to sit something like 8.
Hard work kills
I was working so hard some days it was actually unhealthy. As I said, I’m not some naturally smart person, I grind really really hard and I would work for 14 hours most days, and lose sleep, all the way from September through to exams. Some days I would sleep on the floor because I knew that I would be too tired to get up the next day if I was in the comfort of my bed. Some days I would lose my eyesight for a few hours and be forced to take breaks. Looking back now I really had no idea what working smart looked like, and I really tried to know but it just wasn’t clicking with me so I had to make up for it with the only way I knew how at the time and that was with non-stop work. This was obviously the worst way to study and in the future, we’ll be covering how to study smart and be much more efficient with your time so keep an eye out for that.
Eventually, my A2 results day came around and I was devastated to find out I still didn’t get the required 3 A’s and I actually got AAB in the end which was another let down especially because I didn’t know if it would be enough or if there was anything more that I could do, but all I knew is that I didn’t want to give up. On top of that, this time I only got 615 in my UKCAT, which is slightly higher than the previous year, but it still wasn’t on the higher end, especially knowing my friends were getting well into the 700’s and another one of my medical friends getting as high as 815, or even higher I cant remember.
So the 4 unis I applied to were King’s, Queens, Bristol, and Newcastle. I was rejected without an interview at King’s and Queen Mary’s and I was obviously devastated, expecting to get rejected at Bristol and Newcastle too. Thankfully Bristol got back to me inviting me in for an interview but soon after they rejected me and my last chance was getting into dentistry in Newcastle, so there was a lot of pressure, a lot of anxiety, and I was still waiting to hear back from them.
Aaaaand i’m in!
Eventually, I got an email saying I got an interview. The crazy thing is, I went up with my best friend who was in a similar situation to me and when we got there it was us two and one other girl and they told us we were the last 3 to be interviewed. The interview went really well, and now I actually know the woman who interviewed me and she’s one of the most lovely people I met at Newcastle. So my friend and I both headed back to the train station when we finished to return to London and within 20 minutes of leaving the uni, we both received an email of acceptance, and as you can guess, it was the best train journey home.
The acceptance was under the condition that we went to a summer camp for their Partners Programme and if you don’t know what that is, I highly recommend you have a look into it if you’re a prospective dental student but it’s basically for certain people of a certain disadvantaged background. You can apply for it for so many reasons that you would never expect and it can be based on where you live, what school you attend, if you’re a carer and so many other reasons, and if your application is successful you get put on the regular Newcastle uni BDS course. I highly recommend checking it out because you can apply and all they look for is 3 B’s alongside a summer camp and a written essay with a decent enough UKCAT.
Just a quick note, I really enjoyed the summer camp, I met some of my best friends there and even ended up living with 3 of them for 3 years studying the course I love, so it was definitely worth it.
What should you do? 4 choices!
So anyway, if you’re in a similar situation to what I was, what should you do?
First of all, don’t give up. I know it sounds cliché, but if your heart is set on Dentistry, do everything in your power to chase it and just be resilient.
Secondly, see if you can retake your AS in your A2 year. Most unis don’t allow retakes and expect you to do your a-levels in 2 years and I know it sounds difficult, and it is, and you’re gonna have to work really hard, but I can’t stress it enough, it will be worth it.
Thirdly, you want to look into applying to Unis which allow lower grades like the Partner’s Programme with a catch like a summer camp.
Finally, if it’s worth it to you, I know someone who now studies dentistry abroad and I know I definitely considered that option but just make sure if you do consider it and you want to come back to the UK, that you have a good look into the overseas registration exam which will give you a GDC number and the right to practice in the UK unsupervised.
Why this blog exists
One of the main reasons Zoh and I started this blog was so that we can share these kinds of experiences with you guys and for us to pass on the tips we’ve gathered along the way.