'Can I become a dentist having graduated with a 2:2? And, I want to work for a think-tank'

In the waiting room...

Q. I've become disillusioned with speech therapy, and am looking to change career. I would like to study dentistry, but graduated with a 2:2. All of the dental schools I have spoken to have said they would not accept my application because of this. It's all looking grim - is there any hope?

Yes, there is. The Peninsula Dental School (established as a partnership between the universities of Exeter and Plymouth last year, as part of a national plan to increase the number of dental students) may be the only dental school not insisting entrants gain a 2:1, on the grounds that degrees are not strictly comparable as individual universities make their own decisions about classification. While applicants must achieve a good honours degree, selection for interview is based primarily on the performance in the Graduate Medical Schools Admissions Test (Gamsat). The Bachelor of Dental Surgery programme at the school is graduate entry and specifically designed for graduates from a biomedical science or health professional background. There is one sitting a year for the Gamsat – you would need to register before August and test in September for entry in 2008. It's a tough test with three papers, on social sciences and humanities, written communication, and biological and physical sciences. But as a speech therapist you should have the communications skills and you may also find that you have covered relevant science in your previous studies. Check out the details on www.gamsatuk.org.

Policy appeals

Q. I am a life sciences graduate with an MSc. Halfway through my Masters I got very involved in politics and have decided I would like to advise on and develop policy (maybe as part of a think-tank). But to do this I would have to have experience of the workings of central or local government. I have applied for internships to get this experience. Are there other ways in?

You can apply directly. There are a range of think- tanks in the UK, varying in the degree to which they are publicity driven with a more ideological bent, or perhaps more consultancy based. It is worth taking the time to research one with which you feel some affinity. Many offer internships. Demos, for example, one of the biggest, takes around 50 a year. You won't be paid, but your expenses should be covered, and the work might last from around three weeks to three months. It's a traditional way of getting to know people and building experience, and when you do apply for a job your CV will look much better if you have one – or even two – internships under your belt. But there are many other ways into policy making, depending on the sort of work you want to do. The most visible are public sector graduate entry programmes like the civil service fast track scheme ( www.faststream.gov.uk), or the National Graduate Development Programme for local authorities ( www.ngdp.co.uk). Pressure groups also attempt to influence policy, and it is worth trawling the voluntary sector for opportunities. This will be highly competitive, but with drive and persistence you could find a niche. You can search according to your area of interest on the database of 168,000 registered main charities on www.guidestar.org.uk.

Careers adviser: Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters. Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or email chaydon @blueyonder.co.uk

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