With dental school acceptance rates being so competitive, you’ll want to lean into your dental school supplemental application to push your candidacy to the next level. But what is the supplemental application exactly, and is it required for every school you select?
In this article, we’ll demystify this lesser-known aspect of the dental school admissions process and give you some tips on how to navigate your own supplemental applications – all with the aim of helping you land that coveted dental school interview spot.
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Dental School Supplemental Application Sample Question and Answer
The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry proposes supplemental questions in the school section of the ADEA AADSAS application form. Two are mandatory and quite short, while the third is optional and can be up to 5,000 characters. The first prompt with a sample response is provided below.
What is important to you in selecting a dental school? How will you make your decision about which school to attend? (1,500-character limit)
*Note that this prompt is really asking, “Why this dental school?”
I seek a robust education that will cover the broad range of science, art, and technology used in modern dentistry. I want to be well prepared for the next stages of my career, with advanced procedural and clinical skills. I also wish to invest in community and public health-related activities.
Because I am leaning toward general dentistry as a long-term goal, the various options offered by the diverse range of PhD, post-graduate, and residency programs at UCSF appeal to me, in addition to the DDS. For example, the UCSF/NYU Langone Advanced Education in General Dentistry joint program would allow me to focus on underserved communities. This is important to me, having been raised in a remote ranching community. I would look forward to providing oral health care to patients of various ages and socioeconomic, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. I also hope to gain exposure to a large group practice setting comprised of general and specialist dentists, hygienists, physicians, and other health care professionals at your community health center sites.
I’m attracted to locations with roots in the historical development of dentistry, and UCSF has a history of service, starting with care provision after the earthquake and fire of 1906. As a program with a unique concept and design, the AEGD beckons to me in the same way; I want to be involved in an effort that is both innovative and greater than my own interests.
(1,425 characters with spaces)
Why this answer?
If there’s one rule of thumb for your dental school supplemental application, it’s that your essays or replies to questions from the school should not be a repeat of what you have already included in your primary application. Use this opportunity to reveal something else about your journey and your suitability for dental school.
Rule number two: answer the prompt. You’ll note that the above sample sticks to answering the precise question, or rather, questions. It will be important to pay attention to the latter; if a question has two or more parts, be sure to fully answer both parts. Examine the prompt carefully and be sure you respond to every aspect of the question.
You can see that our sample answer clearly addresses the prompt, leaving no doubt as to why this school is the candidate’s first choice. They explicitly describe what’s important to them in a school in the first paragraph. Then, through the details provided, they show how the program aligns with their goals. As a result, they clearly convey that a broad range of training, clinical experience, exposure to experts, and the opportunity to work with underserved communities are all important reasons for them to choose one school over another.
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UCSF refers to these elements of their dental school supplemental application as “biographical statements.” They note that they are “interested in learning more about you as a person and the unique experiences, interests, and skills that set you apart from other candidates.” So, regardless of the specific question, you would want to keep this instruction in mind as well when drafting your answer. In general, you can assume that every other dental school will also want to see your individuality and potential to contribute to the dental profession shine through in your supplemental application, even if they express it differently.
Other UCSF prompts:
1. Why do you want to join the UCSF community? Please state briefly how you will contribute to the UCSF School of Dentistry. (1,500-character limit)
2. Please use this space to tell us anything additional that you believe is relevant to your application for admission. (OPTIONAL and 5,000-character limit)
Rule number 3: stick to the character limit and don’t forget that the required number includes spaces in almost every case. You should never go over this limit, but you should also make the most of the space you are provided. Our example, at 1,425 characters, could be a little longer but not much shorter. You should aim to come close to the limit without surpassing it. Note that the lower the character limit, the closer you should come to it; for example, if you are given 250 characters, use 249 of them!
Defining the Dental School Supplemental Application
Now that you’ve had a look at a sample question and answer in a dental school supplemental application, you should have a good idea of what to expect, right? Wrong. In fact, dental school supplemental applications come in lots of shapes and sizes.
The dental school supplemental application is notoriously difficult to pin down. Many schools do not require one, some require it as part of your AADSAS application, and others only offer it by invitation. In general, its components are intended to expand on the information in your primary application, but what the different schools want to know about will vary widely.
Some schools will ask personal questions, such as “tell me about yourself" or “why this dental school.” Some will ask for details about your employment background, clinical experiences, shadowing, and so on, if they privilege those skills for matriculants, while others will assume those aspects are covered in your primary application. For example, note this warning from UPenn about what to avoid discussing in your supplemental materials:
“Do not include, expand, or repeat information submitted on your AADSAS application in the Dentistry/Shadowing experience section.”
Some schools will ask this question: “Can you list and describe your professional achievements?”. Others will not want to hear about them at all.
Occasionally, schools will not ask for dental school letters of recommendation until the supplemental application stage.
Sometimes, a supplemental application is not much more than a fee, so be sure to watch out for this and research the requirements. Not only is the fee different for each school, but it may be required with or without supporting documents. Fees range from $20–200 and will vary depending on status (i.e., in-state, out-of-state, or international). Not paying the fee could delay processing of your application, so be sure to budget for this expense well ahead of time.
Top of mind should be fulfilling all the additional application requirements of a program because any errors or omissions will mean your application is incomplete. You want to focus all your energy on how to become a dentist, not time wasters. On average, students apply to about 10 dental programs, although this varies greatly depending on the student. You can imagine that the more programs you have, the more challenging it will be if they each have different supplemental application criteria. To avoid having to recall or look up this information repeatedly, consider creating a spreadsheet or table of all the schools on your list with columns for each of their requirements. Then, as you fulfill each of the criteria, check them off. You can use this list to make sure you don’t neglect or miss anything before submitting your dental school supplemental applications.
Most importantly, schools typically do not make the questions or prompts in their supplemental applications public, so it is difficult to prepare in advance. With all these different and potentially conflicting expectations, you may not know exactly what to provide in your dental school supplemental application until you lay eyes on it. However, if you do want or need to know this information in advance, the best approach is to contact the school’s admissions office directly and ask about their requirements.
Where to Find the Dental School Supplemental Application
The ADEA AADSAS (Associated American Dental Schools Application Service) is a centralized application service used by several dental schools in Canada and most in the US for the primary application and the submission of most supplemental materials. This service aims to simplify the process of applying to dental programs by allowing students to complete just one application for multiple dental schools. While it will save you time and energy, it’s essential not to underestimate the commitment necessary to ensure a complete application for all your schools. You must carefully check the requirements for each of your schools’ dental school supplemental applications.
Dental programs that do not participate in AADSAS manage their own separate application processes. For example, dental school hopefuls applying to dental schools in Texas must apply through the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). Applicants to Canadian schools may need to apply to the individual school, or may face specific requirements in addition to those laid out in AADSAS, such as language competency requirements. Foreign-educated dental graduates interested in advanced dental programs in the US will need to apply through the ADEA Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists (CAAPID).
Note that non-DDS programs also exist and will have different procedures. For example, UConn’s Special Program in Dental Medicine, which links an undergraduate degree with four years of dental education, uses the Common Application. Program-specific essays are required as part of this application. Students who are not using the Common App or who have already submitted it can apply using the university’s supplemental application.
In other words, depending on the schools you apply to, you may or may not need to submit a dental school supplemental application, and if you do submit one, you will follow the instructions for each school provided through these centralized application services or the school’s own application portal or form.
How to Start Your Dental School Supplemental Application
Simply put, your AADSAS dental school supplemental application actually starts with the “Program Materials” section in the primary application. When you enter the dental schools that you wish to apply to, you will gain access to information on their specific requirements.
To put yourself in the right frame of mind, you might want to think about your dental school application as a puzzle: you’ll first fill in all the required sections of the AADSAS form, such as your personal information, academic history, and supporting information, and then you’ll add the program materials required by each school you are applying to.
Remember: you will need to make sure you meet each of the specific requirements for your chosen dental schools’ supplemental applications by checking them all individually.
This also applies to deadlines, which will be different for every school. You’ll see deadlines for the primary application and supplemental application for each school. AADSAS will not send any of your applications to a school if they are received after the school’s deadline. Don’t wait for the deadline to approach: Apply early! We recommend submitting your application during the summer.
It typically takes 4–6 weeks for an AADSAS primary application to be reviewed after the form, documents, fee payment, and official transcripts are received. Regularly check the progress of your application to make sure nothing is holding it up. When your application is complete, its status will change to “Verified.” This indicates that it has been processed, and your GPA was calculated and sent to your programs.
If supplemental applications are required, you will submit them concurrently with your primary application or receive an invitation to do so. Required response times vary depending on the school from a week or two to longer, but if you receive an invitation, prepare your supplemental materials and respond immediately.
Typical Program Materials Required
In the Program Materials section, you’ll find any additional school-specific information or requirements for the programs you’ve selected. A wide variety of program materials is to be expected, and you won’t have a good idea of the “picture” you have to put together before you see the individual puzzle pieces required by each school. This is why it’s also important to start your application early. The AADSAS application becomes available in early May, so you can look at it then and confirm all your requirements. However, it is wise to start collecting and preparing your documentation, such as transcripts, reference letters, and your dental school personal statement, well before this. You can submit your primary school dental school application as of June 1.
Schools might also have a separate portal for you to submit supplemental application components. For example, to apply to the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry, you can use AADSAS, which requires a supplemental application, or the University of Toronto Dental Application Service (UTDAS). The UTDAS application is made available on the school’s website in July of each year. As part of this application, you will need to email your personal statement and a one-page essay “outlining what you consider to be your greatest accomplishment and the reasons you have chosen to highlight it.” This example underlines why it is so important to check the individual school requirements when assembling your dental school supplemental application.
Preparing for Your Dental School Supplemental Application
We previously stated that you can’t predict what will be requested as part of your dental school supplemental application, but that’s only half true. Although you can’t know exactly what to expect, we’ve already covered a number of elements that you can put in place ahead of time: your list of schools and any existing information you have (make notes); deadlines (make a schedule); fees (make a budget); prerequisites (plan your undergrad courses). Here are some more:
Know what dental schools look for: by researching what dental schools generally look for in candidates, you can identify the professional, clinical, extracurricular, and shadowing experiences you will need in the years leading up to your application to dental school. Specifically research the schools you hope to apply to. What is their mission? What are their goals? What are their research interests? What do they value in matriculants (look at their previous matriculants’ data). Make notes on this in your spreadsheet of all the schools you’re pursuing. Why? So that you can brainstorm what experiences, qualities, or facts to use in your supplemental application for each school. If the school loves research, use research experiences that you are proud of. If the school works with underserved populations, use examples of when you worked with them.
Focus on core competencies for the beginning general dentist: build up your knowledge and application of the ADEA’s entry-level competencies:
You can also study the set of competencies for a beginning dental practitioner defined by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada. Dental programs like to see that you are knowledgeable about these competencies and have experiences where you applied them or are learning how to apply them through your employment, shadowing, or dental school extracurricular activities.
Showcase your dexterity: you’ll want to draw attention to any activities that engage and demonstrate your dental school manual dexterity in your application and interview. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, manual dexterity testing associated with the DAT has been suspended, so any mention of this skill in your application materials will fill in this gap for admissions officers.
Highlight interpersonal skills: be sure to demonstrate your problem solving, communication skills, and teamwork – all essential qualities of an exceptional professional in dentistry.
Get help you can rely on: if you’re not sure how to proceed or find the process itself confusing, a dental school advisor can provide expert help at every turn. In addition to supporting and guiding you through your primary and secondary applications, they can also connect you with interview preparation resources. As many dental schools use MMIs, an admissions consulting service can provide you with MMI interview prep and furnish you with MMI questions to allow you to learn strategies and practice. You can also learn to prepare for any other type of dental school interview you might encounter, such as one-on-one, panel, or group interviews.
Read past prompts: you can go on forums to try to find dental school supplemental application hints and prompts and look at examples for longer essays whose prompts from the previous year you may be able to find, but keep in mind that these could change, if only slightly. In general, an open mind and a broad base of knowledge about the process will serve you better than a rigid, narrow approach.
Set aside some time: the AADSAS application becomes available in mid-May and may be submitted in early June, so there are two periods in which you should set aside time for your supplemental application. These would be when you first apply for schools that require the submission of supplemental materials concurrent to your AADSAS primary application and about 4–6 weeks later when you hear back from schools whose supplemental applications are by invitation only. Returning the materials within two weeks of receiving them will enhance the likelihood of an interview invitation.
Have a general idea of what to expect: although questions can be wide-ranging, the following are a few exemplary ones that you are likely to encounter in one form or another:
How to Connect and Make the Most of Your Primary and Supplemental Applications
Although, in most cases, you won’t know exactly what to expect from dental school supplemental applications until you are in the process of applying or have received an invitation, you can confirm the method your schools use, either on their website or by contacting the program director or admissions directly.
1. Do not repeat yourself in supplemental applications: use different experiences or expand on the ones you included in your primary application, such as your personal statement and activities. As with many professional admissions processes, the dental school personal statement will be at the core of your primary application. Based on the key question, “Why do you want a career in dentistry?”, this essay should be an engaging, compelling story that encompasses the central qualities and core competencies required of aspiring dentists. A single personal statement will be sent to all the schools you are applying to, so it should be fairly general, not tailored to specific schools. What’s crucial to note here is that when answering the supplemental application prompts, you will want to complement, rather than reiterate, the points you made in your personal statement. As in the example provided in the previous section, share some information about yourself that wasn’t covered in the primary application.
2. Address red flags if you’re given the opportunity: if there’s something you think the admissions committee should know about your background, whether academic or otherwise, check for parts of the supplemental application where you can address any of these red flags. Remember that in doing so, you should not dwell on your failure but explain how you overcame a setback and learned from it. Frankly addressing red flags will help ensure they don’t have a negative influence on the assessment of your application.
3. Letters of evaluation/recommendation: you can (and should) prepare your references well in advance of your application. Note that some schools equate their dental school letters of recommendation or letters of evaluation with the supplemental application. In any case, you can set these up months ahead of time by building relationships with dentists, supervisors, and professors in the hope that they may give you a good reference. Collecting several letters of recommendation from professionals who have taught or supervised you will make it easier to provide the required number for each school. Generally, at least 3 letters are required, but having more will mean you can choose the most relevant for each school.
Note that if you participated in writing your letters of recommendation or know what your writer included, you can avoid talking about the same experiences and use supplemental applications to discuss something else.
4. Dental school application experiences have a section devoted to them in the AADSAS form.
- Academic enrichment
- Dental experience
- Dental shadowing
- Research and volunteer
While you might touch on some of these in your dental school supplemental application, you’ll want to draw on at most two or three meaningful experiences when answering questions or writing essays; again, you do not want to simply list and repeat information. We can’t stress this enough.
5. Achievements: there is also a section for writing brief summaries of any achievements. For these, unless you are directly asked to discuss them in your dental school supplemental application, it’s best not to brag and just content yourself with a few lines in the primary application.
Although there are multiple factors that come into play in the dental school supplemental application process and AADSAS review – some general and some specific to each school or program – you should not lose sleep over this stage. By anticipating the steps you’ll need to take and making a schedule that allows you to fulfill each school’s requirements without rushing through them, you’ll be halfway there.
Ensuring that you are fluent in dental school competencies and can demonstrate them through your experiences is another big piece. Finally, truly understanding why you selected the schools that you did is essential, as this will come across in any answers to supplemental application questions you provide. In fact, giving this stage your full attention is a great way to refresh your knowledge of schools right before your interview.
1. How will I know whether I have to submit a dental school supplemental application?
Once you select your schools in the ADEA AADSAS application form, you can see whether you must include your dental school supplemental application with the primary application or wait until you are invited to send it in. If the application has not opened yet (in mid-May), and you want to know whether the schools you are applying to require a supplemental application, you can go to the school’s website and confirm their requirements.
2. How do schools decide whether to require a dental school supplemental application?
The reasons for schools to require a dental school supplemental application are as diverse as the schools themselves. However, for those that request one by invitation, it is often simply based on whether you have met all the primary application criteria for entry to the dental school. For example, the Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Arizona requires that applicants meet the minimum science and total GPA requirement of 3.00 on a 4.00 scale. Other schools may only send out invitations to candidates who they intend to interview.
3. When should I submit my dental school supplemental application?
The ADEA AADSAS application becomes available in mid-May and may be submitted in early June. Depending on the schools you selected, you’ll submit your supplemental materials with the primary application, about 4–6 weeks later if you are invited to do so, or not at all.
4. What should I focus on in my dental school supplemental application if I can’t prepare for it?
With the right information and support, you can properly prepare for any admissions process. For dental schools, in particular, thoroughly researching the schools and their requirements and studying the core competencies for beginning dental practitioners will equip you with most of the information you need to produce a fantastic dental school supplemental application. Given the complexity of the application process, dental school admissions consulting can be worthwhile if you want to increase your chances at every level.
5. Are there schools that don’t require a dental school supplemental application?
Yes, several schools, such as the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, don’t require this component. However, note that while this school does not require a dental school supplemental application, they still ask program-specific questions as part of the AADSAS application. That is why you should always check the application requirements for each school that interests you.
6. I was sent a supplemental application and interview invitation. Will this be the case for every school?
No, some schools only send out supplemental applications to interview candidates, which is good news for you if you’ve been invited. However, another school might only invite you for an interview after reviewing your supplemental application. Take each school as it comes and prioritize their requirements as they become available.
7. Which Canadian dental schools use AADSAS?
- Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry
- McGill University School of Dentistry
- University of British Columbia Faculty of Dentistry
- University of Saskatchewan College of Dentistry
- University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry
8. Can I just use AADSAS to apply to Canadian dental schools?
Not all Canadian dental schools use AADSAS. Each dental school may have different requirements and deadlines, and questions about required supplemental materials should be addressed to each specific school.
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