The (Associated American Dental Schools Application Service) is the dental school application service for most dental schools in the U.S. and is administered through the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). requires a lot of time and effort, with an admissions process as challenging as any professional program. If you’re considering a future career as a dentist then you’ll need a good sense of the dental application process well in advance of compiling your materials, crafting your essay(s), and logging into the AADSAS website to get to work. In this blog, our will help you understand the AADSAS process and its timeline, help you navigate each section of the dental school application, and provide tips to ensure you’re on track with all of the application’s various components.
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is the American Dental Education Association's primary application service for most students applying to dentistry programs in the United States. You'll often see this application referred to as the ADEA AADSAS or simply AADSAS. Most schools require students to submit their applications through AADSAS, although some schools in Texas utilize the state-specific application service. Additionally, dental graduates from outside the U.S. utilize the ADEA's Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists . The application fee for AADSAS is $251 (USD) for your first school and $108 for each additional school, while fees for CAAPID are $245 and $102, respectively.
AADSAS Application Timeline
Each year the standard AADSAS opens in mid-June, while the paperless process opens in mid-May. Each school will have its own unique deadlines for application submission as well, so be sure to check them with each school to which you will apply. While the earliest submission date for your application will be in June, note that the AADSAS has a “soft open” around mid-May each year, meaning that the application will be available to be viewed, though you won’t be able to submit it until that early June date. As well, some schools will have secondary applications in addition to the AEDA AADSAS, which will all have their own deadlines.
If you’re a traditional applicant to dental school (i.e., if you're currently completing your undergraduate education and plan to enter directly into a dental program), you should be prepared to submit your application the summer after your Junior year. You should have all your materials together and ready to submit as soon as the AADSAS opens in June. Like many U.S. medical schools, US dental schools have , which means that applications are reviewed and considered as they come in. The ADEA strongly encourages students to apply as early as possible, as early submission can significantly increase your chances for early interview invitations. AADSAS processing generally takes around 4-6 weeks, after which time your application is sent to your chosen schools, so being prepared to submit your application as soon as possible will positively impact your evaluation.
Prior to applying to dental school through the AADSAS, there are a number of steps you must take and benchmarks you must reach. These include taking the proper pre-requisite courses, registering for and/or completing the , and shadowing a dental professional.
Complete Pre-DAT Dental School Pre-Reqs
Prior to applying to dental school, you must complete several required courses – courses that will give you a firm grasp of the foundational competencies necessary to move toward dental school, and which will help you prepare for the general admission exam required of those entering dentistry programs, the DAT.
Each school will have its own set of pre-requisite courses, so it’s imperative that you check with each school as you plan your undergraduate education. Most programs will require the following courses, at a minimum:
Some schools may require other science courses on top of those listed here, as well as courses in the humanities or social sciences, and/or additional writing intensive courses. These will help you develop not only scientific aptitude, but also the critical thinking and written communication skills necessary to develop the core competencies required of dental students, which in turn will prepare you for the DAT.
The ADEA’s are competencies required of aspiring dental professionals. This set of qualities is intended to ensure that all graduating students have knowledge and psychomotor skills in “biomedical, behavioral, ethical, clinical dental science, and formatics areas that are essential for independent and unsupervised performance as an entry-level general dentist.” As you craft your personal statement, describing your experiences and preparing for interviews, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with these competencies and reflect on the ways in which you have demonstrated or will demonstrate these as part of your journey in the dental profession.
The ADEA core competencies are:
Obviously, as a student working toward dental school, not all of these will be attainable for you – for instance, most students wrapping up their undergraduate studies will not have experience with “Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment Planning” as part of Patient Care. That’s okay! They know you’re not a practicing dentist yet. However, you can and should demonstrate the ways in which you’re planning to build such competencies through dental shadowing, volunteering in a dental clinic, undertaking research on current methodologies and upcoming technologies in the field of dentistry, and so on. Similarly, it is unlikely that most applicants will have specific experience in managing a dental practice, but you can participate in academic enrichment programs and courses on business management, learn a bit about finances and human resources, and look into local, state, and federal regulations applicable to dental practices.
Remember, dental schools are highly competitive, and they want those students who can demonstrate that this is more than a career for them. They want those students who take initiative, who identify their own weaknesses and work to counter them, who go above and beyond, and who view this as a vocation, not just a job.
Scheduling and Taking the Dental Admission Test (DAT)
The Dental Admission Test or DAT is a 4-hour comprehensive exam administered by the American Dental Association (ADA), and is generally taken in the Spring of your Junior year of undergrad (ideally right after you’ve completed your organic chemistry prerequisite). All U.S. dental schools require the DAT; however, if you’re a Canadian student hoping to attend dental school in the U.S., note that some schools will accept the Canadian DAT (and, likewise, some Canadian schools will accept the U.S. DAT). As always, check with your specific schools of interest to determine which DAT(s) they accept.
Your first step will be to , after which you’ll receive instructions on how to take the computerized test at a local Testing Center. Although the ADEA sets the available times and dates for testing, you may choose which of these best fit your schedule and timeline. For instance, the ADEA recommends that students take the DAT at the end of the Spring semester of the junior year, immediately after completing organic chemistry courses. Upon registering you’ll also receive a DENTPIN, a unique numeric identifier used throughout the application process. Keep this in a safe place.
The goal of the DAT is to determine your preparedness for continuing on to dental school. As such, it evaluates three competencies central to the practice of dentistry: your overall academic ability, your level of scientific understanding, and your perceptual ability. These are assessed across four sections within the test:
- Survey of the natural sciences
- Perceptual ability
- Reading comprehension
- Quantitative reasoning
You can opt to have your score sent to all dental schools in the U.S. at no charge as part of your registration, and we recommend that you do precisely that. Having your DAT score sent everywhere won’t cost you anything, but adding schools later will incur an additional fee. Additionally, while every school will be sent your scores with this approach, only schools you end up applying to will see them, so the end result is effectively the same whether you send to all or only those to which you’ll apply.Once you’ve completed the DAT, your official score will be sent electronically to AADSAS in about 3-4 weeks. Note that most schools will not begin reviewing your application until your DAT score has arrived, which is why it’s best to complete it at your earliest convenience. As noted above, complete applications submitted early in the season will receive earliest review, so it’s in your best interest to have everything complete and ready to go as early as possible.
If you complete the DAT but aren’t satisfied with your score, you’re allowed to take the test once every 90 days, up to a maximum of three times. If you’re still unsatisfied with your score after three attempts, you’ll have to apply for permission from the ADA and, if approved, may retest only once every 12 months. Keep in mind that a 3-month delay on your DAT scores can severely impact your application, so begin your preparation early to ensure a strong score.
Check out how to become a dentist in our infographic:
Shadow with a General Dentist
You have a lot to maintain as an aspiring dental student, including volunteer efforts, extracurricular activities, gaining research and clinical experience, and otherwise rounding out your personal and professional profile in addition to your academic efforts and achievements. These experiences should include shadowing with a general dentist and, ideally, some experience shadowing specialists. Shadowing generally requires you to spend a considerable amount of time in the dental practice environment, observing dental procedures, learning specialized terminology, asking questions, and otherwise gaining an understanding of the day-to-day realities of a career in dentistry. Dental schools are particularly interested in applicants with shadowing experience. Participating in shadowing experiences helps you understand what your daily life as a dentist will likely resemble, and it also demonstrates your commitment and maturity as an applicant. As with most professions, the external appearance of dentistry is often quite different from the “insider” view. Taking initiative to develop this insider view shows that you’re a serious and professional candidate, and demonstrates maturity and humility. A good number of shadowing hours to aim for is 100, though some schools require fewer and others want more. As always, check the guidelines and requirements of the specific programs to which you’re applying to determine your ideal number of shadowing hours. Don’t forget to learn or a dentist before you reach out to schedule your shadowing hours.
Strengthen Your Manual Dexterity
Having steady and dexterous hands is crucial for dentistry, and refining this should not be overlooked – it should be considered part of your study and prep for dental school! There are any number of activities that require manual dexterity: playing an instrument, sewing, knitting/crocheting, sculpture, auto repair, calligraphy – pretty much anything that requires you to use your hands in very precise ways and hone your hand-eye coordination. So, if you’ve been itching to take up a new hobby, find one that requires you to practice your manual dexterity – you’ve got an excuse now!
So, you’ve wrapped up your pre-reqs, taken the DAT, shadowed a dentist or two, and kept up your volunteer and non-academic activities. You’re now ready to complete the ADEA AADSAS. What, exactly, are you in for? Let’s break down the AADSAS application components so you can prepare effectively
This section asks for your general biographic information (name, age, gender, citizenship, race and ethnicity, etc.), your contact information, whether you’ve served in the military, what language(s) you speak, information on up to two people who act as your parent(s) or guardian(s) (name, address, occupation, and education), and the number of siblings you have.
There is also a sub-section here labeled “environmental factors.” This is a space for you to provide additional context to application reviewers, including any social factors that may be relevant to their assessment. In particular, they want to know if you’ve faced extenuating circumstances or social-environmental factors beyond your control, such as living in an underserved community, living in an impoverished or financially-struggling area, or any other external or structural disadvantages. The categories here are as follows:
This is where you must first manually enter information about your high school and any colleges or universities you’ve attended (including study abroad, summer courses, high school courses taken for college credit, etc.). You must list all institutions you’ve attended, even if your completed coursework was transferred to a different institution. Additionally, it’s a good idea to check out based on academic criteria to have a sense of how you may stack up against your competition.Upon entering your schools' basic information, you will be prompted to download a Transcript Request Form.
For each college and university listed in your in this Academic History, you will need to arrange for your official transcripts to be sent to ADEA AADSAS. Fill out and submit the Transcript Request Form to your school’s Registrar’s Office. Note that transcripts must be addressed to ADEA AADSAS, and the transcripts must be original and mailed directly by your Registrar. You are not permitted to mail your transcripts on your own, and transcripts that have been issued to or picked up by a student will be designated as such on the transcript itself (which will essentially make it void, for the purpose of the AADSAS application). Additionally, be sure that your ADEA AADSAS ID number is included with each transcript request.
While you’re at the Registrar arranging for your transcripts to be sent, it would be a good idea to grab a student-issued copy for yourself. You’ll need a student copy for the “Transcript Entry” section below.
Remember, transcripts take time to issue and process – sometimes upwards of 6 weeks, so you must issue the transcript request as soon as the application opens (you cannot arrange to have transcripts sent before the application opens). As well, it is advisable to monitor your ADEA AADSAS account to ensure everything arrives when it should. You can do this in two ways:
- By checking with your school a few days after your request to ensure the transcripts have been sent. You can request confirmation of the date on which the transcripts were mailed, as well.
- By going to the ADEA AADSAS “Check Status” page to see if your transcript has arrived. It often takes upwards of 7 business days for your transcript to be posted after being received. So, if you don’t see an update 2-3 weeks after the date on which the transcripts were mailed, you may want to reach out to AADSAS customer support, as they will be able to provide the most up-to-date information.
After entering your school information, you can begin adding programs to your application, indicating the dental schools to which you plan to apply. It is generally advisable to complete this section prior to going to the transcript entry section, because of the way the application is “built” through the system. You must select at least one program in this section, but may add as many as you’d like. Note, however, that there are a variety of fees associated with school selection, and some programs may have additional or supplemental fees on top of the standard application fees. Although it really depends on your plans, the average student applies to approximately 10 dental programs.
Transcript Entry and Coursework
In this section, all the numerical and descriptive information about your academic history must be entered: grades, credit hours, course codes, course titles and subjects, and so on. You have to options for inputting this information into this section: or Manual transcript entry. Professional transcript entry will allow you to offload this work to someone else (for a fee). Doing it yourself is free but is time-consuming and tedious. Whichever option you choose, this information is necessary so that there is a single, standardized assessment of your academic history so far. Different schools have different credit values, GPA cut-offs, and other variables, so entering this information allows for a fair evaluation and comparison to other applicants.
The instructions for this are very specific, so review them as early as possible, prior to attempting to fill in this information. You need to ensure that the information you enter is correct, up-to-date, and complete. Note that you cannot change any coursework that has been entered once you’ve submitted the application, so you must ensure everything is correct. Likewise, if you hire a professional to enter your transcript information then you must check their work to ensure everything is correct before submitting the application as well. If you’re submitting an application prior to the release of grades for a particular course or courses, you will be able to update those grades, but information for completed courses cannot be updated or corrected once the application is submitted.
Standardized Tests: DAT
As with your transcripts, your DAT scores are reported twice, as well – once by you manually entering scores from your official score report, and again through the official DAT score reporting. You must also contact ADA to have your official scores reported electronically to ADEA AADSAS. After this, in the application, you can use the score report to enter your scores and fill out the necessary information, including your DENTPIN and any plans you have to re-take the test. In general, if you’ve scored below 17 on the Survey of the Natural Sciences section, below 16 in Quantitative Reasoning, or below 19 in Reading Comprehension and Perceptual Ability, you may want to consider retaking the test.
Now for the fun stuff! This section allows you to support your application with evidence of your strengths as an applicant. Such support comes in the form of a personal statement essay, details of your work and experiences so far, and letters of recommendation (though in the ADEA AADSAS, these are referred to as “Letters of Evaluation”). These are all challenging components of the application, but they provide the opportunity for admissions committees to see who you really are beyond quantitative data like scores and grades.
It’s important that you look into your school’s policies early to determine how to prepare effectively. For example, if your school only uses individual letters then you need to begin your relationship-building as soon as possible – especially with your professors. You can start this process by being active and attentive in class, and visiting office hours to discuss course materials, ask questions, and get advice.
As with transcripts, it’s important that you monitor the status of your application, keeping an eye out for these letters to appear. Ensure you’ve given a clear due date for submission to your letter-writers, and don’t be afraid to follow up (gently and politely) if a letter is taking excessively long to show up.
In this section you enter all of your professional experiences, categorize them, use description to convey your key responsibilities, and select “most important experiences” to highlight particularly formative moments in your professional history. You will also have to indicate whether you will allow dental schools to contact the organization if they choose to (this is a “release authorization”, which allows them to proceed in contacting the organization). You can enter any experiences you find relevant to your application, though it is best to focus on experiences that took place during (or after) your college/university years.For each entry, you will have to provide the name and address of the organization where the experience took place, name and contact information of your supervisor, the dates of the experience, the title you held, your average weekly hours, and key responsibilities during your time in that position. As such, it is important that you keep track of such information in a list or spreadsheet throughout your time in undergrad. This will make compiling the “Experiences” section much easier when you’re ready to apply. If you did not have a specific title in a given role, simply enter the type of activity you performed (e.g., Dentist Shadow, Camp Volunteer, or Data Entry). If you had an experience with no supervisor, you may list a member of the organization who can verify your participation.
Each experience must be categorized according to a list of available categories within the ADEA AADSAS. The categories in the application are standardized and rather general, so you should allow the nature of your experience to determine the category you choose for that experience. The categories are:
For each entry, you will need to fill out a description of your key responsibilities in this role. You will have 600 characters (including spaces) to craft a concise sketch of your position so that the admissions committee has a fuller idea of your duties, as well as the ways in which this experience contributed to your growth and development as an aspiring healthcare provider. Additionally, once you’ve entered your responsibilities, you will be given the option to designate 6 experiences as “Most Important Experiences”, by clicking a star next to the experience. These should be experiences that were particularly formative in your development. One way to ensure you’re utilizing this designation effectively is to reflect on the key qualities and core competencies expected of future dental professionals and use these to evaluate your experiences. Those that particularly reflect such qualities and competencies should be among those designated “Most Important”. A discussion of these key qualities and core competencies follows in the section below, “ADEA AADSAS Dental School Application Review”.
Note that only completed, current, and in-progress experiences can be included. Experiences that you have planned for the future, but which you haven’t yet begun, should not be included here. However, experiences can be added after you submit your application, so if planned opportunities begin after the date you send in your application, you’ll be able to come back and add these. You will not be able to edit or update experiences that have already been entered into the application form though. If you are currently in, or just beginning, an experience that will continue after you submit your application, you can make a note of your expected time commitment in the “Description/Key Responsibilities” box.
In this section, you will have the opportunity to categorize and list highlights from your academic and professional life, in the form of awards and achievements. As with “Experiences”, above, you may enter any relevant achievements from your professional and academic life, but it’s best to focus on those that took place during (and after) your time in college/university.
There are 3 categories for achievements:
For each achievement, you must select a category and enter the name of the achievement, the name of the organization from which you received the accolade (if applicable), the date the achievement recognition was received, and a brief description and/or any clarifying information (e.g., if the title of the award doesn’t effectively convey the purpose of the award). As well, if there are any special circumstances around the achievement, or if you received the same award multiple times, you can note this here. For example, if you made the Dean’s List 6 times throughout undergrad, you can simply note this in the description box for “Dean’s List”, rather than entering this honor 6 separate times in your application.
As with experiences, achievements cannot be edited or removed after your application has been submitted. However, new achievements that take place after application submission can be added, if applicable.
If you have completed any certification courses or gained any professional licensure, you can enter these here. For example, if you’re certified in CPR, are a Certified Dental Technician (CDT) or similar, list them in this section. For each license/certification you will select the type, then enter the license or certification number (as applicable), the date of issue, the country in which the license is held, and then upload a copy of the license/certificate. Note that some programs will require official confirmation of your certificates or licenses, so be sure to check each school’s policy and be prepared to submit such information, if required.Again, as with experiences and achievements, you cannot edit or remove licenses or certifications after submitting your application, but you can add new ones if necessary.
AADSAS Personal Statement
As with all professional applications that require one, the personal statement is the heart of your application. While the data you’ve provided so far is undeniably important, equally important is a compelling narrative of your journey to this point. You will write one personal statement that will be sent to all schools to which you are applying, so this should be a general statement, not one tailored to specific schools (as some schools may have secondary applications, and you will likely be able to do such tailoring there).
Your AADSAS should be no more than 4,500 characters (including spaces), so just over 1 single-spaced page of text. This should be an engaging, compelling, narrative account of your response to the key question, “Why do you want a career in dentistry?” Again, take some time to reflect on the key qualities and core competencies expected of aspiring dental professionals, and choose 2-3 of these to guide your reflection.
Here are some AADSAS Dental School Personal Statement Tips:
A strong dental school personal statement will usually do a few key things:
Check out this video that breaks down the concept “Show, Don’t Tell:”
You should type up your personal statement to ensure it is within the expected length prior to pasting it into the submission box. If your statement is longer than 4,500 characters (including spaces, returns, and punctuation), you will not be able to save it. You will also want to avoid any formatting like bold or italicized text, as this will not carry over into the text box. You can include an extra line break between paragraphs to delineate them, as tabs will not carry over, either.
In this section, you’ll find any additional information or requirements for the programs you’ve selected. Each program will usually have its own set of requirements and additional requests for information, so pay special attention to this section. If a program has additional requirements and you do not fulfill them, then your application will be incomplete. In particular, each program may have specific pre-requisites and additional questions they want candidates to answer. Note that for some programs these additional questions constitute a supplemental application, but this isn’t universal. You must check with each program to which you’re applying to determine if a supplemental (or “secondary”) application is required in addition to these questions in the AADSAS.
If a program has specific pre-requisites, you’ll see a tab called “Prerequisites” in that program's Program Materials Section. Here, you will self-identify courses that you feel fulfill the pre-req by assigning a course to that pre-requisite category. You are able to match multiple courses to each pre-req, if you believe multiple courses would fulfill that requirement. This information will be reviewed by the program, to determine whether the pre-req is fulfilled by this course/these courses. If you are unsure, you can always contact the program directly to ask if a course fulfills the requirement.
If a program has specific questions they want all applicants to answer, you will also find this in a tab, this time called “Questions”. The questions here can vary – some may be multiple choice, some may be open-ended, some may require an entire essay response. For the latter two, keep an eye out for length restrictions (e.g., 250 words or fewer; 1000 characters including spaces), and note that formatting will generally not carry over, so avoid bold or italicized text. Sample questions include: “Have you applied to this school/program before?” “Can you list and describe your professional achievements?” “Our mission statement is, ‘X’. How do you see yourself aligning with this mission?”
At this point, you’ll want to carefully review your entire application, ensuring everything has been filled out correctly, that there are no typos or grammatical errors, and that you’ve included everything you want the application reviewers to see and take into consideration. You can submit your application prior to the arrival of your transcripts and evaluation letters, though review of your application will not commence until these have been received (which is why you want to secure them as soon as possible!). As well, all required fees must be paid prior to application review, and you’ll be prompted to enter such payment after going to “Submit Application” and clicking “Submit”.
After you’ve submitted your payment and application, you’ll be able to monitor its progress in the “Check Status” page. Once your application, payment, transcripts, and letters are received, after you’ve received a confirmation email stating your application was submitted successfully, and after your application status is “Complete”, your application will be placed in line for review!
ADEA AADSAS Dental School Application: Review
There are a multitude of factors that go into AADSAS application review, some general and some specific to each school or program. However, here are some key things to bear in mind as you complete your application.
Today, many universities and programs utilize “holistic review”, and that includes dental programs, medical programs, pharmacy programs, and so on. Briefly, holistic review refers to a process of considering the “whole person” as an applicant, taking into consideration not only quantitative and numeric data, like GPA and test scores, but the life experiences an applicant has had, their academic potential beyond undergraduate and pre-requisite work, their motivation to pursue a career in this field, and – as stated by the ADEA – “the potential to be caring, ethical, healthcare practitioners.” This is one reason the AADSAS personal statement is so critically important, as it is here that you demonstrate such qualities, values, and potential.
In ADEA AADSAS applicant review, there are three primary categories for holistic review: Experiences, Personal Attributes, and Metrics.
After submitting your application, it’s time to... well, it's time to wait, to be honest. You'll want to keep an eye on your application to ensure all components arrive in a timely manner, but other than that, there's nothing you can do to speed up the process. So be patient, re-focus your efforts on any remaining coursework, continue with your volunteering, shadowing, and other professional development activities, and take good care of yourself as you await those interview invitations. As noted above, each school has different deadlines for their applications, and those who submit earliest are likely to have their applications reviewed first. With the AADSAS opening in mid-June, that means that most interviews will take place during the Fall of your Senior year of undergrad (if you’re a traditional applicant, and thus still in school).
To help you prepare for your dental school interview, go through sample . You can also reach out to us about our packages, for realistic mock interviews and tons of resources to help you perform at your best.
Check out our tips for acing your MMI:
1. When does the AADSAS open?
The application opens in mid-May and submissions open in early June. The ADEA recommends using the downtime between these two dates to review and strengthen your application materials and we do too!
2. Can I update any information after I submit my application?
Unfortunately you can only update your contact information once your application has been submitted.
3. When should I take the DAT?
The ADEA recommends that students take the DAT at the end of the Spring semester of the junior year, immediately after completing their organic chemistry courses.
4. How many schools can I select to receive my DAT score?
As many or as few as you’d like! You can select to have your DAT scores made available to all schools in the ADEA AADSAS system at no cost, and we strongly recommend you do so. Adding additional schools after the fact will incur a fee for each additional school, so it’s better to go the universal route from the start.
5. Can I submit my application before my transcripts arrive?
You can submit your application prior to the arrival of your transcripts and evaluation letters, though review of your application will not commence until these have been received.
6. Do I need to submit Letters of Evaluation with my application materials?
Officially, no, but most dental programs request these (similar to the for medical residency programs). As with most things, check with both your current school and those schools to which you’re applying in order to determine if a formal Letter of Evaluation is required and, if so, how it should be structured. There is no one template for this, so you must seek additional information from your schools.
7. Does the ADEA AADSAS accept Canadian DAT (CDAT) scores?
Yes! You will need to manually enter your CDAT score in the DAT Scores section of your application, as well as arrange for your official score reports to be sent directly to your designated dental schools (not the ADEA AADSAS). For more information on the CDAT please contact the .