Understanding the ADEA AADSAS
The AADSAS (Associated American Dental Schools Application Service) is the application service for the majority of dental school applicants across the U.S., and it is administered through the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). Applying to study dentistry requires a lot of time, thought, and effort, with an admissions process as robust as any professional program. If you’re considering a future career as a dentist, you’ll want to have a good sense of the application process well in advance of compiling your application materials, crafting your essay(s), and logging into the AADSAS website to get to work. This blog will help you understand the AADSAS and the application timeline, help you navigate the various sections of the application, and will provide you some tips to ensure you’re on track with all of the application’s various components.
You will learn:
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The AADSAS is the primary application service for most students applying to dentistry programs in the U.S., and is administered by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA – you will often see this application referred to as the "ADEA AADSAS"; though it is sometimes simply referred to as the AADSAS). There are some exceptions, but most dental schools require students to submit their applications through AADSAS. Note that dental schools in Texas are a big exception here, as medical, dental, and veterinary school applicants in Texas use the unique TMDSAS application. As well, foreign-educated dental graduates apply through yet another system, the ADEA CAAPID (Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists).
Each year, the AADSAS opens in early-June (often on or around June 1), and each individual school will have its own unique deadlines for application submission, so be sure to check with each school to which you will apply, so you ensure your application is in on time. While the earliest submission date for your application will be early-June, note that the AADSAS has a “soft open” around mid-May each year, meaning that the application will be available to view, 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 planning to move directly from there to a dental program), you should be prepared to submit your application the Summer after your Junior year of undergrad. You should have all of your materials together and ready to submit as soon as the AADSAS opens in June. Similar to many U.S. medical schools, those applications submitted earliest get first review and consideration. The ADEA strongly encourages students to apply as early as possible, as this early submission can significantly positively impact your chances of first review, and this can result in earlier interview invitations. AMDSAS 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 in itself 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 DAT (Dental Admission Test), 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 individual 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 the minimum:
- 8 hours Biology with lab
- 8 hours General Chemistry with lab
- 8 hours Organic Chemistry with lab
- 8 hours Physics
- 8 hours English
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 the scientific aptitude, but the critical thinking skills and written communication skills necessary to develop all the core competencies required of dental students, which – in turn – will prepare you for the DAT, or Dental Admission Test.
Schedule/Take DAT (Dental Admission Test)
The Dental Admission Test, or DAT, is a 4-hour comprehensive exam administered by the American Dental Association (ADA), which is generally taken in the Spring of your Junior year of undergrad (ideally right after you’ve completed your organic chemistry pre-reqs). All U.S. dental schools require the DAT; 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).
To take the DAT, you must first register, after which time you’ll receive instructions on how to take the computerized test at a local Testing Center. As the ADA administers the exam, they set the available dates and times for taking the test, but you’ll be able to choose which date and time work best for you as part of the scheduling process. Once you’ve registered, your registration is valid for 6 months, so you’ll be able to select the date and time that work best with your schedule. As well, upon registering, you’ll receive a DENTPIN, or Dental Personal Identifier Number. This is a unique numeric identifier for students that have taken or applied to take the DAT. You’ll need this number for your application later, so keep it 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. Specifically, it is meant to measure 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, and 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 it’s recommended 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. Once you’ve completed the DAT, your official score will be sent electronically to AADSAS after 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 and are not satisfied with your score, you’re allowed to take it up to 3 times. However, you must wait at least 90 days to re-take the test, so it’s best to put your effort into scoring well the first time. A 3-month delay on your DAT scores can impact your entire application, so begin your preparation early so that you can secure that strong score.
Shadow with a General Dentist
As an aspiring dental student, you should be maintaining volunteer efforts and 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 with other dentists, as well. 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 taking in the day-to-day realities of a career in dentistry. Dental schools are particularly interested in seeing applicants with shadowing experience. Participating in shadowing experiences helps you understand what your daily lived reality will likely resemble, and it also demonstrates your commitment and maturity as an applicant. In any profession, the external appearance of the work done is often quite different from the “insider view”; taking the initiative to learn what that “insider view” is really like shows that you are a serious, professional candidate, who demonstrates maturity and humility.
So, you’ve wrapped up your pre-reqs for the DAT, taken the test, shadowed a dentist or two, and kept up your volunteer and non-academic activities, and now you’re 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, and information on up to two people who act as your parent(s) or guardian(s) (name, address, occupation, and education), as well as the number of siblings you have.
There is also a sub-section here labeled “environmental factors”. This is a space for application reviewers to learn more about the context in which you live, and any social factors that may be relevant to their assessment. In particular, they want to know if you have 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 facing any other disadvantages. The categories here are as follows:
The questions in this section aim to learn more about the context in which you grew up, particularly your economic context. Questions here ask about family use of federal or state assistance programs, your household income, and whether you had to work to contribute financially to your household during your teenage years.
Here, you’re asked whether you wish to be considered a disadvantaged applicant in your application. In particular, this is a question about economic and social disadvantage, such as growing up in a low-income household or in an underserved area. This is followed by a space to provide information that you deem pertinent for disadvantaged consideration.
In this section, you report the country, state, county, and city in which you lived for the majority of your life, as well as geographic area designation (e.g., rural, suburban, urban). You are also asked if you think you grew up in an area that was medically underserved.
High School Education
This section asks about the percentage of seniors who graduated from your high school, the percentage of students who went on to college after high school, and whether your high school had a large number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
Relatives in Dentistry
Here, you are prompted to list any relatives that you have who are dentists, dental hygienists, who are in dental or dental hygiene school, or who have studied dental assisting, dental laboratory technology, or any other related field.
Note that this section will not impact your application’s review; the information is collected as data and for the purpose of recruitment. Having a relative in the dental field does not give your application an advantage.
Remember that unique identification number mentioned earlier? You’ll need to enter that here, so have it ready.
Felony and Misdemeanor Convictions
As part of the AADSAS, you must disclose whether you have ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, and most programs run a background check on applicants. If you have ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, it is advisable to contact the programs to which you are applying in advance to ask for advice. Likewise, you’ll want to contact the state licensing agency where you hope to practice to understand their policy for such things, as having such charges on your record may impact your ability to practice, even if you are admitted to the program to which you’re applying.
License and Academic Infractions
If you’ve previously had any certification, license, or other clinical privileges restricted in any official capacity, you must disclose this. There is space to enter an explanation, if you’d like to provide one. Likewise, if you’ve ever been academically disciplined for a violation of academic integrity or any other academic offense, you must disclose this. Again, there is space to enter an explanation. Remember, as with the convictions section, above, it is imperative that you are honest and upfront about such things. Schools will be performing formal background checks on applicants, and academic infractions are transmitted with each student’s transcripts, so these things will be discovered, even if you don’t report them. While these aren’t always necessarily insurmountable, suffice it to say that trying to hide such things or lying about them in the application will only compound the issue.
Along with the above, you’ll also be given space to discuss any previous medical or health professional education you’ve pursued, any applications you may have submitted for other health programs other than dental school, other dental school applications, and any interruptions in your education or military service (if applicable).
Finally, there is space to discuss any activities you’ve taken on that help you refine your manual dexterity. Having steady and dextrous hands is crucial for the dental profession, 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!
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 you completed coursework that was transferred to a different institution.
For each college and university, you will need to arrange for your official transcripts to be sent to ADEA AADSAS. You will be prompted to download a Transcript Request Form, which can then be taken to your school’s Registrar’s Office. Note that the transcripts must be addressed to ADEA AADSAS, and the transcripts must be original and must be mailed 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). 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. Later in the application, you’re still going to have to manually enter transcript information, so having a copy on-hand will be useful (see the section, "Transcript Entry and Coursework", below).
As you are arranging for your transcripts to be sent to ADEA AADSAS, you must ensure that your ADEA AADSAS ID number is included with all of your transcript requests.
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 is arriving when it should. You can do this in two ways: 1. 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. 2. 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 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.
Note 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.
Transcript Entry and Coursework
For this section, you have two options: Professional transcript entry or Manual transcript entry. 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. Professional transcript entry will allow you to offload this work to someone else, for a fee. Doing it yourself is free, but time consuming and tedious.
If you have to enter your transcript information yourself, you’ll need an official, student-issued copy of your transcripts, which you can request when you’re at the Registrar arranging for your transcripts to be sent to ADEA AADSAS. This information must be entered here 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 (and, if you choose to hire a professional to enter your transcript information, 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; however, 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 (if applicable).
Now, we start getting into the “fun” stuff! This is the section where you “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 mere quantitative data like scores and grades.
Want to review some sample personal statements, including one that got SIX acceptances?
Letters of Evaluation (also called Letters of Recommendation, Letters of Reference, etc.)
Letters of recommendation can be easy to overlook until you need them, but they should be in the back of your mind early on in your education. At the latest, it’s recommended that you try to secure letter-writers in your Junior year. Securing letter-writers means building relationships with people who may, one day, be called upon to speak on your behalf.
For the ADEA AADSAS application, you must have 4 evaluators of various types. While the specific requirements vary by school and program, most will require one letter from a general dentist (often, the dentist whom you shadowed while gaining experience), a letter each from two professors of the “hard” sciences (biology, chemistry, etc.), and one letter from a working professional. Under no circumstances should any of these letters be written by family members – yes, it’s been done before, and it is pretty universally looked down upon by admissions committees. In any case, you’ll want to check with the schools you’re considering to verify their policies for letters of recommendation (e.g., some may accept 3 letters from professors, rather than 2 from professors and one from a professional; some may accept letters from non-science professors; etc.). Once submitted, evaluations cannot be removed, changed, or replaced, so it’s important to know what the requirements for each school are prior to soliciting letters.
As well, different schools have different policies for issuing letters of recommendation for aspiring dental students, so you'll need to familiarize yourself with the process at your school. There are three key types of letter that are generally issued and accepted: Individual letters, Committee letters or packets, and Composite letters.
An individual letter is exactly what it sounds like – a single letter written and submitted by one specific person. These are the most “traditional” letters of recommendation. These letters are generally submitted electronically by the letter-writer themselves. As you’re checking on the letter policies of each school, you may also want to ask if there is a specific form or letter portal they require. For example, some schools have a specific cover page that letter-writers must complete and submit along with their letter.
When issuing a request for a letter of recommendation, you may be able to do so through a dossier service, like Interfolio. However, you can also create an evaluation request within the AADSAS application itself, entering the evaluator’s contact information and having the request sent to them directly, through email. Note, in doing so, you will be asked whether or not you want to waive your right to read your letter. While it may be tempting to maintain your right to see what has been written about you, it is strongly recommended that you always waive this right. First, it is generally accepted that letters of reference or evaluation will be confidential. This allows the evaluator to be clear and honest in their assessment. On a deeper level, however, you should only be asking for letters from those you are confident will offer a strong and fair evaluation of your work and your potential as an applicant. Maintaining your right to see what your letters say can suggest that you are not so confident, which can raise larger questions about your overall suitability and strengths.
Check out this video, “How to Receive Outstanding Letters of Recommendation" - while it mentions med school specifically, the same principles apply for dental school applicants!
A committee letter or packet is generally issued by your school’s pre-health advising committee (if applicable at your school). This committee meets and reviews each individual student in the program, submitting a combined letter of evaluation that articulates the committee’s evaluation of your work. Often, you will have to meet with the pre-health committee as part of their overall evaluation, prior to their issuing the letter. Note that the letter itself is usually authored by the pre-health advisor, but the committee letter or packet “counts” as 3 letters.
A composite letter is similar to a committee letter or packet. Again, this letter type requires the input of the pre-health advising committee. It differs, however, in that multiple people on the committee write letters, and your pre-health advisor then reviews these and writes a cover letter, which is included in the submission. Again, a composite letter counts as 3 letters.
It’s important that you look into your school’s policy early, so that you know how to prepare effectively. If, for example, 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.
This is the section where 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’s best to focus on those 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:
- Academic Enrichment: Academic programs within, or sponsored by, universities, colleges, or non-profit organizations, intended to provide learning opportunities outside your standard coursework.
- Dental Shadowing: Times when you observed patient care under a dentist or dental professional. This can also include paid work or volunteering in a dental field, or in the healthcare field, more broadly.
- Employment: Paid work unrelated to healthcare.
- Extracurricular Activities: Non-academic activities, clubs, team-based activities (e.g., debate, sports), hobbies, etc.
- Research: Research projects that generally fall outside of the standard research work needed for your courses. Student research positions and research done above and beyond coursework are applicable here.
- Volunteer: Here, you should include volunteer work that was not directly associated with a healthcare field. If you’ve volunteered for fundraisers, worked for volunteer programs like those offered by the YMCA, local museums, or Habitat for Humanity, you should include that information here.
For each entry, you will need to fill out a description box, indicating 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 and the ways in which this experience contributed to your growth and development as an aspiring healthcare provider. As well, 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. However, you will not be able to edit or update experiences that have already been entered into the application form. 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:
- Awards: Prizes, trophies, medals, or other similar ranked achievements
- Honors: Special distinctions, usually for academic work, e.g., earning membership in honors societies or being included on the Dean’s List
- Scholarships: Monetary awards, most often based on academic or athletic achievement
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 this here. For example, if you have certified CPR training, are a Certified Dental Technician (CDT), or similar, these can be listed. For each, you will select the type of license/certification, enter the license or certification number (as applicable), the date of issue, the country in which the license is held, and you will have to 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 applicable.
AADSAS Personal Statement
As with all professional applications that require one, the personal statement is the heart of your overall application. While the data you’ve provided so far are undeniably important, equally important is your narrative account 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, you will likely be able to do such tailoring there).
Your AADSAS personal statement 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:
- Tell a story: You want to ensure that you use descriptive prose, anecdotes, and narrative to “show” your development, professionalization, and demonstration of qualities and competencies, rather than simply “telling” your reader that you have developed, professionalized, and gained certain qualities and competencies. See the video below, “Show, Don’t Tell” to learn more about crafting a strong narrative in your personal statement.
- Demonstrate why you’re a “good fit” for the profession: The personal statement should aim to speak at the level of values, vision, and vocation. They’ve (hopefully!) seen from your academics, experiences, and achievements that you’ve got the intellectual drive to succeed in a dental program, but these aren’t always great at conveying the meaning behind your application. You should reflect on the core mission and values of the dental profession and highlight the ways in which you have lived this mission and these values in your own life.
- Be genuine and readable: A personal statement should be an authentic representation of your very best self, helping the reader see your passion and enthusiasm for pursuing a career in a healthcare profession. You want to use plain language and avoid clichés – that is, don’t cram in complex jargon (this doesn’t make you sound smarter; true professionals can explain their ideas effectively to non-specialists), and don’t rely on the kinds of things “anyone” says (e.g., “I want to help people”).
- Express your desired contributions to the field of dentistry: Use concrete experiences and compelling prose to demonstrate your priorities and vision as someone dedicating themselves to patient care. Who do you want to be as a dental professional? What are your priorities? Are you interested in research? What does it mean to you to be a practitioner and someone responsible for patient care? Reflecting on such questions in advance will help you craft a document that does much more than merely reiterating your CV or academic history, it will help the admissions committee see who you are at your core, what you value, and what kind of professional you hope to become.
Here is a collection of Dental School Personal Statement Examples, including even more tips on composing a personal statement, so that you can craft a strong personal statement and reflect on your own journey in this context. As well, check out this video that breaks down the concept, “Show, Don’t Tell”:
You should type up your personal statement ahead of time, prior to pasting it into the submission box, to ensure it is within the expected length. If your statement is longer than 4,500 characters (including spaces, returns, and punctuation), you will not be able to save it. As well, you 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, individual programs 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 that 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!
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 health care 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.
This refers to the personal and professional experiences you’ve accumulated to this point. It includes your educational background, your research experience, your employment history, and your dentistry-related experience. As well, in evaluating your experiences, the committee takes into consideration something a bit vaguer: “The road traveled”. This refers to the social and environmental factors of your journey, the challenges you’ve faced, the choices you’ve made, and other contextual elements of your path in life. If you have consistently pushed yourself to participate in activities that bring care to underserved communities or populations, if you have faced particular challenges or disadvantages, if you have used the opportunities afforded to you to lift others up, all of these speak to life experiences that make for a compassionate, considerate, and attentive healthcare provider. If, on the other hand, you have stellar grades but seem to have done the bare minimum outside of academics, that doesn’t necessarily convey those same qualities.
“Personal attributes” refers to your skills and abilities and also to your personal and professional characteristics and demographic factors. In a moment, you’ll read about the core competencies and key qualities expected of future dental professionals, and it’s important that you’re able to reflect these characteristics in your overall presentation of self in your application. Demographic factors include things like race, ethnicity, economic class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and so on. Programs that prioritize diversity and expanding the profession to include historically underrepresented groups and individuals may consider this data as part of their overall (holistic) review of your application.
Finally, metrics are the quantitative and numerical data mentioned earlier, largely your grades/GPA and your DAT scores. Note that these are but one of three broad categories for applicant review and consideration. That is to say, your metrics certainly aren’t unimportant – you have to have strong academics to become a successful dental professional – but they are only one part of your wider application and the criteria by which that application will be evaluated.
The ADEA has established a set of core competencies required of aspiring dental professionals. Called the "ADEA Competencies for the New General Dentist", 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’re crafting your personal statement, describing your experiences, and preparing for interviews, it is 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:
- Critical Thinking
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills
- Health Promotion
- Practice Management and Informatics
- Patient Care
- Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment Planning
- Establishment and Maintenance of Oral Health
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 absolutely can demonstrate the ways in which you’re planning to build such competencies through dental shadowing, volunteering in a dental clinic, doing research on the status quo 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.
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 your remaining coursework (if applicable), continue with your volunteering, shadowing, and other professional development activities, and take good care of yourself as you await those interview invitations. As noted previously, different schools have different deadlines for their applications, and those who submit earliest are likely to have their applications reviewed first. With the AADSAS opening in early 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).
Dental School interviews can be of a number of different varieties, including traditional, panel, group, and MMI, to name a few. For the most part, admission offers tend to come out after December 1st.
Dental School Interview Resources
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