How do I complete the ADEA AADSAS Application?!

  1. Start writing your personal statement. ASAP. No, seriously!

Technically, this is lumped in with your ADEA AADSAS application but I’m making it an entirely different step because you can start this at any time before doing anything else, and it is incredibly important!

Much of your application is numbers: DENTPINs, DAT scores, GPAs, number of shadowing hours, volunteer hours, etc. Most applicants will make sure that their numbers are appealing to admissions, but the personal statement is where YOU get to sell what sets you apart from everyone else. I will write a much more in-depth post on the personal statement later, but I want to emphasize that it should answer one very important question: WHY DENTISTRY?

It doesn’t sound hard, but this is where you really get to flex your emotional intelligence to admission committees. I’ll give you a hint: it shouldn’t be “because I want to swim in Benny Jays” or “because my /insert family member/ is a dentist.” This is a great time to reflect on why you are passionate about pursuing dentistry. 

Please, please, PLEASE don’t be like some people I have known and think you are going to write this the week or even the month before you submit your application. I went through 12 drafts over the course of 5 months and lemme tell you: I’m embarrassed by how generic and lame my first draft was. Maybe I will share it with you... eventually.

  1. Make contact with your Letter of Recommendation writers early (and regularly!)

Most schools (emphasis on “MOST”) want you to have a letter from a few different people including:

  • A dentist

  • 2 professors of your “core” science classes

  • A person you know well who can testify to your character

You should start by finding out what the schools you plan to apply to require in terms of letters. Then, ideally in January before the summer or fall you plan to apply, chat with them about how they would feel about writing you a letter for dental school. Then check in periodically leading up to the application. Remember, your application won’t get a single glance if even one letter is missing!

  1. Start collecting volunteering hours. And mean it!

If you are applying to dental school, chances are you are already a compassionate person who loves to share their time for the benefit of others!

A common misconception is that volunteer hours MUST be dental-related. It’s great if you found a way to help out somewhere regularly in a way related to dentistry, but it is certainly not the point of this section of your application. Dental admissions want to see you are compassionate and willing to give some of your time and effort away to serve a community.

Most of my volunteer hours came from teaching English to people who moved to the US and had a native language other than English. Volunteer hours are a way to show you are well-rounded and have at least half a heart! Dental admissions hear about dentistry day-in-day-out, so they will love to hear how you deliver meals weekly to senior citizens, are active in highway clean-up efforts, help out at your local Boys and Girls Club, etc.

The important thing is that you committed to a cause regularly (several hours over months or years), and that you truly were involved. 

If you’re not really the Mother-Theresa-type, then dig deep and find a cause you do care enough about and start giving back. Dental schools can smell if you faked your volunteering experience!

  1. Start collecting Shadowing Hours with a dentist.

The cool thing about this step is that you can tie it in with the dentist who will eventually become your dentist letter-writer. Visit general dentist offices and dental specialists to ask if you can shadow there sometimes. Be sure to wear appropriate business casual attire (depends on each office), and bring in a printed copy of your one-page resume with your contact information. If you are lucky, they will let you come in regularly and you can form a nice mentor relationship.

Once you find a dentist who will let you shadow them frequently, it might be worth asking early-on if they would be interested in writing you a letter (after you have gotten to know them a bit first).

Each school has different minimum requirements for shadowing hours. For example, Southern Illinois School of Dental Medicine requires only 20 or 25 hours whereas University of Illinois Chicago requires 100. It is not uncommon to hear pre-dental students lying about these hours. Just a word to the wise: if you roll into an interview with 300 shadowing hours and you still think a crown is something the dentist gives kid patients out of the toy chest, it is going to reek of dishonesty. (Yeah, that’s going to be a “no” for that adcom.)

These are just some of the preliminary steps on your way to becoming a dentist! I know it’s overwhelming, but so is dental school. Just completing an application successfully in itself is a trial they use to weed out people. Your ADEA AADSAS application is what will hopefully get your foot into that interview door. So, don’t take it lightly! 

Check out my other more in-depth posts on each section as they get published.

As always, happy pre-denting! :-)

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash.