So it’s been confirmed by one of my pals that applied during the 2016-17 cycle: This is indeed a new AADSAS format and people everywhere are scrambling to finish their applications in this format, so you all are not the only ones. Today, we’re going to be talking about letters of evaluation, which now fall under the purview of the AADSAS’s “Supporting Information” section (along with Experiences, Achievements, Licenses, and Personal Statement).
By the way, thank you for all the views! I had no idea people would be interested so early in this blog’s inception! I’m coming for Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop throne.
Letters of evaluation (formerly and mistakenly called letters of recommendation) give dental school admission committees a window of who you are from an objective perspective. It provides a brief judgment of both academic and non-academic abilities from selected sources, hopefully a positive one!
Before asking someone for a letter of evaluation, consider the following:
- How well do you know this person?
- In what context have you worked with this person?
- Did you do well in this professor’s class?
- Offer to meet with the evaluator during their office hours to present the prospect of writing your letter, it helps put a face to the name in what may be a class of 100 pre-health students
- Provide this person a copy of your transcript, dental school personal statement, and resume to guide their letter
- Be prepared to give your evaluator a good answer of why you want to pursue dentistry and why you are deserving of their recommendation
- Give evaluators plenty of time (around one month is reasonable)
- Explain how your letter of evaluation should be submitted – either to AADSAS itself or to a pre-health committee (if your evaluator is submitting to AADSAS themselves, once you add them as a recommender, the system will forward them a link where they can upload their evaluation; same with the committee letter as well)
- Write a “Thank You” note to each evaluator
- Respect the confidentiality of your letters and refrain from requesting a copy or asking to view it
Consider these Don’t’s:
- It’s a bad idea to have a family member write you a letter, even if your parent is a dentist that you technically shadowed, needless to say, familial ties obscure the veracity of the letter
- It’s rather unwise to get an evaluation from a well-known or famous person unless you just happen to be close to them in a professional context – I would’ve loved to have Chrissy Teigen write me a letter of evaluation for dental school, but she’s only favorited my tweets three times (maybe I would’ve considered it if she favorited just one more, but)
- Don’t ever write your own letter of evaluation
- Don’t ever read your letter, especially if you indicated that it was confidential (and you should indicate such!)
Dental school admissions committees are looking for personal anecdotes of you in your letters. They want to get an idea of how others view you beyond pure classroom experiences and brief encounters. Therefore, your recommenders should be people that will do just that, recommend you and shed positive light on you. Choose your recommenders carefully, but take note of certain criteria recommended here:
The new AADSAS specifies that you may enter a maximum of four individual evaluation requests or one individual and one committee request. Once you have created an Evaluation Request, the recipient/evaluator will receive a link to a upload their letter to AADSAS directly. What does this mean for who you should be asking for a letter from?
This actually varies from dental school to school. Again, this is something that you need to evaluate with each individual school you have designated. D school research is still the ultimate key here. However, many pre-health committees will request these letters for their committee letter: two science professors, one dentist (either from a shadowing or other dental experience), and one other. Someone once told me that the “other” letter should be from a job supervisor, principal research investigator, or a non-science professor.
I personally followed this model and requested a committee letter, submitting requests for two of my science professors, a periodontist I shadowed, and my research advisor (who also happened to be a science professor I took classes with). My “extra” letter in addition to my committee letter came from my pre-health advisor in my college’s Career Center.
Letters of evaluation can be individual or committee – committee letters are a compilation of all of your obtained letters of recommendation, often written by your college’s pre-health committee if one is available. This helps to highlight the best qualities of all of your letters and streamline the reading process for dental schools. Some college pre-health committees will pen committee letters but also attach copies of all of the original letters in full behind the single committee letter, that way, an admission committee can still read them further if they so oblige.
Are individual or committee letters preferred?
Hmm. It depends. I’ve asked a lot of pre-health advisors and some dental school admission committee members this and they tell me to select whichever letter(s) might be more personal. I’ve also been told that if your college offers a committee letter, you should probably defer to that option – I’m not sure why.
It is recommended that all letters submitted should be professional letterhead and signed, please inform your evaluators.
Letters of evaluation can be submitted either electronically (email) or via hard copy letter mail, but I think any wise pre-dental knows that electronic letters are the way to go for speed’s sake. Definitely inform your evaluators (and/or school’s letter committee) that you’d prefer the former.
Do letters need to stay confidential?
Absolutely. Yes. Dental schools will see if you fail to waive your right of access to an evaluation, which comprises the integrity and veracity of the letter. Confidentiality ensures a candid and honest response from the evaluator.
If your dentist/professor/supervisor asks you to pen your own letter and have them sign it, DO NOT DO IT. It is very easy to discern a fake letter from a real one and this is a phenomenal way to be blacklisted from dental school forever. It is not worth it. If your recommender simply no longer has time to write the evaluation, select a new one.
You can check the status of your letters and transcripts (i.e. whether AADSAS has received them or not) by clicking the “Check Status” tab at the top of the navigation bar.
*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA
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