Dat DAT: When to Schedule & General Pre-Dental Planning

I started off writing this blog post specifically detailing when to schedule one’s DAT exam in preparation for applications, but it turned into a more general timetable for the dental school application process.

In short, you need to schedule your DAT well before your intend on opening your AADSAS application. If you are planning on opening your AADSAS application and submitting for the current 2017-2018 cycle, you should’ve taken your DAT sometime during fall 2016 or spring of 2017. It takes time for your DAT scores to be sent to AADSAS and I assure you, applying early is key! To break it down, I recommend taking the DAT at least four months prior to opening your AADSAS application on June 1st. Why four months? In the dark instance you do poorly on your DAT, you must wait at least 90 days to retake the exam.

Oh no! I am just now reading this and am scheduled to take my DAT in June and then apply! What do I do?
That’s still fine, your application may not go out in the earliest wave sent to your designated schools, but get it in as soon as possible to hear back from schools earlier. But APPLY EARLY. Still eSubmit your AADSAS at the beginning of June, because again, it takes several weeks for AADSAS to receive and process your DAT scores.

Personally, I had scheduled my DAT for the fall of my junior year, hoping to study for it the summer before. Haha, not without summer research, my job(s) as an RA and an Admission Fellow getting in the way! Originally, my scheduled date to take the DAT was September 26th, having scheduled it in advance on May 26th. I thought I was being proactive, scheduling three months to study intensely. I ended up paying a $25 rescheduling fee to Prometric to take the exam in November, over my Thanksgiving break. I personally felt that three months was far too long to study, dragging out the cramming process and giving me an excuse to be lazy. It also didn’t help that I took a rather unnecessary online DAT preparatory class (IMHO), but that’s a different post. I didn’t begin actively studying for the DAT until the beginning of September, ironically enough when my classes began again. Now that I’m studying for NBDE Part I, I know myself a little better and have given myself less time to study to amplify pressure and up my study habits. Neat!

Traditional Timetable for Applying to Dental School

Though a “traditional” timetable may exist, plenty of applicants and accepted students deviate form the norm. In fact, the so-called “norm” is regressing, as schools begin to select for more diverse classes from greater pools, as more non-traditional students are applying. In my dental school class alone, there are a couple students over age 40 and several students for whom dentistry will be their second, or even third career. Your future dental school class will arguably be one of the more diverse and compelling groups of people you will ever be exposed to. However, the following timetable below will outline the dental school application process for the traditional student, but will also be pertinent to a non-traditional student, as you too will need to complete all of the following steps, in a similar order.

*Recently, it has become popular to take a gap year (or two) between graduation and dental school. In this case, you would actually begin the AADSAS application the summer after your senior year. In other words, the June right after you graduate. I personally did not take a gap year, I didn’t feel like I needed time off prior to beginning dental school, as I took a pretty light senior year schedule. Perhaps we can discuss gap years and nontraditional routes of applying in a different post – so many ideas!

Freshman & Sophomore Year
You should be completing prerequisite courses during these years. Prerequisite courses will vary across dental schools, but generally, they will require introductory biology, physics, inorganic, and organic chemistry courses with corresponding labs. During this time, one should also be gaining healthcare, specifically dental experience. Said experience can be through paid positions as a dental assistant to volunteer positions. Look for positions in which you have the opportunity to build a professional relationship with the doctor or director, but more on that in a future post. Summertimes should be spent with gainful employment, research, or something dental-related. *I personally took classes the summer after my freshman year – this helped me get ahead of the game for classes during my sophomore and junior years. Working a summer job is helpful, as applications (and the DAT!) are pricey.

Sophomore & Junior Year
By this point, you should definitely have completed all prerequisite basic science courses. You should take all of your math and English courses during your freshman-junior years to preserve precious time during your senior year to devote to applications and interviews. Begin planning out your DAT study schedule – when will you take it? What resources will you use?At the close of junior year, most specific prerequisite courses should be complete, as should your DAT. Begin thinking about your personal statement. You should continue to gain professional experience in dentistry: volunteer and shadow.

Junior & Senior Year
The final two years of your undergraduate career will be the busiest, application-wise. You must complete your degree* (or at least all of the school’s require prerequisite courses) prior to matriculating to dental school. You will need to obtain your letters of evaluation and/or a committee letter (see future post). Complete your personal statement. The AADSAS application will open June 1st, the summer in between your junior and senior year and you must have your application and its full components ready to eSubmit (DAT scores, transcript & transcript-matching/request forms, letters of recommendation).

Senior Year
Your hard work is paying off. Complete your degree with additional, final classes. Many schools will begin extending interview invitations as early as July. Relax, enjoy the ride, and take advantage of as many free meals as possible. Interview travel is expensive, as are secondary application fees. Interviews will occur from July through the March of the following year for most schools. Graduate in May, yay! Use May-July to enjoy your final tastes of sweet, sweet freedom (and maybe find a place to live around your new school).

Sometime soon, I’ll try to make a nifty graphic that details the general timeline for preparing for dental school, through prerequisites and the AADSAS itself. Stay tuned, but for now, here’s one that at least details the application timeline, as seen on my general post on the AADSAS:
Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 6.31.43 PM.png

~ Colleen

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen



Dental-Related Professional Experience – Initiating Contact

People enter the career of dentistry for a multitude of reasons – some of your future classmates in school will come from dental dynasties of two generations of dentists and others will follow more non-traditional routes. Some of your classmates might have certain career-related advantages over you – maybe they were hygienists or even former MDs.

Yet everyone’s pre-dental years consisted of hours of shadowing or assisting licensed dentists or providers. Gaining dental professional experience is crucial in the dental school application, in fact, just as controllable as your personal statement. Your resume of professional experience is evidence of your hard work and dedication to dentistry as a craft and not just a career, which is what your good statistics suggest.

Dental experience demonstrates the follow to admission committees:

  • Dedication – Maintaining a high GPA and studying for the DAT take tenacity, perseverance, and most of all, TIME. Time is the ultimate investment in your application and time spent shadowing and dental assisting will demonstrate your commitment to dental medicine. An applicant with 100+ hours of shadowing will inevitably be viewed with greater accord than someone with fewer than 20 hours. The high-hour applicant has demonstrated his/her dedication to the dental school application and dentistry as a whole. Perhaps the 20 hour applicant decided to willy-nilly apply to dental school in between their pharmacy school (not hating, just making an example) applications, just to see if he could be accepted. Dental school admission does not work this way, Deans of admission and directors will reward dedication to dentistry.
  • Networking – It can be awkward to initiate contact with a dental office when you have such tall requests for shadowing, sterilization, and assisting. When you shadow a dentist, the doctor (and assistants and hygienists!) is/are making an investment in your future at their expense. You are a guest in their office and frankly, a potential liability if you behave poorly or compromise patients. Building good connections with the office you shadow is important, as this dentist very may well write you a letter of evaluation when you actually apply. Shadowing provides you with an opportunity to network with the office and build connections that will last well into your dental career.
  • Trustworthiness – Referencing the point above that you may very well be a liability on the doctor’s office if you screw up, an uninformed shadow might violate HIPPA law or increase patient anxiety. Hopefully, you will maintain a sense of professional decorum and actively observe your attending doctor, respecting patient privacy and learning the basics of bedside manner. Professional experience demonstrates to the admission committee that you are trustworthy enough to sit chair-side with a patient and observe, or even help – the first signs of a good clinician.
  • Understanding the day-to-day job of a dentist – But most importantly, dental schools want to ensure you truly know what a dentist does on a day-to-day basis. Dental school is an expensive investment – the average price of a dental education far exceeds that of most other health professional schools. The cheapest schools, likely your resident state school, are subsidized by the government to churn out X number of dental graduates a year. Not only are you investing money and time into your dental career, but the state and federal governments are as well. Therefore, schools do not want students that are seesawing on dentistry. They want dental students that are committed to the profession with little chance of attrition. Schools want to make sure their investment in a student is sound by ensuring a student understands what dentists actually do! Finally, it gives you, the applicant, an understanding of what dentistry is firsthand, and not secondary to Instagram videos of traumatic mouth injury.

Hw do you find these experiences? During my time as a pre-dental, cold calls were my go-to. I moved to Colorado Springs for college and didn’t know any dentists or people that might recommend me. I had called up my regular dentist in Denver and though he had referred me to a few contacts in the Springs, these offices were far from my college dorm without a car.

Don’t be afraid of cold calls to the office and introducing yourself to the office manager. The office manager will often ask to call you back after consulting with the doctor, but most dentists love having shadows because they love what they do. Having a shadow offers them an opportunity to share their love for their craft with others, grooming someone to potentially take over their practice in a decade. 😉 By the time I had submitted my AADSAS application, I shadowed at six different offices: two general dentists, one periodontist, one oral surgery office, one pedo volunteer clinic, and one prosthodontist.

Below are my recommendations for cold calls:

  • Call with a purpose in mind. If your aim is to shadow this dentist for an extended period of time, perhaps over the course of a semester or even an entire year (a few hours every week), be clear with the doctor. Some doctors are more willing to entertain extended opportunities than others. If you aren’t clear and up front, many doctors will assume you only want to come in for a day or two.
  • Use professional language. Nowadays, people are just so afraid to be on the phone. Texting and email reign over basic phone calls, when really, calls are far more efficient. It should really go without saying, but begin the phone call by introducing yourself with your name and where you go to school. State that you are a pre-dental that wants to gain professional experience by way of shadowing, helping with sterilization, and perhaps assisting. Ask if the office manager if they would be willing to discuss this opportunity with the doctor and call you back later. Always thank the office manager upon close of the call.
  • Offer to bring by a resume or cover letter to the office manager. One office manager even recommended I bring a headshot so she could remember who I was. A resume or cover letter for your office will give them an idea of who you are and what your aim for shadowing or gaining experience is. It will also demonstrate your dedication and commitment, exuding professionalism and casting the best light on you. Remember, this dentist may very well be penning your letter of evaluation for AADSAS.

There absolutely exists other options besides cold calls. Below are some additional recommendations:

  • Ask your friends or even professors at your college who their dentist is. Getting a so-called referral from the people you know is one way of introducing yourself to the dentist. If your non-pre-dental friends and professors enjoy the company of their dentist, you might like observing and learning from that practice.
  • Use your pre-dental or pre-health club – ask for recommendations. Often, fellow pre-dentals are happy to share their stash of contacts with friends – after all, there’s no reason to be competitive. Every applicant is different and collegiality should be fostered in a community in which you have common goals. Pre-health clubs (or even pre-health advisors in your college’s career center) might even have a years worth of local doctor contacts and resources for their members to utilize. It’s all about asking. Make sure you sign up for your school’s pre-dental and pre-health listservs, often, your best resources are your peers. You can even contact alumni that are currently in school.
  • Find dental-related volunteer opportunities in your state. Colorado has COMOM, short for Colorado Mission of Mercy. COMOM is a series of two days of free clinic in a different Colorado city every year. For 2017, COMOM will be held in Pueblo, CO on October 13 and 14. I highly suggest you sign up to volunteer at an event here – you’ll be absolutely blown away by the guerilla dentistry performed at such events and the tears of humility shed by patients so grateful for their dental care. Other states have similar events (often with the same Mission of Mercy name). Colorado also has KIND, or Kids in Need of Dentistry. KIND is a nonprofit organization providing affordable dental care for pediatric patients.


  • Ask your current dentist. If you are comfortable with your family dentist, why not ask for an insider’s tour of their office and get to know them beyond your own need for a class II? If you are away from home for college, shadow your home dentist when you return for a break.

Stay tuned for another post on how to make the best out of your professional experience in the dental office.

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

~ Colleen

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen


Personal Statement Revision

This post is a continuation of AADSAS – Personal Statement. Writing your personal statement is rewriting it. As you progress through your pre-dental career, your experiences will change and your personal statement should absolutely reflect that.

I personally had well over ten drafts of my personal statement, though the final four or so were only minor changes to respect the character limit. My first two drafts were vastly different from one another, demonstrating that your initial pass over your first draft may very well be the most important kind of revision.

Upon completing the first draft of your personal statement, sock it away in a drawer, sit on it, whatever. Just don’t look at it or think about it. Retrieve it a few days later and read it again. Does it still achieve the goal you wished to accomplish? Are the lead, story, throughline, and fireworks delineated? Print off a copy of your first draft and begin marking it up:

First Draft Global Editing:

  • Highlight the lead, story, throughline, and fireworks in four different colors. Each of these should be carefully distinguished. Do all of these pieces fit together in the puzzle of the greater personal statement? Ask yourself the significance of each part relative to the whole.
  • Write out what you think the theme of your personal statement is.
  • Particularly, zero in on the story and the throughline, the so-called “meat” of the personal statement. Does the anecdote you’ve selected adequately address the central theme of the personal statement that you’ve just written? If not, consider re-working the anecdote and subsequent throughline.
  • Does the throughline accurately and explicitly explain the story? Does it answer the why? The throughline should directly reference the story (and therefore the theme) to be most effective.
  • Now, go back to your lead. Is your lead attention-grabbing enough? Is it a concise, clear statement? Go back to your anecdote. Does it live up to your lead?
  • Finally, address your final fireworks. Do these final light rockets highlight the best of you and leave the reader with a solid understanding of who you are?

All of the above should be considered when making the initial pass through your first draft. Here, you are reading for organization and also striking through anything that you might consider “fluff” and taking up precious character space. This is more global revision – addressing big picture things should be the goal of this sort of editing. Everything addressed in this sort of editing should be content, organization, and structure-related.

Congratulations! You now have a complete second draft of your personal statement! You’re nearly there, all of the macro work has been done, and now minor edits need to be made. With the second, third, and subsequent drafts, I recommend the line editing method, which is what most people think of when editing their writing. With line editing, you are reading your personal statement, sentence by sentence, and looking for phrases or words to replace or strike out completely. With line editing, you are also reading into your “voice,” and whether it is active or passive. Note: NEVER use passive voice, see below.

Advice for Line Editing:

  • Never use a $10 word when a 10 cent word will do.” 4500 characters really isn’t much space properly enumerate all of your valuable thoughts, so you need to use the cheapest words possible. What does this mean? Don’t use big words! As I said in my last post, save the lengthy GRE words for impressing your Tinder date. There’s no reason to use a long word that eats up precious characters when a shorter word can do the same job. In fact, the shorter word often does a far better job because it doesn’t make you sound like a try-hard because remember, dental school admission committees hate try-hards. E.g. “Clinicians play a significant role in determining the differential diagnosis of oral pathology” could be “Dentists are key players in finding causes of disease in the mouth.”
  • Keep it short and simple” aka the KISS concept. Use short, concise sentences because the same concept with lengthy words applies here: long sentences don’t impress anybody. On average, if the average length of your sentence is ten words, reader comprehension is 80%. So much for getting under the covers of your reader with your Shakespearean prowess for sonnet essays!
  • Use the Subject-Verb-Object model (S-V-O). Write (or rewrite) your sentences with this structure in mind: the subject should come first, followed by the action (verb) the subject is do-ing, and finally the object of which the subject is do-ing to. Do not delay the sentences meaning by starting with an introductory clause.
    • Do: Dental schools should encourage self-reflection to develop future professionals.” “Dental schools” is the subject, “encourage” is the verb, and “future professionals” is the object.
    • Don’t: “To develop future professionals, dental schools should encourage self-reflection.” “To develop future professionals“is an example of an introductory clause.
  • Remember, never use passive voice, which is funny advice coming from me since I often use passive voice (to be fair, it’s accidental). Active voice + active verbs = active reader.
    • Passive verbs include: is, was, were, will be, being, are, am, there is (are, were) and have has, had, having, will have, there has been.

Final Advice:

  • Continue to edit your personal statement prior to submitting your application. Recognize that it will never seem “perfect,” but with the right editing and revision, will help you sneak beneath the covers of your reader (I just now realized what a horrendous analogy Christian has come up with).
  • Read your personal statement(s) out loud, preferably in an obnoxious accent. The new sound will actually make your ears more acute and adept at catching errors.
  • Ask others to read your personal statement. Last time, I recommended some familiar with the dental school application like a current dental student or a pre-health advisor and someone keen on the English language like a writing center tutor or English professor. Take notes on the feedback they give you. Later, you can parse through your notes and choose what you want to incorporate and where.

Last word: You can go ahead and type out your personal statement in Microsoft Word, but prior to copy/pasting it into the AADSAS application, copy/paste the complete personal statement into TextEdit or some other sort of plain text formatted-word processor. TextEdit should come loaded on all Mac computers. This will help ensure that no symbols get wonky during the import from Word to AADSAS, which is very possible. A middleman like TextEdit should solve this problem. You can copy from TextEdit and paste into AADSAS.

That’s all for now on personal statements, it was a long two posts, but hopefully gave you direction in which to carry your thoughts.

~ Colleen

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen

AADSAS – Personal Statement

Ok okurr this is going to be one long a$$ blog post because it’s a topic in which I feel strongly inclined, more than any other AADSAS application topic. I’m a former Writing Center tutor and have been the second set of eyes for many, many pieces of writing, including many personal statements. Writing is rewriting, and nothing written is ever officially *done*. Writing and revision are both ongoing processes.

In the wise words of Kyle L., the personal statement is the “most efficient, controllable way to improve your chances of landing an interview.” I couldn’t agree with him more. Firstly, your personal statement will not be read unless you reach the school’s minimum DAT score and GPA threshold. Your DAT score is the product of countless hours of studying and your GPA is the product of years of hard work, and none of that is to be taken lightly or glossed over. However, with thousands of dental school hopefuls applying across the country, there’s a good chance that many of them will achieve those minimum thresholds, and only the most interesting pre-dental students in the world will receive interview invites. How can you be one of the most interesting pre-dental students in the world?
1qfl03.jpgI don’t always apply for dental school but when I do, I always get an interview

For starters, you can work on making your application well-rounded and full of dental-related experience. You can excel in your extracurriculars, receive accolade for your dedication, and volunteer your time to others. All of this will fall in the Supporting Information section of the AADSAS, where you can list your shadowing and community service commitments.

But, the personal statement is efficient because it takes a lot less time to complete than your DAT and GPA and controllable because it’s a toss up what questions you’re going to get on your exam day. The personal statement is powerful.

The personal statement is a single page* (4500 characters is about one page with Times New Roman, 12-point font, one-inch margins) essay to explain your motivation for why you want to be a dentist. Your personal statement should showcase your fabulous personality (flips hair) and the human side of your application. The personal statement should reveal important traits and talents of yours to the admission committee, be that in leadership, compassion, dedication, experience, etc. It also demonstrates that you can communicate clearly through writing. (All of these goals are relevant to supplemental application questions as well, but your personal statement is still the most important.)

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Prompt: Why do you desire to pursue dental education?
“Admissions committee members are looking for motivated, academically prepared, articulate, socially conscious, and knowledgeable applicants.”
Your job? Keep it to 4,500 characters or less.

In answering this loaded question, keep several points in mind:
– Why dentistry if you want to be in healthcare? Why not medicine?
– Why dentistry if you like science? Why not pursue a research job or a PhD?
– Why dentistry if you wanna make dat ca$h money? Why not work on Wall Street?
All of the above are potential questions to address. It’s your job in the personal statement to debunk all of these, indirectly of course. Above all, your personal statement needs to highlight why you arrived at dentistry as your choice of career over many other, potentially more lucrative or appealing (in other ways) occupations. Why do you love dentistry above everything else? Your reasons should be qualifying and compelling and should allude to personal anecdotes in your life, hence a “personal” statement.

Personal Statement Do’s:

  • Start writing early on! Look back upon your life experience – was there a trigger that inclined you toward dentistry? Perhaps you had an avulsed tooth? A bad experience at the dentist’s office? A great one? Maybe you felt a great injustice in the world when you realized oral healthcare and the state of one’s mouth are some of the greatest indicators of socioeconomic class there is? Consider all factors and write them down. Make a word cloud, brainstorm, and put your thoughts to paper. Sitting in front of a blank Microsoft Word document is restrictive, it stifles creativity.
  • Understand your audience – admission committees will comprise established dentists and faculty of all ages, and you want your writing to be appealing across audiences, professional writing is a must (though I did make a reference to Nelly’s “Grillz” track in mine).
  • Limit the number of personal anecdotes you include to 2-4, any more and the entire personal statement becomes muddled and difficult to follow. Fewer anecdotes make your statement far more powerful and personal, providing for richer detail, quality over quantity.
  • Use an attention-grabbing lead! (See below.)
  • End the personal statement with a conclusion that reflects back to your central theme, your message in your essay. This should ultimately be why you want to be a dentist, but with the specific examples qualifying the why.
  • Have others read your personal statement. Go to your college’s writing center, consult with a trusted professor, friend, etc. A minimum two people should read your personal statement, someone with AADSAS experience (maybe a fellow pre-dental, a health professions advisor, or a current dental student) and someone with a heavy English background to evaluate your grammar, syntax, and organization.
  • Be yourself! But the professional, polished version of yourself.

Personal Statement Don’t’s:

  • Don’t fall into the “I” syndrome trap. Beginning so many of your sentences with “I” is drab and narcissistic, oxymoronic since the essay is a “personal” statement. Just trust me here, overuse of “I” indicates a lack of syntactical creativity and grasp of higher linguistic elements.
  • Don’t write an autobiography or a resume. The personal statement is just an inappropriate location for it. The school will already have the remainder of your AADSAS application. You don’t need to show off your GPA here, it and your DAT score will speak for themselves elsewhere.
  • Don’t try to impress with big vocabulary. So maybe some of you took the GRE in addition to the DAT and have your headspace filled with unnecessary words that no one ever uses in real life. Your personal statement is not the place to flex ’em. Save it to impress your Tinder date.
  • Don’t give generic statements like, “I want to be a dentist because I want to help people!” Yay! 4,000 other applicants that express their feelings far better than you do as well! Generic statements are boring, lackluster, and overall tell a reader that you haven’t actually done your research and are skating by on cliches and catch phrases. Instead, tell them why you want to help people.
  • Don’t be afraid of revision! Writing is rewriting. Nothing will ever feel complete. If you begin writing your personal statement early in your pre-dental career (as you should), don’t get married to it, or even put a ring on it. You two are only dating and that’s all. As you push further into your academic career, do not be afraid to make significant revisions to better streamline and highlight your experiences.

The following information is modified from a Powerpoint presentation Christian Piers, former ASDA National President, once delivered to my Summer Pre-Dental Academy. Christian was actually a creative writing major in undergrad and is now in his orthodontic residency at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Christian, Kyle, and I think similarly in the power of the personal statement. Christian, however, has come up with a comprehensive backbone to a personal statement that is tried and true. Hey, it got me into dental school and ever since, I’ve been passing on the same advice to pre-dental students and other pre-health students.

His ultimate goal for pre-dentals? Achieving the “under the bedcovers” moment. He asks his advisees, “Think about it. The bedcovers are what you pull over you to box out the world for the next eight hours to be alone in your own mind. You want your personal statement to follow your reader there. You want your personal statement to be so pervasive in their mind that you’re not letting them be alone with themselves.” Powerful stuff.

Christian’s structure of the application is as such:

The Lead

  • The lead should be the attention grabbing opener, the sucker punch. Prior to reading your personal statement, your reader (presumably a Dean/Director of Admission at your dental school of choice and/or a faculty member of the admission committee) may be half asleep, lulled into a slumber by stacks of AADSAS applications in which students are trying to sound smart and impress them.
  • Be short, simple, and confident with your lead. Declarative statements will do exactly as they sound, declare your presence in the reader’s mind.
  • Readers are impressed with your writing skills only when the writer isn’t straining themselves to sound impressive. This is important for the entire personal statement, but especially so here. Do not try to impress someone, especially by using long, complex first sentences. Next!

The Story

  • The “personal” statement is called a *personal* statement for a good reason. It is a statement of who you are as a person. You are the sum of your life experience. Therefore, it is important to have a story in your personal statement, or at least a short one at best. Stories invite readers into your world, your life. Your goal is to be the most interesting dental school applicant they read that day.
  • Transport your reader with sensory detail and literary device. Christian advices, “Disorient them from their cluttered office and administrative duties and reorient them where YOU want them.”
    • Sensory details will invoke all five senses. If you tell your story of crippling defeat at a collegiate baseball game or your experience of witnessing a fatal car accident, consider the situations sights, smells, etc. E.g. “The broken glass crunched beneath my thin flip flops as I made my way toward the crushed Subaru.”
    • Literary devices like similes and metaphors will also help you invoke senses and feelings. E.g. “When I was seven years old I had a mouth full of stainless steel crowns that rivaled that of a modern rapper’s.”
  • Often, it’s here, in the Story section that many writers will fall prey to “healer” syndrome and write something akin to, “I want to be a dentist because I want to help people.” Again, this is the single worst sentence you could ever put pen to paper and write – though it may not be disingenuous and you may actually be a kind-hearted person, it comes across as disingenuous because so many other applicants say it too. You’re better off finding something else to say.
  • Christian did us all a favor and asked our admission office what other personal pitfall statements may exist, here they are, bottled at the source: “Don’t tell a story about your little brother who lost his tooth” and “Don’t tell a story about how you went to the orthodontist for braces as a kid and got curious about dentistry.
  • The story is the anecdotal evidence that will carry them to your throughline. The story is the HOOK.

The Throughline

  • The throughline creates context for your story. It should be written in an expository style to tell the reader your explanation.
  • Thread the reader through your personal narrative and explain the ultimate impact of the anecdote you wrote about. You can cite pertinent accomplishments here that aren’t iterated in the rest of the AADSAS.
  • Do not try to explain your entire life’s story. Be concise with the details. Provide only the most detailed accounts of the most important parts of your story.
  • All expository statements in the throughline must relate to the central theme of your personal statement.
  • Recall that the purpose of the personal statement is to get the reader to do a double-take and offer you an interview invite. It will not necessarily make a case to them as a capable dental student. That is what the rest of your application is for. “Lean, effective applications only have room for minimal overlap between the two.”

The Fireworks

  • This is where you go out with a bang. Provide your conclusion, but the fireworks are the most crucial part of creating an “Under the Covers” moment.
  • The fireworks are what the reader will remember you by, and its effectiveness will be judged by how well the reader remembers you.
  • Tie everything back to the Story and the Lead as well. Symmetry is aesthetically pleasing – there is no better way to impress dentists that are on the lookout for symmetry and perfection.
  • However, if your fireworks show falls flat and fizzles out, you may have just destroyed all you’ve built up thus far in your personal statement. The fireworks may be last, but they are the grand finale of your entire AADSAS application.

Another post will be coming on how to revise and edit your personal statement. Stay tuned for part deux.

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

~ Colleen

Follow us on Instagram @carpedentumblog

Contact Colleen

Colorado ASDA Summer Pre-Dental Academy 2017

So my pre-dental-centered advice blogs are being published at a rather inopportune time, since the AADSAS application for the 2017-18 cycle opened, like last week. Oops. This isn’t entirely unfounded, though, I am mainly writing the series as a resource to withstand longer than just a single cycle and as a supplement to the Summer Pre-Dental Academy (see below).

Summer of 2014, I caught wind of a series of events University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine was holding – a Summer Pre-Dental Academy. The event was put on by a then-DS2 and now recent graduate of the school, Kyle L. Back then, the Academy was an eight-week series of lectures every Saturday and I really looked forward to flexing my chops at drilling and filling basic class I’s on #19. But being the weasel I was (and still am), I wanted to get in with current students, picking their brains on the application, the DAT, and the curriculum itself.

1517614_1454631734760783_62786714_n.jpgLook what we found in the ASDA pre-dental archives (2014). Issa me (far right)! Issa Lynn (Colorado ASDA’s Vice President-Elect second from the left)!
Photo courtesy of Ryan Gonzales (now DDS)

At that time, I hadn’t yet taken by DAT and regularly shadowing local dentists. I dabbled, here and there – the fire hadn’t been lit beneath me just yet. Kyle’s presentations, which ranged anywhere from preparation for the DAT’S PAT to dental anatomy inspired my aspirations to dentistry. I single-handedly owe it to this program in making my ultimate choice to attend the University of Colorado.

DSB101, as Kyle called it, presented me with the information I need to pen my personal statement, organize my DAT study schedule, and figure out the logistical nightmare that is AADSAS application. I am proud to call myself a product of the Colorado ASDA Summer Pre-Dental Academy and am even prouder to now help run it with my friend, Jamie M., a current DS2.

This summer, the Academy will run for four Saturdays in July (makes it easier to attend all of sessions, right?) and will cost a total of $90.67 (not-round number due to Eventbrite fees ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). Breakfast is included so even if you wind up hating dentistry because of us you’ll get four ~$22 Panera meals out of it.

Register here on Eventbrite

Check out the Facebook event and like Colorado ASDA Pre-Dental Committee on Facebook

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*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

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Featured image is Jordan D., former Colorado ASDA Pre-Dental Chair

Pre-Dental FAQ

I’m taking a break from writing on the AADSAS to write an FAQ for pre-dentals. It can be rather confusing to parse through so many pages of information, especially reading my lengthy writing #sorrynotsorry. Anyways, I’m really enjoying writing these and based on the blog stats, people around the country are actually reading them! I had phenomenal advisors and mentors through my pre-dental years and I can only hope to give back just a little to that community! So here’s your FAQ and I’ll try to make it short-ish:

What in the world do dentists do?
From the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools: “A dentist is a scientist and clinician dedicated to the highest standards of health through prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral diseases and conditions.”

Easy enough. A general dentist can pick and choose which procedures they do, specifically focusing on operative and restorative dentistry – this can manifest itself as fillings (composite and restorations), dentures, minor orthodontic work (i.e. Invisalign), implants, straightforward root canal treatments, and so much more that I don’t even know about since I’m still learning too. See below for info about dental specialties.

Ew mouths are gross. Why be a dentist?
I’ll insert my own quip here but after this I’ll shut up – I was asked this question all the time in college. Someone even went as far as to say, “You probably want to be a dentist because you know you’ll never get into medical school.” I have professors and maybe future employers reading this blog so I can’t really say what my response was.

Anyways, again, here is the ADEA guide’s response: “Dentistry is a dynamic health profession. Dentists are financially successful health professionals and highly respected members of their communities. The demand for dental care will continue to be strong in the future, ensuring the stability and security of the profession.”

In my words: Dentistry is chill because you’re always doing something different. It’s no desk job and the cubicle is obsolete in this field. You’re always doing something with your hands, interacting with patients, and using unique skills to alleviate patients’ pain and also prevent future health problems, both oral and systemic. Dentists make good money with a great lifestyle to boot and you have many options when it comes to work – corporate, private practice, etc. You own yourself. Lastly, as long as people have mouths (and last time I checked, the world isn’t selecting for the mouthless), dentists will be needed – job security is omnipresent. That was long but I hope I’ve convinced you!

Sold! Wow! How cool! How do I become a dentist?
In most cases, you’ll need a BA or a BS to matriculate to dental school, but your major doesn’t matter. I studied both biology and classics and though the latter is relatively useless in what I’m currently doing in SIM clinic, I still liked doing it in college. You’ll need to complete a series of prerequisite classes that varies from school to school, but generally is 8 hours of biology (with lab), 8 hours inorganic chemistry (with lab), 8 hours organic chemistry (with lab), 8 hours physics, 8 hours English, DAT scores, and experience with dentistry by means of shadowing or volunteering.

Note, though, dental school is, by no means, easier to get into than medical school. This is absolute fiction and dentists are real doctors as well.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 8.48.38 PM.pngYou do NOT have to major in biology or the natural sciences to become a dentist or even apply to dental school. Plenty of people do just fine with majors external to STEM. Major in whatever you want – liberal arts for all!

Oh no, I have an X GPA and a Y DAT score, I don’t think I’m going to get into dental school. What do I do?
Well, you never know unless you try. The average DAT score of a matriculating dental student is 18 and the average GPA is around a 3.6* (these numbers held true for when I applied to dental school, however, I can no longer find a reliable source for either of these two numbers, will update when I can). Keep in mind that these are averages, and therefore there are accepted students that deviate beyond these numbers, but on the upper and lower limits of the DAT and GPA scales. It’s just an average, but realistically, your DAT and GPA are the two biggest things on your application that you are in total control in. Aim to do as well as you can in college and study as hard for the DAT, both will result in habits that will benefit you well in dental school.

In the instance you are rejected and must take a gap year, consider changing up your application – do you need to retake the DAT? Do you need to retake classes? Diversity your portfolio of extracurriculars? Rewrite your personal statement? All or only some of the aforementioned might be pertinent to you, but to put things plainly, never submit the same application as the previous one that got you rejected. The sheer definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. Don’t do it. Ultimately, it’s up to you to channel that sadness, anger, etc. and use it in your best interest, revamping your application and making yourself a better applicant the second time around. (Make sure your prerequisites and DAT score will still be valid when you apply the following year, each school is different and some will only accept prerequisites taken within X years of applying, as with DAT scores. For DAT scores, they typically expire after three years, but again, you must check with each school).

If you want to be a dentist badly enough, you will eventually get in.

How do I become a compelling applicant?
Dentistry should be your passion, and your application should exude that, inside and out. Your extracurriculars and school activities should focus on things that give a window to the world on who you are – dental admission committees are pretty good at discerning fact from fiction and one’s true passions and intentions. Coming from someone who used to serve in an office of admission at a selective liberal arts school, I can absolutely assure you that it is relatively easy to see through an applicant that looks impeccably perfect – real patients are treated by real doctors, who are real people.

Great candidates for dental school are those that have done their research and confirmed that dental school is the path they want to take to arrive at their lifelong career. High GPAs, stellar DAT scores, dental experience, excellent letters of recommendation can demonstrate to admission committees your commitment to dental medicine. However, it is crucial to note that there is no single “perfect” applicant, hence I used the terminology “compelling.” Dental schools could fill their entire classes with boring, type-A students (not knocking type As) with near perfect GPAs and DAT scores – again, real people make real doctors that treat real patients. Demonstrate that your skills and life experiences are unmatched and unlike those of any applicant with your personal statement and extracurricular activities.

Finally, certain schools look for certain traits in applicants. Again, this comes down to researching your designated dental schools. Some schools are heavily research-based and expect publications from their dental students during their tenure at the school. Other schools are clinic-heavy, wanting to produce practitioners with the best hand skills required to do all types of dentistry. Other curriculums may have an inclination toward community service. Consider which schools and their corresponding philosophies might best fit your lifestyle and personal beliefs.

I’m an older student (>25 years old), what advice do you have for me?
If you are applying later in life than most applicants (traditional applicants applying during their junior year of college or during their gap year), I frankly think you have an advantage. You have far greater life experience that has molded and imparted you wisdom beyond that of a regular college graduate. Use the personal statement and your extracurriculars to talk about those experiences and the lessons learned from your prior careers, travels, or family life. If you can demonstrate your maturity and expansive skill set, you too can stand out amongst the sea of recent graduates.

Dental school sounds hard. How long is it? What type of tests do you take during it?
You’re darn right that dental school is hard! But it’s also so much fun. Dental school is a four year program, with the exception of University of the Pacific in California, which awards a DDS degree in only three years instead of four. What’s the difference between the DDS and a DMD? Absolutely nothing. Doesn’t mean a thing, other than people now address you by “Dr.”

During dental school, you will take three board exams – the first two, NBDE Part I and II are multiple choice, computer-based exams at Prometric centers just like the DAT. Dat computer-based standardized testing never ends! NBDE Part I focuses on didactic material you learn during your first year or two of school (so things like anatomy, physiology, dental morphology, occlusion, etc.) and the NBDE Part II focuses more on dental-related things (i.e. the length of a 329 vs. a 330 bur, case studies, etc.). However, I have been told that beginning with the class of 2021, some dental schools will be rolling out a new, comprehensive NBDE exam to be taken during the fourth year. This will whittle the number of high-stakes exams down from three to two, but caveats include combining all of that material, accumulated over the course of four years as opposed to 1-2 per NBDE exam. More information to come as I pick administrative minds about the new NBDE.

Finally, during your fourth year, you will take a clinical exam (NERB, WREB)  or an alternative exam (the OSCE, portfolio, etc.) to become a licensed dentist in the region in which you will practice.

What’s the day in the life of a dental student?
Great question. It changes every day, just like the life of any normal, practicing dentist. Generally, your first two years of dental school will focus on didactic and preclinical work (on SIM clinic mannequins) and your final two years will involve you treating patients in the school’s dental clinics or even traveling for rotations and outreach in underserved populations. Some schools have block schedules for their classes (i.e. a certain blocked-off timeframe to complete one class, then you move on to another block to complete the next class, and so on), but each dental school is unique in its own scheduling model. For blog posts on my own everyday experiences as a dental student, go over to the right navigation bar and click “D School.”

What can I do after dental school?
Dental medicine is great because you are not required to enter into a residency or fellowship upon completion of your four years at an accredited dental school. That means you have the option to participate in MATCH or attempt to specialize beyond general dentistry or you may dive into the workforce and begin your attempt at chipping away from your massive pile of student loans.

Dental residencies include a General Practice Residency/Advanced Education in General Dentistry (12 months; technically not a specialty residency, but considered advanced education), Public Health (1-2 years), Endodontics (2-3 years), Oral Surgery (4-6 years), Orthodontics (2-3 years), Pediatrics (2-3 years), Periodontics (3 years), Prosthodontics (1-3 years), Oral Medicine, or Radiology (I am unsure of residency lengths for the final two). There will be a separate post detailing each residency.

*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

~ Colleen

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AADSAS – Letters of Evaluation

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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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*This post is sponsored by Colorado ASDA

~ Colleen

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Contact Colleen