Advice Dental School Tips

Congratulations to All Accepted into the Class of 2019!

BasicDentalInstrumentsWow! I can not believe it has already been a year! It was such a thrill receiving messages all-day from friends and readers about the good news. If you are still waiting to hear back from your dream school, don’t worry! Many schools take a few days to send out acceptances and interviews often run through March.

Those that have been offered an acceptance have 30 days to reply to the school and place a deposit to reserve their spot. A December deposits is usually $1,000 dollars and non-refundable. Deposits can be paid to multiple schools to hold multiple offers which allows a student plenty of time to figure out the best school for them, both financially and educationally. On April 1st, those holding multiple positions will begin to be contacted to make a final decision. You can read more about the process on this ADEA document from 2011. Please note that you will lose any deposit in the programs you decide to withdraw from.


Some schools have a second deposit that often coincide with the April “Applicants Holding Positions at Multiple Institutions” process. These deposits may cost up to $2,000 dollar, but money from the primary and secondary deposits are counted towards your first year of dental school. Some schools do have refundable secondary deposits in the case you switch programs, so be sure to ask about their policy if you are withdrawing from a school!


If you have received an acceptance from a dental school that you no longer intend to attend, it is important to let the school know ASAP. They have hundreds of other applicants who would love to have your spot. Feel free to call or email the admissions office to let them know  you kindly withdraw your application and thank them for considering you as a student at their school. This is VERY IMPORTANT. You DO NOT want to burn any bridges with any dental schools! You never know what can happen!


Here are a few reminders now that you are in:

  •  For those still in school!
    • Maintain your grades! Don’t let senioritis kick in (fully)! Yes, you don’t have to get “A’s” anymore, but aim high for graduation. Your college GPA may still come in handy on your resume. Some dental schools will accept C’s while others may reevaluate your acceptance if you receive a B- or lower. Spare yourself the heartache and continue to succeed as you have managed to do for the past 4+ years.
    • Complete any classes listed on your AADSAS application. Your acceptance can be revoked if you do not complete those classes since schools may have factored them in your acceptance. Some schools are not concerned with your future coursework (other than prerequisites), but try not to change your schedule too dramatically. You can always contact the school and see if they would allow you to change your future coursework.
  • For all!
    • Apply for student housing or look for private housing early to save money!
    • Learn about your financial situation in dental school and tips on how to save money
      • Apply to scholarships NOW! All of the best scholarships are due in December-March.
    • Meet your class mates! Visit The Student Doctor Network School Specific threads to chat with other students who have been accepted and join the Facebook page for your class (ie. class of 2019). Many of the Facebook pages have students or admissions personnel from the school that can help you with any specific questions such as housing tips. Many schools have events for admitted student prior to the first day of school.
    • Self-study anatomy or take a community college course! A basic foundation helps a lot!
    • Find time to relax and enjoy life! Once you start dental school, you won’t have much free time.
    • Start working on a professional resume/CV and your LinkedIn profile.


Kick back, relax, and enjoy your next 6+ months off! You earned it! I would love to hear your story if you haven’t shared it already! Congratulations! YOU ARE GONNA BE A DENTIST!




If you are still waiting to hear back, most schools have only filled half of their class by December 1st so don’t worry! Be sure to send an academic update through AADSAS if you have completed any recent courses. Make sure you let remaining dental schools know you are still interested in their programs and that you are looking forward to an update on your status. If you are still waiting on your dream school post-interview, call the school and ask if they accept a letter of intent.

If you are preparing to reapply for the upcoming cycle, take a look at each component of your application and figure out how you can improve it.  If you would like me to take a look at your application and help you figure out what areas need attention, feel free to submit your information on the Ask Elias page!

Advice Dental School Tips

Financing Dental School Without Outside Support

Dental Sim LabThe cost of education required to become a dentist is astronomical. In fact, it is the most expensive education for any career path! A lot of students tell me they don’t realize how much dental school really costs until it is far too late to back out. This is why it is absolutely essential, in this day and age, to make sure dentistry is the right career path for you. The unfortunate truth is our generation is not expected to be able to finance a home or a private practice until at least a decade into our careers. So what changed? Why is dental school so expensive? I won’t get into any of the grey area reasons related to the cost of education but a big key factor is the cost of dental equipment and workable space. Unlike medical, law, and pharmacy school, dentistry requires an obscene amount of expensive equipment, instruments, and consumable materials. Many dental schools are switching from a purchasable dental kit costing approximately $15K per student per year to a rentable dental kit for approximately $5K. This allows many expensive schools to reduce the overall student fees. Dental students also require more space with D1 and D2 students needing a simulation chair with a mannequin as in the picture to the right, while D3 and D4 students require a clinical chair (pictured below) in order to provide care to the community and complete requirements to graduate. As a result, dental schools often have a smaller class size than medical schools.


Dental School ClinicIn addition to the sticker price you will be paying, expect to pay a hefty sum (upwards of double of the loan amount) during the repayment process. The interest rates given to students are currently hovering around 8% which is well over double the current mortgage loan rates, YIKES! For this reason it is very important to minimize your loans anyway possible. If you find it hard to reduce your reliance on loans be sure to understand the logistics so that you can recover from such a long term investment. Many dental schools push this topic under the rug or attempt to build confidence in students who would be taking out these loans by citing university wide loan default rates. There are a few shining examples such as UCLA School of Dentistry who really push to educate their students in borrowing money and motivate them to to reduce their loan reliance.




To put yourself in the best position to pay off your loans and begin your life as a dentist, spend a day understanding how interest and loans truly work. By following these five simple steps below you can move towards as more cost effective experience in school.




Reducing your loans by maximizing your scholarship potential for dental school

  1. High Academic Achievements
    • Many programs gift scholarships to top academic performers in each class. I have seen scholarships for as little as $15,000 and scholarships larger than $100K. These can seriously make a difference in pursuing your dreams as a dentist.
  2. Loan Repayment Programs
    • Military Scholarships
      • The Army, Navy, and Air Force all have a Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) that will cover 100% of tuition and includes a stipend for living expenses in exchange for 4 years of service. This method of paying off your education is by far the fastest route.
      • As you guessed, these programs are incredibly competitive, but applying early will give you a significant advantage. Be sure to apply WHILE you are applying to dental school.
      • UoP is an excellent program for those interested in joining the armed forces as they are only required to serve 3 years.
      • Upon graduation from dental school you will receive the title of captain or lieutenant depending on the program.
      • Several other scholarship and repayment programs are available and differ between the Army, Navy, and Air Forces. Ask your local recruiter about your options.
      • Livelong recognition and benefits for being in the armed forces.
    • Care for Underserved Scholarships
      • The National Health Services Corps (NHSC) provides a scholarship that covers 100% of tuition and fees in addition to a stipend in exchange for 4 years of service at an approved outpatient facility in a medically underserved community.
      • Minimum of two years of service and up to 4 years depending on the number of years you are sponsored for.
      • A great alternative to the Military Scholarships for those who are iffy about joining the military.
      • Application opens in March/April for approximately a month.
  3. Private Scholarships – Private scholarships are EXTREMELY hard to find for dental school. It is recommended to look for generic graduate school scholarships in addition to scholarships offered by smaller groups you are involved with.
    • Communities
      • Religious organizations often have private scholarships for students in their community
        • Ask your priest or young adult coordinator!
      • Fraternities/Sororities may have scholarships for those continuing to graduate school or health professional programs.
      • Some ethic groups have private scholarships to help support their community.
    • Your undergraduate institution likely has a health professional or dental scholarship. These scholarships are seldom advertised!



Apply to any and all support programs at your dental school. If a dental school allows you to provide your parents information to be evaluated DO IT! This often means the school has other means to provide grants and low-interest loans!

  1. University grants for “low” income households
    • The definition of a “low” income household for dental schools is much different than what you would expect!
    • With only weeks left before dental school begins, I am learning that both UCSF and UCLA are extremely generous with grants. I have yet to meet or hear about anybody not receiving outside aid. This was very surprising as neither of these schools acknowledged the availability of grants when asked during the interviews. It is likely other public schools around the country have similar opportunities for their students.
  2. University loans for “low” income households
    • Again, the definition of “low” is much higher than you would think.
    • Schools, both private and public, are offering Health Student Professional Loans (HSPL) directly from the university with benefits such as greatly reduced interest rates, subsidized interest, and longer deferment periods.


Step Three

Cut corners in your habits and lifestyle!

  1. Break that coffee addiction. After interest, each $4 dollar cup of coffee will cost you $6-8 dollars when repaying your loans. Take advantage of the summer before dental school to break your caffeine dependency!
  2. Eat smart!
    • Buy food to make at home rather than eating out every day!
    • Learn how to cook some quick meals!
    • Take advantage of lunch and learns! FREE food AND you get to learn how to be a better dentist?! Where do I sign up!
  3. Don’t live in luxury
    • If you don’t need a car, don’t bring one.
    • Consider sharing a room
    • Find cheaper housing further from campus and bike!
    • Be smart with your money and don’t buy the latest and greatest of everything.


Step Four

Only take what you need.

  1. For graduate school there are two main types of loans. The days of subsided graduate school loans are long and gone so you will be accumulating interest while in dental school! Regardless, Federal Loans are the ONLY way to go.Private loans may have cheaper variable rates (compared to the federal fixed rates), but are missing all of the wonderful perks of federal loans (the topic of my next article, stay tuned!).
      • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
        • These loans are the best federal loans available to dental students. Depending on your tuition and fees you will be restricted to approximately $40-55K of funding via this loan. ie UoP, UCSF, UCLA.
        • In the tables below you will notice the interest rates went up by 0.8% during one academic year. This change can equal tens of thousands of dollars of additional interest. There is a loan origination fee that is a ~1% fee for borrowing the money (ie $1K fee for borrowing $100K)
      • Federal Direct Plus Loans
        • Federal Direct Plus Loans are available to fill the “gap” left over after you have depleted your available Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans. These loans will cover the rest of your estimated expenses but have a much higher interest rate and loan origination fee.
        • In the tables below you will notice the interest rates went up by 0.8% during one academic year. This change can equal tens of thousands of dollars of additional interest.
        • The biggest difference here is the staggering 4.292% Loan Orignation Fee which means you lost $4K for every $100K borrowed instantly!


    Loan Type Borrower Type Loans first disbursed on or after 7/1/13 and before 7/1/14 Loans first disbursed on or after 7/1/14 and before 7/1/15
    Direct Unsubsidized Loans

    Graduate or Professional



    Direct PLUS Loans

    Graduate or Professional




    Loan Origination Fees

    Loan Type

    Loan Fee

    Direct Unsubsidized Loan


    Direct PLUS Loan



Step Five

Plot out your loans using a loan repayment calculator. Find out how much a loan with interest will cost you over its life.

  1. My personal favorite resource is the Dental Loan Organizer and Calculator developed by the AAMC in partnership with the ADEA
    • Allows you to keep track of all of your loan information including loan issuer information.
    • Automatically pulls the correct interest rates and fees
    • Allows you to plot repayment over several years and shows the cost (side-by-side) with the various federal repayment options.
  2. A Loan Spreadsheet made by Bereno on Student Doctor Network
    • Nothing recorded and saved online and can be accessed on all devices supporting excel document editing/viewing
    • Traditional loan repayment ($/month) only
    • ery dynamic allowing for various other factors unrelated to your dental school expenses such as a mortgage, car loan, and business loans.
    • A very close second to me (sometimes can be overwhelming)
  3. A Loan Calculator Program (Windows Only) made by an individual on Student Doctor Network
    • Nothing is recorded and saved online
    • Traditional loan repayment ($/month) only
    • Simple for quick estimates


As always, if you have any concerns or would like advice, contact me through the Ask Elias page!

P.S. I apologize for the delay on this article. I finished it a few weeks back but it vanished without any backups!

Background Information Dental School Website

So… What Dental School Did I Pick?

After 5 years of chasing my dream and a roller-coaster of an admissions process I am proud to announce that I will be attending…





I just want to reiterate that this change will not influence this resource in any way. I will be keeping all future posts unbiased, but may bring in the perspective as a UCSF student (in addition to the perspective of my colleagues at other schools) from time to time. Please note I am planning a UCSF vs. UCLA article in the near future that will be aimed at helping summarize the minute differences between the programs. I spent nearly 2 weeks juggling between both programs and researched them from every angle possible. During that time, I gathered plenty of resources comparing the two schools which I believe will be extremely helpful in guiding others to decide between the two very excellent programs. Spoiler alert… there is no one “right” answer! 🙂



AADSAS Application Advice Dental School Tips

Mastering The Art of Secondaries and Interviews: What Makes A Dental School Unique?

Secondary Applications FlyingThe most difficult question a school can ask in a secondary application or during an interview is “Why do you want to attend our dental school over other programs?”

This year, I have been receiving many more requests to review secondary applications among other things, and I have been noticing a very clear and concerning trend. Few people really understand what makes a dental school “unique,” and those who do, fail to convince the admissions people that this attribute makes the school a perfect fit for them. Every secondary application had the SAME EXACT answer as every other student. While this isn’t necessarily “wrong,” it fails to show the admissions personnel that you spent an adequate amount of time researching their program, in some cases reciting information that is flat out false.



For example, students have been putting heavy emphasis on keywords mentioned by schools such as an “inter-professional” education, when in reality the school only spends a few (< 10) sessions using this system. However, these students spend a large amount of time and space in an attempt to convince a school that a “problem-based learning” or “inter-professional education” system is in sync with their learning styles. Imagine how that comes off to your interviewer or an admissions personnel.

  • It is clear you didn’t take the time to fully research and understand the program.
  • You just told them you learn much better using a system they don’t emphasize rather than a traditional education. This can now turn against you and can become a concern about your abilities to perform in regular classes.
  • This is the same thing they hear from 99% of the other applicants. How redundant and annoying do you think it is to hear over-and-over?
  • Your answer is not unique in any way and does not help you stand out from the other thousands of other applicants.


I hope you can now visualize why taking the answer to this question seriously is an essential part of your application.  With that said, here are 5 tips to writing a successful, convincing, and unique response to “Why do you want to attend our program?”


  1. Cross check all of your initial research: It is really easy to gather false information from sources like Student Doctor Network. While helpful, not all of it isupdated or true. There are several fantastic resources on the web. Here are a few of my favorites!
    • Official: Can you answer these questions about your dental school? (Part 1) and Part 2
      • Many people don’t know about this resource because it is hidden in the Dental Student forums and not the pre-dental forums. This is a great resource for learning about exam schedules, lectures, classmates, faculty, mentors, dental boards, patients, clinic(s), and other things about every school. Remember anybody can write these so cross check your information.
    • “ABC Dental School vs. XYZ Dental School” Threads in SDN Pre-Dental Forums
      • These discussions can be goldmines for pre-dents, but can also have a lot of false information within them. Be sure to do your own research to confirm what is said. To find these discussions, google “sdn” or “student doctor network”, the name of the school  followed by “vs.” Doing so should populate dozens of threads comparing the school of focus to various other schools. Notice the date of the discussion! Some of these can be REALLY old!
    • Ask Questions on the School Specific Discussion Forums
      • Current students at a dental school often keep an eye on school discussions in an effort to help out the group of applicants. Often time, if questions can’t be answered by others they will jump in to help out!
    • Reference our FAQ on “What qualities should we look for in a dental school that will prepare you well for the profession?
      • Ideas on things to look for and why they may be important for your education.
  2. Talk to Current Students and Alumni of the Dental School: 
    • Ask your local pre-dental society if they keep a record of alumni at various dental schools, if not, suggest they start to do so!
      • In this day and age, it is incredible easy to find people through social networking websites like Facebook. These lists of alumni can really come in handy when pre-dents have questions on specific programs and are excellent in helping with the transition into dental school. For example, one of the things we started last year with the Pre-Dental Society at UC Irvine was documenting known alumni from the organization. The current alumni list can be viewed on the group’s  website.
    • Ask the Dentist you Shadowed or Friends/Family for Alumni: Getting feedback from dental students is great, but information from alumni of these schools can be extremely valuable.
      • Everybody knows a dentist! Finding individuals who graduated from the program can speak in retrospect as to what they found most useful about the program and essential to their successful careers.
  3. Visit the School Website and Call for Additional Resources: The schools website can have a lot of information about the school and the good stuff takes a bit more effort to find.
    • When researching UCSF and UCLA I came across the two greatest resources through their websites. The Annual Report at UCLA School of Dentistry and the UCSF School of Dentistry Magazine are goldmines for cutting edge details about the schools. These resources informed me about many of the improvements UCSF and UCLA were incorporating into their programs and allowed for a direct comparison of the dental school specialty rates for both UCSF and UCLA. Truth be told, they are far more similar than everybody had been saying! The point is, it is VERY LIKELY, other schools will have similar resources that they put out for their alumnis, call and ask about it!
  4. Migrate Away from the Common Answers: Make your answers unique and insightful by spending more time covering things that are less known by pre-dents.
    • This will leave a lasting impression on the individuals deciding your admissions into the program by making you stand out from the crowd.
  5. MAKE IT PERSONAL! Everybody forgets to write WHY in addition to what they like about a program.
    • Don’t just say what you like about the program and what makes it special. Complete your answer by explaining why a particular attribute of their program will benefit you as a student and a future clinician.


By following these tips, you are well on your way to a flawless answer to the question “Why are you applying to our School of Dentistry?” As always, if you need help just Ask Elias!

AADSAS Application Dental School

AADSAS 2015 NOW OPEN: Key Reminders & Frequently Asked Questions morning! Today is the most important day for every pre-dental student planning on attending dental school for the 2015-2016 school year! The 2015 AADSAS application IS NOW OPEN! By now you should have most of the application completed; if not, don’t hesitate to make an account and start filling out the application as you collect all the required information! There is still plenty of time to turn everything in so don’t panic!

Keep in mind that dental school admissions are based on a rolling admissions system, in which fewer people are admitted as time passes. In essence, it is easier to get into dental schools if you apply right away rather than a few months in.


  • Apply for the Fee Assistance Program IMMEDIATELY
    • If approved, this program can save $431 dollars on your application
    • May take a few weeks to process
    • First-come first-serve basis
  • Apply as soon as you have everything ready. Don’t let a busy work schedule/social life get in the way.
  • WARNING HIGHLY ADDICTING: Stay away from the pre-dental forums!
    • This can make every day of the application process drag out.
    • If you need to stay up to date, subscribe to specific threads.
    • Use a forum reader application like Tapatalk.
  • Take a moment to consider if you would actually attend a school if accepted. Many people apply to dental schools and never plan on accepting an offer from a particular school. Save yourself the money.
    • Write a list of why you want to attend each and every program. This will come in handy later.
  • Don’t submit your application on day 1. Fill it out over a few days. This will help you correct any typos and may help you recall more activities you have been involved in over the years.
    • Once you submit, you can no longer make any modifications!
  • Keep an organized excel sheet for the entire application process
    • Include application received confirmation, secondary information, link to school application portal, username, password, admissions email, phone, address, notes, and financial aid information.
    • Download a stripped down version of mine
  • Never lose hope! If you are reading this site then you truly care about a future in dentistry. Admissions can tell who is passionate about dentistry and who is not. Good things will come your way. My application didn’t get much attention before January 2014.
  • If you are taking classes, make sure your courses allows makeup work for missing lecture/quizzes/midterms for an interview. Let your professor know ahead of time if you plan on missing class due to an interview. Many of my professors made special accommodations for students attending interviews. On the contrary, some professors do not make any accommodations. Some dental schools do not allow interview day rescheduling.


Most frequently asked questions during June

How do I make a DENTPIN?

A DENTPIN is needed in order to apply and take the DAT as well as opening an AADSAS application. Most of you should have a DENTPIN from taking the DAT; however, for those taking the DAT after submitting their AADSAS please visit the DENTPIN registration page now and pay for the DAT soon! There is a bit of processing time involved.

I forgot my DENTPIN. What should I do?

If you forgot your DENTPIN search your email inbox for the subject “DENTPIN Registration Successful” or click one of the links below to resend the information:

How do I make a Portal account?

When the application opens at 12:00 PM EST on June 2, 2014, the option to “Create New Account” will be activated and can be found immediately under the login on the left hand side. This is when you’ll be able to create a username and password. Make sure you have your DENTPIN handy, you’ll need it to create an AADSAS application account!

What do you mean by apply early?

Applying early doesn’t mean just submitting your application. It means having your application 100% complete by the end of July. If any part of your application is missing, a school will put your application on hold, and your application will not be evaluated until all the missing parts have arrived.

If the school is waiting for new DAT scores, they will get them shortly following the exam (approximately 3 weeks). Don’t worry! There will be plenty of spots left at every dental school. Many people submit their application in June prior to taking the DAT. It is a fairly common practice and as a result many people will be at the same stage.

If the school is waiting on letters of recommendation, remind the writer that your application is already submitted and is currently on hold until all the components like the letter of recommendation are submitted. Do not pressure them! It was your responsibility to give them enough time to finish the letter.  Pressuring them will only result in a poorer letter and potentially finding its way into your letter.

Generally, if you apply before the end of the month of July, you are considered an early applicant. Applications within the first month are immediately processed but not reviewed by dental schools for roughly another month (it varies for each dental school). As a result, submitting on the first day does not have a significant advantage over submitting than the end of June. However, the rule of thumb is that if you have all the sections ready, then you should submit it as soon as the application is available.

There isn’t a distinct cut-off for what is defined as an early applicant. Think of it as a gradient throughout the cycle. The later it is in the cycle one submits, the less early an applicant is.

When should I take my DAT if I have not done it yet?

It is highly recommended that the DAT is completed as early as possible. Having a DAT score is not a requirement to submit the application. You can indicate that you plan to take it in the near future. To still be considered a moderately-early applicant, you should have your DAT done no later than the end of July. You can take your exam later than that, but your application will lose its early advantage it had when you initially submitted it. Applications missing sections are put on hold until the section missing is received. I have heard of people taking the DAT as late as October or November of their application cycle!

What is a good DAT score?

You should aim for as high as possible, however a nice“safe” score is 20 and above. This applies to virtually all dental schools. Rule of thumb is that if you score under 17 on any section, then you should retake the test. To put this into perspective, a 16 is on average approximately 50% correct. Anything that low is not considered a competitive score and may be immediately rejected at many dental schools.

Should I Retake the DAT?

You can take the DAT once every 90 days and are only allowed 3 attempts. In most cases, your last attempt is the score that is reviewed by dental schools. Please be aware that any regression in score will override any higher scores previously earned. Only take the test if you are ready to take it again, do not do it just because you can! If you are taking the DAT while applying, make sure you give yourself adequate time to prepare. Extending your test date by a week will be more beneficial than waiting 3 whole months in order to retake it.

How long does it take for dental schools to receive my application?

Your application’s delivery time can vary significantly depending on when you submit. If you submit during the peak of the cycle (typically the end of June/early July) the processing time on your application could be 3 or 4 weeks long. During this time period, your transcripts will be compared to the grades entered on the AADSAS application. This can take a significant amount of time especially during the peak of the application season.

AADSAS only mails out applications on Fridays and mailing can take up to a week for schools located on the west coast (AADSAS is located on the east coast). Applicants use these Friday mailing dates to compare application submission times. These are commonly referred to as “batches” with the first batch being the 3rd Friday of June and each following batch mailing 7-days after the last. This batch delivery system is frequently used by applicants and seems to be based on similar status changes occurring at the same time on the AADSAS website. From my experience, pre-dental students from the same batch typically get an interview invite at the same time. There are exceptions to this. For example, my friend and I who were both in batch 3 interviewed nearly 6 months apart for one school.

Once dental schools have your application in hand, the processing time can vary and take up to a month to acknowledge your application has been received. In the meantime, fill out any available secondary applications. If you have not heard back from a dental school a month after your application is mailed out, I would recommend confirming with the school that they have received it.

For this reason I like to approximate that some schools fall under a 3-6 week window while other schools fall under a 6-8 week window. It is best to have the mindset that all of your desired dental schools will review your application no earlier than 8 weeks after filling out your application. This way, you give yourself a specific goal that will prevent your applications completion from dragging on for weeks or months longer than it should!

Can I submit my official transcripts before the AADSAS application opens?

No, official transcripts will not be accepted unless they are sent along with the AADSAS “Transcript Matching Form”. Once the AADSAS application is submitted, you will be provided with a form to deliver to all the schools you have attended. The form includes a barcode that allows AADSAS to locate and verify your application.

I am a third year undergraduate applying this cycle. Do I wait until spring quarter grades are posted before sending my transcript?

Without knowing more about your situation, I would wait (like I did). Many schools have a 3 academic year minimum making waiting for your spring grades the safe route. The more coursework on your application, the stronger of an applicant you will be.

Spring quarter grades may not appear on your transcript until a few extra weeks after you know your grades. Let the office know not to send the transcript until spring grades are officially posted. Waiting may make it difficult to be in the first batch of applications mailed out, however, your application will still mail out within the first few batches. There will be no negative affect on your overall application.

Can I submit my Letters of Recommendation/Evaluation before the AADSAS application opens?

No, Letters of Recommendation and Letters of Evaluation will not be accepted unless they are sent along with the AADSAS “Letter of Evaluation Matching Form”. Once the AADSAS application is submitted, you will be provided with the form to give to all recommenders, interfolio, or similar services offered by most colleges. The form includes a barcode that allows AADSAS to locate and verify your application.

What should I do while I am waiting for dental schools to receive my application?

After submitting your application through AADSAS, check all the websites of the applied dental schools to learn more about their secondary application. Many schools view a secondary application as a REQUIRED supplemental application in order for an application to begin review. Other schools may send a secondary application after an applicant meets their initial requirements like GPA and DAT scores. You can find basic information (e.g. cost of application and if the secondary application is invite only or public) about any dental school’s supplemental application on the ADEA Supplemental Information webpage. Begin filling out any secondary applications that are available. You can find information about supplemental applications before they are released on resources like or from your pre-dental/dental student colleagues.

Supplemental applications that are available openly to all applicants can be found through the dental school’s website. These supplemental applications usually open up around the same time as the AADSAS application. To find out more information about a particular school’s supplemental application, go to the prospecting students section of the website or search the phrase “[dental school name] dental supplemental/secondary application” using a search engine like Google. You can also add “Student Doctor Network” to the end of the search phase to read discussions about the secondary/supplemental application from fellow dental school applicants.

Please note that some supplemental applications are invitation only which requires the dental school applicant to pass the initial screening of academic performance before being approved to fill it out.

What if I submit my application immediately, but I am waiting for a letter of recommendation?

Every requirement of the application must be ready in order to have the application reviewed by dental school admissions. If any part of the application is missing, the whole application is put on hold until the required pieces are submitted. This most commonly happens due to a late letter recommendation. It is highly recommended that you request a letter of recommendation very early on in the process and give the writer a deadline a few weeks prior to the AADSAS application cycle. This gives you a little safety window in the case that the individual may have forgotten to write the recommendation letter. That said, if this is no longer an option, it is alright. One of my letter writers didn’t complete the letter of recommendation until after AADSAS opened.

The key message is that you should have EVERYTHING ready to go!

If the letter is a physical copy or is a committee letter of some sort that will be mailed to AADSAS, all you need is the contact information of the letter of recommendation writer/service and AADSAS will provide you with a “Letter of Evaluation Matching Form” that must be included with the letter of recommendation. Give this form to the writer and let them know that your application is on hold until their letter is received by the AADSAS system.

I have a few C’s. Will that prevent me from getting into dental school?

1 or 2 C’s will not hinder your application much. Depending on the difficulty of the class, a C can be considered acceptable.

Can I get into dental school with a failing grade (D or F)?

Yes you can! Make sure to retake the course and get a high grade. Unlike most college GPAs, AADSAS will not replace the failing grade. They will request both the failing grade and the repeat grade and use both for the GPA calculation. Be prepared to explain why you may have failed the course and what you have done to improve. Do not make excuses!!

What factors make up a strong dental school applicant in the eyes of dental school admissions?

Fulfilling all these categories will put you and your application in a very good standing. Being solid in all of these categories will make you an extremely strong applicant anywhere.

  • Coursework
    • Gives the admissions officers an idea about the difficulty of your classes, types of classes, and diversity of classes.
  • Course Load Sufficiency
    • Maintaining a dense course load throughout college is very important. This shows dental schools that you can perform strongly in very intense and demanding situations.
  • GPA
    • A numerical value calculated based on your performance in classes. Several versions of your GPA are evaluated. Mainly a science GPA and total GPA.
  • DAT
    • Standardized testing score helps balance the inconsistency in GPAs across hundreds of schools.
  • Letter of Recommendation
    • 2 Science Curriculum letters of recommendation
    • 1 Other letter of recommendation
    • You can submit more, but some schools may only review 3 out of however many you have.
    • It is better to have 3 very strong ones rather than 5 moderately strong letters.
  • Personal Statement
    • A high quality personal statement can show a lot about you and your personality. This is a great place to show to admissions officers that you are passionate about becoming a dentist.
  • Extra-Curricular activities
    • Community service is a great way to show admissions that you are doing other things than just studying. Contributions to the community go a long way especially when they know you are busy doing everything else mentioned in this list.
  • Leadership
    • Having leadership positions in organizations shows your ability to manage others and lead a team. This is vital to becoming a dentist as dentists who own private practices are the boss and are the leaders of a dental team.
  • Dental Experience
    • It is important to have some shadowing hours. Minimum recommended is 40+ hours; strong candidates have 100+ hours.  I would recommend doing as much as you can. Spending as much time in a dental environment as possible will really help you feel confident in your decision to pursue a career in dentistry and give you an idea about the daily nature of the profession.
    • My dental experience is the reason why I know dentistry is the career for me. An answer to the question “Why Dentistry” is much stronger when you have experiences that tell your story for you. This is a great way to perfect your personal statement.
  • Dexterity
    • Proving you have fine motor skills is vital. Pick up a hobby that involves complicated and precise movements. Hobbies like painting, sculpting, or playing an instrument not only show fine motor skills, but they also show admissions officers that you have developed an artistic edge over other dental students.
    • My hobby has been soldering and repairing small electronics. To me, it is like performing surgeries. Very precise movements in very tight areas are needed to perform the repairs and built electronics. Research may open up opportunities to perform surgeries on animals for various reasons. I later took on the role of performing catheterization surgeries on rats by implanting a catheter into their jugular vein. Although practicing challenges like these may be difficult to do at first, it is a great way to develop dexterity skills in a stressful environment.

Does applying for a second cycle hurt my chances?

While most schools will see that you have applied previously, they will treat your application similarly to first timers. They may also use another factor to help their decision by looking into how you have bettered yourself since your previous application. This is done by pulling up your previous application and comparing the two to see where developments have been made. If you are applying for a second cycle, be sure to emphasize your improvements during your time off and to spend time making your application look as “fresh” as possible in comparison to your previous application. This includes reworking your personal statement and descriptions, adding more activities, updating with extra classes since the last application, etc.

Does taking a year off between undergraduate and dental school hurt my chances of getting in?

Taking a year off is completely acceptable; in fact, you can take as many years off as you would like! The only catch is that you have to show that you have grown as an individual during that time period. As long as you did not spend the entire year sitting in front of the TV, there should be absolutely nothing to be concerned with when it comes to taking a break from school.

What is the AADSAS Holistic Cover Sheet?

The ADEA AADSAS Holistic Coversheet is a new page to the application that is provided to your designated dental schools. The ADEA AADSAS Application Coversheet provides a quick reference to your application by displaying selected highlights of your background, experiences, and achievements as well as an outline of academic attainments. The coversheet promotes the concept of a holistic review which considers both qualitative and quantitative of your application.”

Please read the article which breaks down the AADSAS Coversheet and includes an example copy of a coversheet.

How expensive is applying to dental school?

Applying to dental school can easily total over $5,000 dollars. Be sure to budget for these expenses. I recommend reviewing a full breakdown of expenses to expect during the application cycle. Use the page to estimate your expenses based on the number of schools you plan on applying for. Be sure to add a cushion for any unexpected situation.

Where can I get status updates for each dental school I applied to?

AADSAS itself has a decent status update system that indicates the current status of your application at every dental school. Please note that it is common for the status to change a few days before or after a milestone occurs (like being accepted or receiving an interview).

You can also join the member driven DDS Applicants resource by Student Doctor Network to get the latest updates from the current pool of applicants. This website will indicate members’ GPA, DAT Scores, the day they submitted their AADSAS application, as well as many other details allowing participants to get a good idea about each dental schools’ stage in the admissions process.


Filling out the AADSAS is fairly straightforward. And if you need any help you can access their guide posted on the AADSAS website. Alternatively you can access our AADSAS application simulator with character limit counters and the AADSAS picture guide.


You can find answers to many more questions in our FAQ section. If I missed anything, feel free to ask me through Ask Elias. I will prioritize any application questions for the next few months.


Other resources offered by the ADEA:


Good luck and enjoy your summer! You worked hard to get the application together.