So… What Dental School Did I Pick?

August 14th, 2014 | Posted by Elias Almaz in Background Information | Dental School | Website - (Comments Off on 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…

 

UCSF-SOD

 

 

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! 🙂

 

Cheers!

Complete AADSAS Application Picture Guide

December 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Elias Almaz in AADSAS Application | Advice | Background Information | Dental School | Tips - (Comments Off on Complete AADSAS Application Picture Guide)

aadsas_logoA concern for many people anxious to apply for dental school is the AADSAS application. For most, it is the first time they are using the application and the lack of guidance makes it difficult to prepare for in advance. Right before the application opens, confusion and misinformation can be seen throughout club conversations and online communities such as studentdoctor.net due to the ambiguity by the ADEA. Because of this, I have been collecting each component of the AADSAS application as part of a project to create the most comprehensive picture guide of the AADSAS Application. I hope others will find this tool useful to becoming familiar with the application before the application opens and for others to see how future components of the application will appear during the cycle.

The AADSAS Picture Guide v1.0 includes screenshots from the following AADSAS Application processes:

AADSAS Account Creation, AADSAS Notifications/Messages, Application Home Page, Background + Family Information, Disadvantaged Status, High School Information, College + Coursework Information, Sample Matching Forms, DAT Score Reporting, Academic Enrichment Programs, Awards/Honors/Scholarships, Dentistry Experience, Extracurricular/Volunteer/Community Service Experience, Research Experience, Work Experience, Personal Statement, Evaluators (Letters of Recommendation), Release Statements, Dental School Designations, Submission Checklist, Final Submission, Payment, GPA Calculations, Individual Dental School Application Status Updates, Individual Dental School Decisions, Official DAT Scores, Background Check, and the Fee Assistance Program.

As you can see, this has been an ongoing project for the past 6 months as I have experienced the application process. I hope others find it useful in preparing for a future cycle. Future revisions of this document will include annotations and tips as well as other components of the application such as the mysterious and poorly explained AADSAS Holistic Cover Sheet that every new applicant finds confusing. Future revisions will be found on the Pre-Dental Ultimate Resource List.

After going through this lengthy process, I cannot stress enough how much preparing for the application in advance helps for those applying early. I highly encourage keeping track of your AADSAS GPA throughout your education using the calculator I posted earlier this year. The calculator mimics the calculations done by AADSAS by using the unique AADSAS GPA rules and will report every GPA that will appear on your final application. On occasion, the calculation done by AADSAS can contain errors and keeping track of your own AADSAS GPA makes spotting these errors easy. A friend of mine recently helped to update the AADSAS GPA Calculator specifically for quarter systems and now includes a complete course subject listing  to help classify each course on your transcript into an AADSAS Category. The original calculator designed primarily for semester systems can still be downloaded here.

More than ever, I highly encourage using the fillable application created earlier this year to save time when filling out the real application. This document will help you figure out how to perfect the content of your application by holding you to the same character limits of the real application, a challenge of its own.

Happy Holidays!

Prior to asking for letters of recommendations, I had reviewed what to-do and not to-do in order to receive strong letters of recommendation and on time. You can find much of this information on my post All You Need to Know about Letters of Recommendations and in the Letter of Recommendation section of the FAQs. While religiously following the strategies I have learned, several of my letters of recommendation did not go as smoothly planned. Planning ahead provided a reassurance that the letters of recommendation would be completed on time expecially in these unexpected circumstances.

It is important to review the requirements of the dental schools you intend to apply to. Some dental schools may require a letter of recommendation from a specific individual like a (general) dentist, chemistry professor, biology professor, etc. Based on my selection of schools (and in most cases), it was best to have a letter of recommendation from a dentist, a biology professor, a physics/chemistry professor, and a principle investigator in my research lab. The research lab letter of recommendation is focused towards the research funded dental schools. A fifth letter of recommendation was requested by a specific school in order to meet their unique requirement.

The following is a breakdown of each letter and any unique circumstances/complications:

  • Dentist (Prosthodontist)
    • Requested from a specialist  that I have known and worked closely with for many years.
    • Least formal request (email) since I was hundreds of miles away.
    • A previous letter had been drafted for a job 3 years ago and letter was updated with further developed for dental school applications.
    • No documents requested (familiar with my experiences).
    • Conclusion: Close friends. Submitted on time no problems other than a identification verification with letter of recommendation storage service.
  • Biology
    • Requested from a Human Physiology professor in early January whom I have taken two classes with.
    • Asked through email for an appointment and summarized the appointment’s reason.
    • Dressed professionally with a suit and a portfolio of documents.
      • Professor commented on professionalism.
      • Declined any documents. Professor prefers to write letters of recommendation based on previous knowledge.
        • This was an unexpected. However, if I was writing a letter of recommendation, I would do the same.
    • Brief interview with professor about dentistry.
    • Letter of recommendation received within the time frame.
    • Conclusion: ALWAYS come professional and prepared. It can have a significant impact in situations just like this.
  • Physics
    • Requested from a mechanical physics professor in late December.
    • Personal interaction with professor.
    • Asked in person for a letter of recommendation after office hours and provided a portfolio.
    • Professor took a 6 month international vacation making it difficult to communicate.
    • Emailed a few reminders over 4 months and offered to ask another professor for a recommendation if she could no longer.
    • Letter completed in April.
    • Conclusion: In this case it really paid off to ask early. I would have been in trouble if I only asked 2 months in advance.
  • Research Principle Investigator
    • Requested from principle investigator from drug addiction research lab in May.
      • Waited until after several research events and awards in may.
    • Provided portfolio to compliment research achievements.
    • Principle investigator is also Dean of the Graduate School and is very busy.
    • Deadline of letter of recommendation near that of many research grants. As a result letter could not be completed on time.
    • Conclusion: Be weary of your letter writer’s schedule. They are busy people too and this can delay your application if not requested early enough.
  • Priest
    • Priest of nearly a decade. Served as an alter boy.
    • Requested a letter of recommendation and provided a resume.
    • Completed and received by dental school within 2 weeks!

 

As you can see from my experiences, no two situations were alike. Take some advice from my experiences and be sure to plan ahead, ask early, and come professional and prepared as if you are going to an interview for dental school. If you attend a large university, expect many other students to be asking for letters of recommendation. If you attend a research institution, professors are extremely busy managing time between lectures and research. In cases like these, be sure to give your letter writer as much time as you can. They will greatly appreciate it and write you a better letter.