Manual DexterityHello everyone! My name is Kristine Angeles, and I am the Internal Vice President for the Pre-Dental Society at UC Irvine, and I am Elias’ guest blogger.

As a returning board member for UC Irvine’s Pre-Dental Society, a lot of our members ask me, “What can I do to become a more competitive dental school applicant?” A competitive applicant is well rounded both academically and personally. It is important to focus on the following areas: recommended science courses that dental schools like such as anatomy and or biochemistry, exploring dentistry such as shadowing and assisting, and involvement in giving back to the community. Many other components make a strong dental school candidate, with the most frequently overlooked being manual dexterity.

When the idea of manual dexterity comes up, members ask me for advice on what they can do to prove their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. As a child, I have always loved drawing and painting, and was able to hone these abilities by practicing them during my leisure time. As I grew up, I got exposed to many mediums in which I can express my artistic ideas. I started to explore as many art forms such as printmaking, woodcarving, tying knots and cross-stitching. Although these are excellent ways in which one can sharpen fine motor skills, there are far more things one can do.

What is manual dexterity?Sistine Chapel

Manual dexterity is the ability to perform fine motor skills using ones hands and eyes in an orderly fashion. These skills might come naturally for some people such as the legendary pianist Mozart , or Michelangelo’s lifelong painting found at Sistine Chapel, but unfortunately, these abilities do not develop over night for most people.  Luckily though manual dexterity is something we can practice and truly polish over time.

What are some things I can do to refine my manual dexterity skills?

I have provided a list of activities that I have found useful in practicing fine motor skills. Please note that there are far more things that can be done to enhance one’s manual dexterity, this is merely a list.

  • Learn a musical instrument that require extensive hand-eye coordination such as the piano
  • Draw and paint
  • Woodcarving, sculpting and linoleum printmaking
  • Sewing, cross-stitching, crocheting, knitting
  • Soldering
  • Jewelry making

In practicing manual dexterity, do not forget to find something that you truly enjoy doing! Make it into a hobby, and really hone those skills. Good luck!

aadsas_logoHey everybody!

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. Life has been very hectic trying to get everything together to apply for dental school. Any free time I have had has been going towards my research.

I have been working on a file for the past few days to help pre-dental students prepare for the AADSAS application. The document has fields as well as descriptions of every section of the application. On the areas of the application with a character limits, I have incorporated a character limit fields to help applicants know where the limit is and hopefully write better and more concise descriptions.

I would recommend any pre-dental student at ANY stage to download this file and begin to fill it out. It is a great way to help you keep track of your achievements, work experience, volunteer hours, etc. I wish I had a document like this to fill out over the past four years. Regardless if you use it or not, PLEASE make sure to keep good records of  volunteer services including hours and dates!

Download the ADEA AADSAS Unofficial Blank Application with Character Limit Fields (v1.0) HERE!

I would also recommend using this wonderful Unofficial AADSAS GPA Calculator I found. Ortho88 on StudentDoctor.net made it a few years back. Ortho88 is a pre-dental student at UC Berkley and a member of the UC Berkeley Pre-Dental Society. For those on the quarter system, please use the unit conversion box in the top right corner to convert quarter system units to semester system equivalent units.

AADSAS Unofficial GPA Calculator

I am nearing my DAT testing date and will most likely remain fairly inactive until mid July. If you have any questions please submit them through the Ask Elias page!

Letter clip artAs mentioned in AADSAS Application Frequently asked Questions post earlier in June, three letters of recommendation are required as part of the application. Of the three recommendation letters,  two must be from your science courses and one can be of from anyone. The letters of recommendation are important aspects of your application since they, and your personal statement, are what define you as an individual beyond numbers and ranking. The admissions faculty is looking for individuals who have personable qualities, and a strong letter of recommendation will have more merit than any personal statement written by the individual applying. For this reason, it is important to receive three strong letters of recommendation. A letter of recommendation could be the deciding factor for interview opportunity just as easily as it can be the deciding factor for receiving a rejection letter.

Some of the following questions and answers were inspired by a presentation given by Stan Constantino, a Director of Admissions from the University of Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. Stan enlightened us on topics related to admissions.  The following list was compiled based on answers to questions given by Mr. Constantino and expanded upon.

How many letters of recommendation should I have?

Your goal should be to have 2 science curriculum letters of recommendation and one miscellaneous letter. The miscellaneous letter carries weight in its own way. It is a great opportunity to show admissions officers your life outside of academia and how people perceive you. A great miscellaneous letter can come from many places. Some common ones are from a priest, a former or current boss, or a dentist you shadowed at.

What if I have more than three letters of recommendations?

The AADSAS application accepts more than three letters! However, please be aware that admissions faculty is only required to read three letters, regardless of how many you submit. For example, imagine a scenario in which you submitted five letters, two of them were strong letters and three of them were mediocre. If three of the letters were read at random the likelihood of getting the three letters you wanted read are greatly reduced. The following table shows the probability of each combination:

2 Good/1 Mediocre 1 Good/2 Mediocre 0 Good/3 Mediocre
30% 60% 10%

Based on the assumption that an admissions officer will only read three letters, 1/10 schools you applied to did not get the opportunity to read any of your top letters, while 6/10 schools only got to read 1 of them. As you can see, the odds are not in your favor. For this reason, I highly recommend following a quality over quantity ideology when submitting letters of recommendation. Make sure to get strong letters and pick the letters that you believe will carry the most weight. It will always be better to have three very strong letters rather than 5 moderately strong letters.

Does research count as a miscellaneous letter of recommendation or a science letter?

The answer to this question depends on if you received units for research, and as a result a letter grade based on your research performance. If a letter grade was given, then research qualifies as one of your science letters of recommendation. A research letter of recommendation is highly recommended if you can get one since, in a research environment, you spend significantly more time interacting with the person who will be writing the letter than with a professor during office hours.

What characteristics are looked for in a letter of recommendation?

Admissions officers are looking for specific things in recommendation letters. It is important to nail key characteristics like interpersonal skills, teamwork, and personality. The admissions director emphasized being very careful picking who writes you a letter of recommendation. Do not go to a professor that you got an “A” in just because you got an “A”. Keep in mind that the dental schools have your transcript and as a result, having a letter of recommendation emphasizing your performance in the class does not bring any new advantages to your application.

Do you have any advice on how to get a good letter of recommendation?

Make sure the person knows who you are, and that you are in good standing with them. A letter of recommendation can go one of two ways. The recommender can write a letter recommending you, a neutral letter, or a letter against recommending you. Stan emphasized asking the writer if they could “write a positive letter of recommendation.”

At large universities it can be fairly difficult to get a letter of recommendation from a professor teaching a class of 300+ students.  Most commonly, that professor can have at least one or two other classes which can make it even more difficult for students to get a good quality and positive recommendation. One method of getting around this dilemma was recommended by the Biological Sciences Councilors here at UC Irvine. It is acceptable at large universities that TA’s assist in the writing process and that the professor agrees to co-author the recommendation letter. Doing this may be easier than getting a professor to know you on a personal level all while maintaining the same weight a letter directly from the professor has.

Should I give the person writing the letter anything to help make the writing easier?

Yes! Please do! When asking for a letter of recommendation, do not rely on a verbal agreement or an email conversation. Have a physical request that you hand directly to the person. I found a letter of recommendation template in high school and I have used it every time since when asking for recommendation letters. Please do not print out the template and fill it in. Rewrite it on a word processing program and have key parts like the due date in bold. Fill in the the accomplishments section and paperclip a resume and any other documents to the back of it.

What if the letter is not written by the due date. What do I do?

Don’t put yourself in this situation! The people who will be writing letters for you are very busy individuals and they often forget to write a letter of recommendation. The worst thing to do is to remind them last minute since at this point they will rush a letter all while being under pressure by the student.

The following time guideline, two-two-two,  is highly recommended so that you do not find yourself such a situation. Give the person enough time so they can comfortably write a letter for you in their free time. I recommend asking them two months before the letter is needed. This way they have no reason to feel pressured. Since you are asking two months in advance, two weeks prior to the deadline, contact the individual and remind them of the letter of recommendation and see if they need any other documents or information from you. The final component of this plan is to give them a deadline that is  two weeks before the actual due date. This will give you an extra window of time just in case they do not finish it on time for any reason. At this point, you can tell them that the latest the school will take it is two weeks from the deadline and that you would really appreciate if they could still write the letter for you. Following this procedure will minimize the stress on both of you and since a two month window was given, the recommended should not have any reason to think negatively about you if the letter sees any unforeseeable delays.

 

My last piece of advice is to make sure you maintain a good relationship with the individual writing the letter. If the recommender feels, for any reason, that their recommendation is no longer valid, they can easily retract the letter or modify it. I have heard horror stories in which students stop helping their recommendation letter writer, like the principle investigators of the research group, after receiving the letter of recommendation. The researchers were able to retract their letters and sent memos to the schools the student desired explaining why. You do not want to find yourself in this situation! Be smart and respectful! These individuals are doing you a great service!

If you have any other questions of concerns please submit them using the Ask Elias form!