Dental schools have access to transcripts and test scores, but it is through letters of recommendation that they are able to learn more about you as a person. Here are some tips to make the process easier:
Build relationships early on.
Get to know your professors and pre-health advisors. Ask questions in class, stop by during office hours, help with research projects or become a teacher’s assistant. Building a relationship outside the classroom reiterates that you are a motivated student and that you are taking an active role in your education.
Choose your letter writer wisely.
Select a professor or pre-health advisor who you have bonded with and who knows you very well. This person should be able to write good things about you, your character and your potential. Do not ask someone who cannot pick you out of a crowd to recommend you. Several schools require a letter of recommendation from a dentist. Check the website of schools you are interested in to be sure.
Meet in person to request the recommendation.
Set up a time to meet with your professor or pre-health advisor in person (start the process 8-10 weeks before the letter of recommendation is due). During the meeting, have a calendar handy so you can set up a follow-up date to bring your information.
Provide them information about you.
Make the letter writing experience as easy as possible by sharing the following documents with your professor or pre-health advisor:
- A brief note explaining what the letter of recommendation is for (include any pertinent information that can help the author write your letter)
- Your name, major and year of anticipated graduation
- The class you took with this professor (when and grade earned) or latest interaction with advisor
- Why you are going to become a dentist
- Why you selected this person to recommend you
- Current resume (check our these resume-writing tips)
- Envelope addressed to the proper destination with a stamp affixed. Bonus points for putting a sticky note on the front of the envelope with the due date in bold letters.
Follow up with a thank you.
Always follow up with either a personal hand-written or electronic thank you note. No matter what the outcome of your application to dental school, keep your supporters updated. If you were accepted, they want to be excited for you. If not, they will more likely stay your advocate and may even offer to write another recommendation next time around.
What is a committee/panel letter?
A committee letter is similar to a letter of recommendation, only it is written by the predental, premedical or health sciences advisory committee at your school. There may be variations at each school, but you should expect the panel to be made up of faculty and administrative staff. They will conduct an interview with you to help guide them in writing your letter.
Prior to your committee interview you will be asked to submit several items:
- Personal statement
- Current resume
- Transcripts from all college-level courses
- Some type of preparation or disciplinary clearance form
During your interview, as well as in your personal statement, it is important to address your talents, reflect on your personal growth and find out what qualities and abilities the panel values for a future dentist and address those as areas you are currently strong in or planning to develop.