Advice from admissions officers

Decision Day Part I: Behind the Scenes for December 1

Posted by Emil Chuck, Ph.D. on November 26, 2014

Dental schools begin notifying applicants, either orally or in writing, of provisional or final acceptance no earlier than December 1 of the academic year prior to the academic year of matriculation.

ADEA Rules for Extending Offers of Admission to Dental School,
approved March 2010, ADEA House of Delegates

The December 1 “Decision Day” is one of the most emotional days any predental student will experience. The admissions committees and officers who are part of this day work frantically to make such a day possible. Many of these officers have recruited their students, faculty and administration to send personal messages to applicants, even making phone calls of congratulations! It is often unappreciated just how much coordination Decision Day requires of each admissions office and committee, as decisions on hundreds of applicants need to be made before the crush of grading exams, reporting grades and planning Thanksgiving getaway vacations. For me in Cleveland, I cross my fingers to ensure no blizzards are in the forecast!

But no matter what happens, the best-made plans can only be controlled to a limit. On the night of November 30, the elements not controlled begin entering my mind. Will the emails actually go out at midnight? Will the star applicants I wish to come to my program be ecstatic with our decision, or have they always had other schools in mind that they prefer? I’m reminded of one of my students whose campus email server was being serviced the entire Thanksgiving weekend, so she never got any acceptance emails that were intended for her. She contacted me the next day in tears wondering why our office never sent an email to her (though we did). Five minutes later, she got the email through a different email account, and her despair quickly changed to joy.

So here are my answers to some of the more common questions about what happens on December 1.

When will the schools release their decisions?

Honestly, it is completely dependent on the school’s method of notification and the time zone where that school resides. Many schools rely on the ADEA AADSASTM portal to deliver emails and to update the portal status, but there are many schools that use their own email servers and portals instead. So expect emails to be sent within an hour after midnight Eastern Time for ADEA AADSAS-generated emails or midnight of the relevant time zone of each school that does not use ADEA AADSAS. More importantly, check your spam email folder.

A handful of schools will engage lucky interviewed candidates with personal phone calls. In these cases, you need to be ready before the weekend and reset your voice mail greetings in case an admissions person, a student, an alumnus or a faculty member (even a dean) calls you and leaves a message or even talks with you. The decision to make these calls and when to make them is completely at the whim of an admissions office, or at the convenience of the faculty or staff who will make the calls.

The ADEA AADSAS portal may not reveal a status change until much later in the day on December 1, so don’t expect the statuses to change right at midnight.

While IT issues have not generally plagued this part of the process, you can do your part to prevent any crashes by not constantly refreshing the ADEA AADSAS portal, other application portals or your application email servers. In short, relax.

Do all interviewed candidates receive communication from the schools?

While my dental school sends emails to every applicant we interview about our committee’s decision, other dental schools may only contact applicants to whom they wish to extend offers immediately.

How long do I have before making a final decision?

Most schools prefer you provide your deposit to hold your seat in the class within 30 days of the December 1 deadline (or as declared by each school). The deposits are usually nonrefundable and are at least a few hundred dollars for the initial deposit. Some schools will request you also submit follow-up nonrefundable deposits to retain the seat in the class. Consequently, it is in your best interest to have narrowed down your choices by the decision deadlines. Many applicants may hold one or two seats if they are scheduled to interview at another dental school that they consider among their top choices. However, all rising matriculants will be expected to hold just one dental school seat by April.

Will I be notified of a scholarship when I am given an offer?

While many of our applicants receive scholarship offers at the time of the offer of admission, the admissions committee may wait until later in the cycle to select scholarship recipients among those who commit and deposit.

Do schools fill up their classes with December admits?

While it depends on the school, many schools continue to interview into the spring because we anticipate our class will fill later on. If you have not gotten an interview for December notification, it does not necessarily mean you are not in contention for a seat at that school unless so announced.

Do I need to do an academic update if I will finish taking classes before starting dental school?

It is strongly suggested that applicants who have not completed coursework submit an ADEA AADSAS academic update even after receiving an offer of admission.

After I receive an offer of admission, what else do I need to do?

All offers of admission should be considered conditional as most schools will be performing criminal background checks and academic/personal background disclosures over the next few months. Failing to provide information consistent with what you declared in your application may result in your offer being rescinded, as would a dramatic underperformance in academic coursework or a subsequent mistake in judgment (academically, personally or criminally). Many schools expect your last semester of coursework to meet a minimum grade point average expectation, or that all declared coursework be completed for grades. Any dramatic change in plans—especially when not disclosed to the admissions committee—may result in a reconsideration of your file.

It’s before December 1, and I got interviewed. Should I contact my number-one choice?

While we neither specifically encourage nor discourage you to tell us that we are your top choice, many schools welcome any follow-up communication by applicants who have already been interviewed, while others do not. Whatever you do, be honest and genuine with your message if this is applicable, and understand that the message may not necessarily sway your file toward an acceptance.

For many applicants “Decision Day” on December 1 is the most exciting day that affirms each person’s desire to pursue dentistry. The transition to an exciting career in dentistry begins. But for many, the anxiety continues. Some will have a difficult time deciding which school to attend, while others will still be waiting to hear if they will receive an acceptance later on in the cycle. For guidance and tips on what to do after December 1—no matter what your acceptance status—be sure to sign up for the ADEA GoDental newsletter to receive Part II of the “Decision Day” series.

About Emil Chuck, Ph.D.:

Emil Chuck New

Emil Chuck, Ph.D.
Director of Admissions
Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine

Dr. Chuck earned his Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Case Western Reserve University after his BSE in biomedical engineering from Duke. Formerly the Chief Health Professions Advisor and Assistant Professor at George Mason University, he has served as advisor to the AAAS Science Careers Forum and often sits as a workshop panelist on interviewing skills and competency-based evaluations.