Advice from admissions officers

Advice for Re-Applicants: Part II

Posted by Emma Hopson, M.S. on June 28, 2022

“During my time working in admissions, I have often needed to assist students who did not get into dental school the first time, but who intend to apply again,” says Emma Hopson, M.S., an Admissions Coordinator from the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. The second part of this article suggests tips for improving the last two sections of your application.


Section III: Supporting Information 


Now that we have reviewed the academic side of the balanced scale, let’s check out the other side of it with your non-academic achievements. If we are to look at the experience section of the application, admissions counselors are generally looking for well-rounded students who can demonstrate characteristics associated with the idea of the best fit for their dental school. Because of this, the experience section holds a unique opportunity for applicants to illustrate who they are and what they are passionate about. When you are excited about something, it inevitably becomes where you spend your time. This drives the philosophy of reviewing the experience section. When I advise applicants, I recommend that people stay organized by creating a document to track their experiences before applying to dental school. This can help you to thoughtfully pick and choose the experiences you think will create the most meaningful impact in your application. 

I recommend using the Supporting Information page in the Help Center to help you gather, document and categorize your experiences. Start with the things you included on your last application, and then branch out into what you have done since then. Highlight any leadership, volunteer or academic enrichment experiences that you have to demonstrate the qualities that make you who you are and make you a good fit for the programs you are applying to. 

Personal Statement

When re-applying to dental school, it is recommended that you consider redrafting your personal statement by adding new information and exploring new ideas. In your essay, you want to tell a story; paint a picture of your journey to dentistry, what inspires you or who motivated you. These are a few ideas, but the possibilities are endless. There is an opportunity to allow your reviewers to get to know you on a personal level. When you have a new draft, have other people you know look over it; in particular, any professional mentors in your life. The more eyes you can get to review your personal statement, the stronger it will become. 

Letters of Recommendation

Lastly, you will want to address your letters of recommendation. It is understandable that you may want to keep the people who are writing your letters the same. This is fine to do; however, it is considered good practice to reach out to those people again to let them know you are planning to re-apply to dental school and ask if they would be willing to submit their letters of recommendation again. If they say yes, ask them to update the date of submission on the letter, so it appears up to date for the current application cycle. Additionally, if you have continued to build your professional relationship with them since you last applied, you might request that they freshen up the letter with any new information that might be pertinent. 


Section IV: Program Materials

The Program Materials section includes additional information and requirements for the programs (dental schools) you selected in the “Add Program” tab. Each program's requirements may vary or change from year to year, so it’s important you review this section in detail every time you apply.


The “Questions” tab is only available for certain programs. Here, you can answer questions specific to each program. Questions may be multiple choice or open-ended text boxes. Some programs require an additional essay. Contact each program directly if you have questions.


The “Documents” tab is only available for certain programs. If applicable, you can upload documents that will only be visible to that particular program. Documents that do not have a red asterisk are optional and do not need to be uploaded for you to submit your application. Contact the program directly if you have any questions about their specific requirements.

Next Steps: Creating Your Game Plan

Once you have thoroughly looked over your previous materials, you will have a better sense of your areas for improvement. Now that you do, I would advise you to reach out and use any professional resources you have that can help you craft your game plan. Request a meeting with an academic advisor, a mentor or a professor to go over your materials with you. Having another person to bounce off ideas, particularly someone who knows the dental profession or the dental school admissions process, can help you create a plan that can give you the best chance when you re-apply. 

Now that you know what you need to work on, try to avoid rushing into the soonest application cycle available and applying again for the sake of applying. It is more prudent to use the reflections you’ve worked on to determine the additional work that should be done that will give you the best possible chance when you do apply. From there, you can decide which application cycle would give you the best outcome. Sometimes, this is the cycle right after your last; sometimes, depending on your assessment of your files, it would be wise to consider taking a gap year to prepare to apply again in the future. Factor into your decision the timing of your application. Most admissions professionals will advise applicants to submit as early as possible in any cycle, with complete and competitive application as possible to give you your best odds.  

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget to consider your day-to-day schedule and your overall priorities. You want to be realistic about your own bandwidth to make sure you don’t burn yourself out trying to beef up your application. Whatever plan you make, you want to be certain it will be sustainable for you, your family and your lifestyle. Every person applying to dental school will have different priorities in their lives; some people have families to support, others work full time, some people are still finishing up their bachelor’s degree, and the list goes on. Only you know what your priorities are, and it is up to you to determine them as you move forward with creating your plan. If you are staying busy and working hard, your application will reflect that determination and commitment to your goals.  

When you are ready to submit, it is a good idea to cast a wide net; avoid limiting yourself to one or two schools. Every year, the admissions process gets more competitive, and dental school tuition gets more expensive. When you do re-apply, you want to make sure you give yourself as many opportunities as you can. Research and make your long list of schools, then start prioritizing the ones you know would be the best fit for you. If your goal is to become a dentist, then applying to as many schools that would fit with your life as you can is the best way to ensure that you get interviews and acceptance offers in any cycle. 

I urge you to remember that your lifelong dental career is waiting for you on the other side of this. You will have a lot of decisions to make as you go through this process, but I hope you move forward feeling confident with the knowledge that you will get there. It might take time. It might take a lot of extra work, but you will get there. 


Catch Up: Advice for Re-Applicants: Part I

About Emma Hopson, M.S.:

Emma Hopson_headshot

Emma Hopson, M.S.
Admissions Coordinator 
University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry 

Emma Hopson is an Admissions Coordinator at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry (Dugoni School). She has six years of admissions and student services-related experience—the last two in her current position at Dugoni School. She holds a Bachelor of Art in English Writing Practices and Environmental Education from Cal Poly Humboldt (formerly Humboldt State University) and a Master of Science in Leadership from Walden University.