Tips From Current D.D.S. and Dental Hygiene Students

Work Now, Chill Later: Preparing for the ADEA AADSAS Application

Posted by Kristen Horstmann on April 21, 2021

If you’re applying to dental school this year, you’re probably anxiously counting down the days until the ADEA AADSAS® (ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service) application opens in May. And who can blame you! It’s an exciting time filled with reflection and hope. But instead of scrolling away the hours until then, consider preparing for your application now to alleviate stress later. Without even opening the application, here’s what you can do to prepare the strongest application possible.


Be Aware of the Timelines

Although ADEA AADSAS closes in early February each year, dental schools operate on a rolling interview basis—the earlier your application is sent, the earlier you might be extended an interview! Set a reasonable deadline for yourself in the summer and try to submit by then. It also takes time (days to weeks depending on the volume) for ADEA to verify your information, for the schools to receive all your information, letters of recommendation to be submitted and for you to complete each school’s supplemental applications. Your application won’t be considered until the school has all components, so give yourself plenty of time and be patient.  

Organize Your Extracurriculars

Write concise and action-oriented descriptions of your roles for all your extracurricular activities. Look up resume writing tips and active verbs if you’re not sure where to begin. Do a rough calculation of how many hours you dedicated to each organization, both total and per week. The application will ask for all of these things, so it’ll be nice and easy to copy and paste once the application cycle opens. In general, don’t list things you did in high school, unless you’re continuing it today. Shadowed a cardiologist as a high schooler? Doesn’t matter. Volunteered for the Alzheimer’s Association for the last six years? Now we’re talking! Be honest about your hours and responsibilities, but don’t be too humble. You deserve for your hard work to be recognized.

Write and Edit Your Personal Statement  

Here’s where most applicants go wrong, in my inexpert opinion. In general, the objective is to explain why you’re interested in dentistry, but don’t lean too hard into the actual dentistry part of the career. The schools don’t expect you to be—and quite frankly, don’t want you to be—a dental robot, so show your variety and personality! Even the most passionate dentist will scoff at a whole page marveling at the wonders of every step of the first crown prep you saw. Sure, you may have found this procedure interesting, but is it really the sole reason why you want to be a dentist? Or did your time volunteering at river cleanups help you realize you thrive seeing tangible results at the end of the day? Maybe helping people at your job as a campus tour guide was the highlight of your college experience. Did you witness your grandmother go through the emotional turmoil of needing complete dentures, but she spoke highly of an amazing dentist who helped her in so many ways beyond dentistry? Or perhaps you began as pre-med but witnessed the systemic side effects of poor oral hygiene in your community. There are so many unique and interesting ways to discuss the benefits of dentistry without describing every single procedure you ever shadowed.

I don’t say this to disparage talking about dentistry. You should absolutely have elements of dentistry peppered in your statement to show what you learned while in the office shadowing, assisting or working, but try to show who you really are. Write what you want to say, not what you think they want to hear. The Admissions Committee members know what it takes to prep a tooth, take an impression and manage an office. Trust me. They’ve read statements like that a million times, but what they don’t know is who you are and what you would bring to their school. The goal is to be interesting or impressive enough to earn an interview, so seize this opportunity to show them why they’d be missing out if they don’t meet you.

Ask for Letters of Recommendation

Contact faculty members who you think can give you a strong letter of recommendation. I emphasize “strong” because there’s nothing wrong with stressing this to the faculty. If they don’t think they can be helpful to your application, hopefully, they will be honest and tell you to find someone else. While you should try to get a letter from science faculty, don’t be afraid to get creative. You may think that you should get a letter from your organic chemistry professor because you hit all their exams out of the park, but ask yourself, “Do they really know me?” Or would you potentially get a stronger letter from your philosophy professor, who saw your hard work ethic in their weekly office hours because you were struggling to get a B?

Just like the above advice on knowing your timeline, ask for letters of recommendation early! We all know how busy professors can be, so give them plenty of time to write you the best possible letter. Often, they will ask for a CV and personal statement to help aid them in the writing process, so it will help expediate the process to have those two items completed before contacting faculty.

Be organized and be proactive. But above all—have fun! You know what a great personality you have, you know all the hard work you did and you know how qualified you are. Now is the time to show it off!

About Kristen Horstmann:

Kristen Horstmann_headshot

Kristen Horstmann
Third-year Dental Student
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Dentistry

Kristen Horstmann is a third-year at University of California, Los Angeles, School of Dentistry. She is from Fresno, CA, and attended Loyola Marymount University for undergrad, where she received a degree in Individualized Science—Biomathematics. 

When she isn’t chasing down patients or scrolling through TikTok while “studying”, she loves to cook healthy new recipes, work out, run and take naps with her cat, Sneezy. Currently, Ms. Horstmann is ignoring her own advice of preparing for applications as the residency cycle draws near.