An important part of the documentation to support your application for admission to dental school is the evaluation of your performance in an activity that was directly observed by the letter writer. This is often referred to as a letter of recommendation, or LOR.
Tips Concerning LORs
- Faculty instructors and dentists provide the most useful recommendations for dental school. The authors should know you well and be able to comment on your work ethic and commitment to dentistry, as well as report on your performance in the position for which they supervised you.
- We recommend that you select letter writers who know you and your work ethic or personal philosophy – this is probably the most important factor since they are not likely to comment on important characteristics if they are not aware of your merits.
- Choose letter writers who are established and have some seniority with their institution or facility (faculty instructors, not teaching assistants; dentist, not receptionist).
- Inform your letter writers about yourself and what information you feel is particularly needed in a LOR. They may request (and you should provide them with) a current resume, transcript, and a good draft of your Personal Statement. Make an office appointment and let them know that you are, for instance, looking for a letter that will speak to your ability to function in a professional dental setting.
- Letters from family friends, public officials or character-type references are usually not useful and should not be solicited unless explicitly requested by the dental school.
- For most schools, 2 evaluation letters from science faculty who taught you in a course, 1 from a non-science college instructor, and 1-2 letters from dentists should be enough. Some schools will specify exactly how many and from what type of authors and you should, of course, provide exactly what they request.
- Check periodically to make sure that your letter writers have submitted their letters. If not, you are encouraged to send polite reminder emails to the authors who agreed to provide a letter with a clearly indicated due date that you specified. The departmental staff should have your letters in your file NO LESS than two weeks before they are due (remember, you specify the due date). You are in control of the due date, and we recommend that the entire application package be completed no later than July 31 (or before the start of fall semester).
- Another important strategy in regards to LORs is to have them prepared ahead of time. In general, all aspects of applying to dental school should be done early in the application cycle, not later (applications may be submitted early in June of each year). For example, try to involve a few letter writers in the review of your entire application in the spring of your junior year (or the year that you begin the application). This will help establish a relationship, and they will be more prepared to write a favorable and detailed recommendation letter. You may request that the letters be submitted to the Truman Letter Service or the AADAS letter service as early as May of any application cycle.
Although the dental schools will not see the letters until after they request the secondary application from you, it will certainly make the process more efficient if all your letters are available at the time they make the request from you.