Tips For Obtaining Compelling Letters of Recommendation for Dental School

May 29, 2015

Observing at Kibosho dental surgery The process of putting together a dental school application can be daunting. This is more so if you are applying to multiple schools, which you should. Every school has their own deadline, eligibility criteria and set of requirements that you need to keep track of. Then there’s that all-important personal statement that needs to be drafted and extracurricular activities that somehow or the other need to be fit into your hectic schedule.

In this flurry of activity, one aspect of the admissions process that gets sidelined is the letter of recommendation or LOR. For most students, the recommendation letter is treated as an afterthought. This could be a huge mistake. A recommendation letter is a vital part of the application and can have a considerable impact on the final outcome. It can be the decisive factor as to whether or not you get called for an interview. As such, it needs to be given some thought and consideration.

The specifications may vary from one school to another. The first thing you need to do is to make a note of each school’s requirements so that you can then determine who you are going to approach.

Where Do You Start?

Your undergraduate institution is a good place to start. Find out if they offer committee letters. If they do, take time to find out the timetable and process for procuring one. Some schools may ask you to submit a draft of your personal statement or some other document. Others may require you to fill in a questionnaire or attend an interview with the committee.

Not all schools offer this committee option however so if you get a negative response, that’s okay. It’s time to look elsewhere.

Who Do You Ask?

Who you should approach for a recommendation letter depends on what each school has asked for. Schools generally ask for recommendation letters to be obtained from science as well as non-science faculty members.

People you can approach could include healthcare professionals or researchers you know or you’ve shadowed or interned with.

How Many LORS Do You Need To Get?

Most dental schools ask for two letters of recommendation. While some may accept additional letters, others are more specific about the number of LORs you can submit. If there are no restrictions mentioned, you could submit more than two but if a ceiling has been set and specified, it is a good idea not to exceed that limit.

Sending in more letters than are required will not earn you any extra points. Instead it just demonstrates that you are not good at obeying orders.

Once you’ve narrowed down your shortlist of potential letter writers and have decided who to ask, here a few suggestions you should keep in mind:

  • Don’t wait till the last minute

Health professionals, researchers and professors are busy people. It could take them a couple of days if not more to find time to write out a good letter. Waiting for that letter could delay the submission of your entire application package.

  • Provide your letter writers with the essential information that will help them craft an impressive letter

It is impossible for anyone else to keep track of all of your achievements and milestones, no matter how well they know you. Instead of risking a vaguely written letter, provide your recommender with all of the information that they could use to write a strong letter.

  • Don’t force a less-than-enthusiastic writer

Not all professionals are enthusiastic about writing out recommendation letters. If the person you ask sounds hesitant, no matter how keen you are to get a letter written by them, it is a good idea not to pursue it. Someone who is not too keen in the first place is not going to take the time or trouble to write a stellar LOR for you and this could actually be detrimental to your application.