Non-traditional Student Resources
Guide for non-traditional dental studentsA non-traditional dental student can be defined as a student who takes time in between undergrad and dental school. Some students do this by choice to pursue work experience, a post-baccalaureate program or even military training. Others may not get accepted to dental school on their first or even second try so they look for opportunities to enhance their application.

ASDA has developed a guide to help non-traditional students navigate the dental school application process. The information in this guide was provided by non-traditional students based on their experience. The guide gives advice on coursework, the DAT, recommendation letters, personal statement, committee letters, shadowing and extracurricular activities for non-traditional students.

Dental schools have access to transcripts and test scores, but it is through letters of recommendation that they are able to learn more about you as a person. Here are some tips to make the process easier:

Build relationships early on.
Get to know your professors and pre-health advisors. Ask questions in class, stop by during office hours, help with research projects or become a teacher’s assistant. Building a relationship outside the classroom reiterates that you are a motivated student and that you are taking an active role in your education.

Choose your letter writer wisely.
Select a professor or pre-health advisor who you have bonded with and who knows you very well. This person should be able to write good things about you, your character and your potential. Do not ask someone who cannot pick you out of a crowd to recommend you. Several schools require a letter of recommendation from a dentist. Check the website of schools you are interested in to be sure.

Meet in person to request the recommendation.
Set up a time to meet with your professor or pre-health advisor in person (start the process 8-10 weeks before the letter of recommendation is due). During the meeting, have a calendar handy so you can set up a follow-up date to bring your information.

Provide them information about you.
Make the letter writing experience as easy as possible by sharing the following documents with your professor or pre-health advisor:

  • A brief note explaining what the letter of recommendation is for (include any pertinent information that can help the author write your letter)
  • Your name, major and year of anticipated graduation
  • The class you took with this professor (when and grade earned) or latest interaction with advisor
  • Why you are going to become a dentist
  • Why you selected this person to recommend you
  • Current resume (check our these resume-writing tips)
  • Envelope addressed to the proper destination with a stamp affixed. Bonus points for putting a sticky note on the front of the envelope with the due date in bold letters.

Follow up with a thank you.
Always follow up with either a personal hand-written or electronic thank you note. No matter what the outcome of your application to dental school, keep your supporters updated. If you were accepted, they want to be excited for you. If not, they will more likely stay your advocate and may even offer to write another recommendation next time around.

Hear from predentals and dental students as they journey into and through dental school. Find out about the challenges students face at each stage of dental school and what they wish they had known before each year. Each page contains a video and remarks from two ASDA members.

A Day in the Life of Dental Student: