As May 18th approached, I began receiving the “don’t forget PASS opens” texts from my parents. Like I needed the reminder: I already had nightmares of the application process. One night, I actually herniated a disc in my neck from the stress and insomnia that came from applying. Thankfully, I can laugh at that now.
Advanced education programs in periodontics do not participate in the Postdoctoral Dental Match Program (“Match”), and they no longer abide by a set agreement date for offers of acceptance. It certainly made for an interesting application cycle. While it was atypical, I feel many of my experiences are relevant to those using the American Dental Education Association’s Postdoctoral Application Support Service (ADEA PASS) and even the Match system. There are plenty of things I wish I’d known or done better, and I’m happy to share them below:
- Befriend the ADEA PASS Program Search Engine. The search engine nicely displays all information relevant to your programs of interest. You can develop a spreadsheet that outlines key items, like application deadlines or need for supplementary materials. ADEA PASS also provides an Application Tracking Tool. However, there are some discrepancies that exist between the search engine and a programs’ websites. Be sure to verify if the search engine information is accurate and up-to-date. If any questions arise, don’t hesitate to contact programs by phone or email.
- Send out your ADEA PASS transcript requests and National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) scores immediately. Send your official dental school transcript to ADEA PASS using the transcript request form provided on your ADEA PASS portal. This can take weeks to send and process, so do this first to avoid the additional express delivery charge. Be sure also to identify which programs need official NBDE scores sent to them directly. Waive scores that are in process (i.e. if you are signed up and waiting to take NBDE Part II), so your NBDE Part I scores can be processed on time. It can severely delay your application if this information is noted incorrectly.
- Contact programs, as needed. I called and emailed programs until they were probably tired of hearing, “Hello, it’s Adam Saltz.” And that’s fine. As long as you are respectful in your dialogue, programs will understand your concerns and try to allay them. Even if programs do not return your messages, you can be sure they’ve received your materials. Be mindful that Offices of Advanced Education receive and manage applications for all specialties, in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities, so it is normal for there to be some processing delay.
- Don’t leave sections blank on your ADEA PASS application. While you can and should upload your curriculum vitae (CV) to your portal, you also need to upload those same experiences, awards and activities into the appropriate sections of the ADEA PASS application. Just because you include your CV doesn’t mean you’re free from filling out all applicant information.
- Structure your CV to match your ADEA PASS application.To ensure cohesion and simplicity for those reading your application, use the departments provided on ADEA PASS (i.e. research experience, teaching experience, etc.) as section headers in your CV. It will help readers quickly find and verify your information.
- Design a consistent header for all your application materials.Personalized headers create a cohesive profile for your application package. A little color never hurt anyone and helps you stand out among lots of applicants.
- Your personal statement is not your CV. I wish I had structured my personal statement more like one. I tried to incorporate too many elements from my CV into my personal statement, and I feel it lost the essence of who I was and the story of why I wanted to become a periodontist.
- Share your personal statement. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked to rewrite my introduction alone. I had my statement edited by faculty, students and friends, all of whom provided valuable insight and criticism. Those outside dental circles usually offer the best feedback. If you can’t prove credibility as an applicant to a non-dentist, how do you think a program director will respond to your letter of intent?
- Include a cover letter if supplementary materials are needed. Some programs require supplementary information, including: photographs, additional applications, or academic, research and/or personal statements. Providing a cover letter will help clarify what is being sent and strengthen your application package.
- Print supplementary material on high quality paper. Nothing says I care about you more than thick stock, low-gloss finish paper. Spend the extra money to have your supplementary materials and photographs printed on high quality paper. As an ASDA member, you can enjoy special discounts at Office Depot and save up to 80% on certain products. Take advantage of your member benefits as you apply.
- Submit your ADEA PASS application, even if parts are missing. This could have just been rumor at my school, but you can in fact send out an incomplete application. You do, however, need to be sure your program designations have been completed and authors of your letters of recommendation have been assigned. Students were already receiving interviews at programs I was applying to, while I was unnecessarily waiting for certain information to be uploaded.
- Be strategic about the programs to which you apply. While interview season may provide a fun excuse to travel the country, it quickly becomes emotionally and physically tiring. Paying application and supplemental fees plus the cost of interview travel and hotels adds up quickly.
Hopefully, these tips will allow for a more seamless application process. I look forward to starting my postdoctoral training in periodontology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. I wish you all the best in your application endeavors, so you too can land your dream program.
~ Adam Saltz, MPH, Nova Southeastern ’17, editor-in-chief