Career Compass

How to sail through the PASS/Match process

Stephanie snapped a pic of the NY Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center during interviews for a residency in oral surgery.

On Jan. 26, a flurry of Facebook posts popped up in my newsfeed from elated students announcing their match day results. For many, match day served as the end of a long application process to specialty programs, general practice residencies (GPRs) and advanced education in general dentistry (AEGD) programs. For some, this served as a dress rehearsal in preparation for another attempt at matching next year. Regardless, going through the Match process takes some serious effort and persistence, but a little background knowledge will help you get through without breaking a sweat.

After deciding on a residency type, make sure to note during your program research which ones participate in the Match, as not all do. For the programs that participate, there’s a single access point to create an ADEA PASS account and then register for the Match. This portal also offers a convenient program search feature that allows you to research all types of residency programs and their requirements. It’s always a good idea, however, to cross-reference with each program’s website to ensure that the program desires no additional information. If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact the program directly.

The PASS application is your time to shine by sharing all your accomplishments and experiences with school, research, work, extracurricular activities, awards and distinctions, and more. Having an up-to-date CV will help you fill these portions out quickly and efficiently. There’s also a spot to upload your CV, undergraduate transcript and your personal statement. Your personal statement, much like for your dental school applications, tells your story. It gives the admissions committee an idea of your character and what truly drives you to pursue your chosen program.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the application is completing the evaluation section. The first requirement is an Institutional Evaluation. In this evaluation, your school will input your grade point average, your class rank and other relevant comments about your time at the school. Professional Evaluations serve as the standard letters of recommendation, and you are allowed to input two. Finally, you’ll need to submit a composite Personal Potential Index (PPI) report. PPIs evaluate personal attributes including knowledge and creativity, communication skills, ethics and integrity. Your evaluators give numerical responses and may also leave comments. Make sure that all (up to five) PPIs are completed before submitting the composite report to PASS.

For all evaluations, you will send request forms through PASS to your chosen evaluators. For the Institutional Evaluation, this is your dental school dean or individual within your administration. For the Professional Evaluations and PPIs, select people that you’ve worked with and know you well in dentistry and beyond. They will be able to give the most detailed accounts of your character and abilities. Selecting evaluators in your desired specialty will also strengthen your application. It’s essential to start developing relationships with your faculty early, so you can comfortably ask them for evaluations.

Finally, there’s a section to select the programs you wish to apply to. For each program, match a specific personal statement and professional evaluation or two to that program. This is particularly important if you apply to more than one type of program.

Start the process early and have someone else review your application. Give your evaluators ample time, and follow up with them if necessary. Sending a CV to your evaluators may also help them write a strong evaluation.

Once you’ve submitted your application, it’s time to sit back, relax, and wait for the interview requests to roll in. Post interviews, you will enter the Match website and rank the programs at which you interviewed. Rank based on your personal preferences, not how you think you’ll be placed, and remember that you do not need to rank all of your programs. Wherever you match, you must attend or you’ll face a penalty for applying in future years. Also be sure to check rank list submission deadlines. Phase I includes orthodontics and dental anesthesiology and occurs in the fall. Phase II includes AEGD, GPR, OMFS and pediatric dentistry and occurs in January.

Although a tiring process, it’s certainly worth the effort if it helps you achieve your professional goals and dreams.

Traveling to interviews allowed me to visit with 2013-14 Vice President Dr. Martin Smallidge and his wife, Kate, in Augusta, GA.

~Stephanie Zastrow, Minnesota ’15

Stephanie Zastrow

Stephanie Zastrow graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in 2015 and is now an oral and maxillofacial surgery resident at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, GA. After matching, she started The OMFS Girl, a blog dedicated not only to documenting her experiences as a resident but also life in the south. Stephanie has a passion for organized dentistry and has been a leader within ASDA and the Minnesota Dental Association. She plans to extend that involvement into the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and its resident organization.

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