So you need letters of Recommendation?

Happy Friday!! I hope you all have exciting weekend plans. I have been getting so many emails about school starting at the end of next month and I am ECSTATIC…and nervous. It looks like we will be in classes from 8am-5pm every day!

Anywaysssss….today’s post focuses on getting Letters of Recommendation (aka Letters of Evaluation).  If it’s the 2017 application cycle and you are reading this, I hope you have already asked! However, if you haven’t you can still make it! When you read on you will see that I actually didn’t ask until June 27th (YIKES!)…through email. Maybe someday I will tell you all why I applied/got started on my application so late but for now, let’s just focus on the positive: IF I CAN DO IT SO CAN YOU! You are going to be a dentist, just persevere.

This is a lengthy post so here are some quick links:

Before You Ask | What to Bring When You AskAsking Through Email



Asking for Letters of Recommendation



1.) SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR THE FUTURE

First, you need to know WHO to ask.  Look at your top school’s admissions website and see what they require/recommend. I think it is pretty standard that you have 2 professors (preferably science) and 1 dentist. (CHECK WITH YOUR SCHOOLS) Then you will have a 4th option in which you can ask advisors or someone else you worked closely with. (No family! I hope that is obvious but just

Then you will have a 4th option in which you can ask advisors or someone else you worked closely with. (No family! I hope that is obvious but just incase..)

Once you know the requirements/recommendations start getting these people to get know you! This post is mostly about asking professors but you can probably figure out how these rules and tips apply to the dentist you are shadowing as well:

The whole process of getting a shining letter of recommendation really starts as soon as you walk into class, your advisor’s office,  or the dental clinic. From day 1 you are creating the writer’s idea of you. Are you hardworking? Are you dedicated? Are you passionate? You do not want your letter of recommendation (LORs) to reflect someone who is always running late and frazzled.

Each class, each professor is an opportunity to get them to know YOU; The passionate, driven, motivated student who really wants to be a dentist. It may be unrealistic to show up to every single class, to ace every exam, and to meet with every professor a fair amount of times…but the effort you do put in will not go unnoticed.

  1. Attend class(or shadowing): Both physically and mentally.
  2. Sit where the teacher can notice you
  3. Respond to and ask questions: (use your judgment here…if it is something that needs to be asked after class…wait until office hours, also don’t try to be the student that rushes to the answer every single time trying to beat everyone else.)
  4. Go to office hours: Even if you don’t really need to. You can discuss your exams, what to expect in the class, or just go introduce yourself!

2.) JUST ASK

The worst they can say is no. Heck! You may not even have to deal with the rejection, they may not even reply (lol! it happened to me!). Not to sound harsh, but if they do say no or don’t respond..you didn’t want their letter anyway. There are a few reasons a professor might say no:

1.) They don’t really know you

2.) They are really, really busy

3.) They just don’t do letters of recommendation

If you find yourself in this situation, keep in mind the purpose of a LOR. When the admissions board reads these letters they do not want to know about Dr. Awesome, they want to know about the undergrad student who worked dilligently, came to every class, and would make a great addition to their incoming class. If a professor doesn’t know that about you…the letter will not serve its purpose. If the professor is too busy to take the time to write a LOR that is personal and specific to you…the letter will not serve its purpose. If the professor doesn’t do LORs…well that one is self-explanatory.

I know it can be scary and intimidating, but not asking just means you are DEFINITELY not getting a letter from them, and the longer you wait the less time they have to really think about what they want to say OR the less time you have to ask someone else.

So..how do you go about asking:

FACE TO FACE

I feel that a face-to-face meeting is always best.

“Attending shows mutual acknowledgement, respect, and action”

-GreatBusinessSchools.org

You may use email to set up the meeting (or talk to them after class). Just say something like:

“Hi Dr.Awesome (except using their name), I am applying to dental school this summer and would love to talk to you about it. Is there a time that works best for you?”

They will see that you respect them enough to take time out of your busy schedule to meet with them and they will see that you are putting extra time and effort into your application process (not just emailing each professor you had with your fingers crossed..by the way absolutely DO NOT DO THAT…professors talk!)

It may be a good idea to prepare for the meeting before you even ask.

Professors are busy people and you are adding another thing to their to-do list. So here are some tips for you to make their life a little easier:

1) Prepare to ask ATLEAST a month before you want them to submit

2) Prepare a personal statement (it can be a very rough draft)

3) Update your resume (work experience, volunteering, awards)

4) Give them a list of the classes you took with them & your final grade (if multiple)

If you give them something to work with (even if they know you really really well), they are more likely to be able to really personalize your LOR. The LOR is almost like an essay and these items are great resources for them! They will be appreciative. Plus, you are going to need your personal statement for the application anyway..you might as well start working on it.

 

EMAIL

There are times when asking them face-to-face just isn’t possible. If you are in that situation it is OK. Professors are very familiar with LORs, some of them even have a template ready to go. They understand how challenging all of this can be, so if you need to send and email…do it! Just make sure that you are very polite and understanding. If they do want to meet up…you may have to make time for this. It’ll be worth it. I had to email one of my professors about this and he was incredibly sweet about it. Actually, he was the first to submit the letter. Also, I had only met with him once during office hours (not ideal, but you do not have to be 100% perfect to get into dental school no matter what you have heard) Here is my email:Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 11.41.24 PM.png

I also emailed another professor. However, she had written me a personal statement for the DAT/MCAT review program I was attending, and when I met with her face-to-face to discuss that one we also discussed writing one for the actual application if I decided to apply. Here is what the conversation looked like:

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 11.40.09 PM.png

In your email be sure to include the list of resources I mentioned above as attachments, explain how the process works, let them know you are excited to have their support!

3.) Send Thank-you notes

Once your professors submit their letters (AADSAS will send you a notification), you should send them a hand-written thank you note. Go to Walmart, grab a pack of thank-you cards and use them! They will come in handy in the future.

Some of my friends gave their professors little thank you gifts such as coffee mugs. This is absolutely not required, and a personal choice. If you do decide to gift them, keep it small. Any large item would be unprofessional.

 

Good luck future dentist!

Smile,

Andrea

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So you want to be healthy….

I would say that the large majority of pre-professional students and student doctors are concerned about their physical health/fitness. So hopefully, this blog isn’t too off topic.

During the semester we are loaded down with classes, homework, study sessions, and just STRESS in general. Do we really have time to add in a workout routine or prep healthy meals? The short answer is yes.

Your health is an investmentNot an expense.png

Think of it this way….working out releases endorphins, endorphins make you happy and energized. This means you will be more awake and attentive for your lecture, study sesh, etc. Not to mention, if you give your brain the nutrients it wants it will give you the function YOU want!

Just so we are clear before we get started…I am NOT fit, I am NOT a nutritionist, and I am NOT qualified to tell you anything more about fitness than my experience.

STEP 1: EAT

You have no time, but you have to make time to eat right? So making small changes to your diet isn’t really going to take away that much time from your physio studying….Study at the kitchen table while everything is cooking! If anything, prepping for the week will save you time in the long run (no standing in long lines or fighting with the vending machine). Here are some fast, easy preps I like to do:

Taco bowls: 1/2 cup brown rice, 1/2 cup black beans, chicken, salsa. Done.

You can boil all the rice you need while the chicken is in the oven or the crock pot. Then measure out these portions into your containers, throw them in the fridge.

Energy Bites: These are my GO TO breakfast, snack, healthy sweet. I have linked to the recipe on “Bless this mess” so you can see the different versions. They are so good!

Kale Salad: This one is a salad, so feel free to put whatever you want in it. But I usually cram slice strawberries, kale, and blue cheese (or goat cheese) crumbles in my container and take a baggie with shredded chicken so I can heat it up separately. I also use poppy seed dressing..yum

Boiled Eggs:  You can have these boiling on a separate burner of yours stove while your brown rice is boiling for your taco bowls. These are a quick anytime snack or breakfast. Good source of protein.

Protein Shake: So I really like the vanilla chai protein from Fitmiss. I usually put one of those wine bags to keep wine chilled in the freezer over night then put a shaker bottle with almond milk in it the next day. I just take my protein powder in a plastic baggie and pour it in when I am ready.

Chicken and Broccoli:  Ok, this one is boring but also an easy prep. I buy the frozen broccoli florets from Kroger, heat them up and through about a cup of them in my container with chicken I made in the crockpot (frozen chicken in crock pot on high for about 4 hours with some random seasonings thrown in). Sometimes when I am tired of this meal (I eat it a lot) I will drizzle bbq on top of it.

Smoothies:   Need to get some greens in your system fast…smoothies are the way to go. There are a million recipes on Pinterest that you can play with. One of my favorites at the moment is just throwing in a half of a banana, about a cup or so of kale or spinach, frozen fruits of your choice and some almond milk. Simple.

Step 2: Get Active

I recently got married and I was forcing myself in the gym for about an hour and a half at least 5xs a week. I have a really awesome friend that would come up with workouts for us and we would do a mix of cardio and lifting and let me tell you…it worked! However, that isn’t very realistic during finals week and I quickly dropped the habit. Try to start simple. Can you make it three days a week for 30-45mins a day? If you are honest with yourself, you probably can. Schedule it in. My plan for the upcoming school year is to go to the gym on Saturday, Sunday, and Mondays for lifting and then do light cardio such as walking my dogs or a jog around the neighborhood & yoga when I get the chance on the other days. You do not have to get caught up in the “I DONT HAVE TWO HOURS FOR THE GYM, I BARELY HAVE TIME TO WASH MY HAIR” excuse. Just get active. Take the stairs. Relax.

Try to start simple. Can you make it three days a week for 30-45mins a day? If you are honest with yourself, you probably can. Schedule it in. My plan for the upcoming school year is to go to the gym on Saturday, Sunday, and Mondays for lifting and then do light cardio such as walking my dogs or a jog around the neighborhood & yoga when I get the chance on the other days. You do not have to get caught up in the “I DONT HAVE TWO HOURS FOR THE GYM, I BARELY HAVE TIME TO WASH MY HAIR” excuse. Just get active. Take the stairs. Relax.

I follow a lot of fitness bloggers for inspiration, I have listed some of my favs:

Katy Hearn

Whitney Simmons

Anna Victoria

Suzie B

all of these girls sell really awesome plans if you are interested.

Step 3: Don’t Give Up

I am writing this blog in the summer because I think NOW is a great time to get started, get into a routine, make a plan (it can be adjusted if need be) but once you get into fitness and start to feel the benefits both mentally and physically you won’t want to stop!

You should start each month with a set of goals (specific to selfcare). Today, I am sharing mine and would LOVE for you to tell me yours. Join me in some of my goals, tag me in your insta posts, etc.

Speaking of joining me, Anna Victoria is currently offering a free #jumpstartjune challenge! It’s only 10 mins a day… we have 10 mins a day!

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Smile,

Andrea

So it’s time to write your Personal Statement!

Tomorrow is June 1st…which means APPLICATIONS ARE OPEN!

If you are a pre-dental student you have probably been stressing about this date and working on your application. If you are a pre-dental student like me, who decided last minute she actually WAS ready to apply then you are stressing even more about this date….first tip: Breathe. It’s totally ok not to submit on June 1st. While most dental schools encourage applicants to submit their applications early, you have time. I think I submitted mine mid-July and I still got in! As always, just do your best, try to submit as early as possible and RELAX.

SO, for a lot of pre-professional students, the personal statement is the most dreaded part of the application. A lot of applicants put it off until last minute (which I do not advise). So today I am going to try to encourage you and give you some tips! (bonus free download).


The Do’s and Dont’s of writing your Personal Statement:

  • Don’t Freak Out: If you find yourself doing everything BUT your personal statement…you might be freaking out. It’s ok. This is the first time you get to tell your favorite schools who YOU are. This isn’t about numbers, scores, and classes this is about ____(your name here)_______.

DO: Get started! (download my free personal statement worksheet here.) The longer you procrastinate the less time you have to write the most perfect personal statement that shows you, your personality, and your passion.

  • Don’t worship someone else: Sometimes students get caught up in writing about this really awesome dentist who inspired them, or their really awesomoe mom, or their really awesome dog….but this isn’t a statement about them, this is a statement about YOU.

DO: You can BRIEFLY mention the people who inspire and motivate you, but really limit this info. Make sure that you are the star.

  • Don’t TELL them how great you are: Refrain from using sentences such as “I am a very hardworking and dedicated individual”. This may be true, but this  doesn’t really tell them HOW you are hardworking and dedicated. Honestly, any ol’ Joe who slept through all of his gen chem classes could write this statement…there’s just no proof.

DO: SHOW THEM how great you are. If you use an adjective such as the ones above immediately follow up it with examples. Or, ditch the adjectives completely and let them figure these traits out for themselves. For example, in the following sentence I hope you might infer that this person is hard working: 

“Motivated for my sophomore year, I worked diligently in classes, worked as a server in a campus diner and cashier at Lowe’s Home improvement” 

Notice that this sentence should not stand alone, it is part of a story and a transition in that story but you get the idea….

  • Don’t be cliché: “For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a dentist.”  Nope! Don’t freakin’ do it! Clichés, especially in the opening, are a great reason for those reviewing your paper to hit NEXT.

DO: Revise, revise, revise.  You may not even realize you are being cliché at first. After your first draft, print your paper out and pretend like you are a grumpy resident who has read far too many personal statements. Highlight every sentence or phrase that could have (and probably has been) written by someone else. 

  • Don’t Lie: This should be a no-brainer, but some people still do it. Anything in your personal statement, application, etc. is going to be under a microscope. They can ask you about ANYTHING…so do not lie, do not embellish, and do not add creative little details that actually didn’t happen. If they don’t see through it in the essay (which they probably will), it will come up in your interview.

DO:  Be yourself! It may take a little while for you to realize it, but if you have made it this far: YOU ARE AWESOME. Talk about that. Talk about the things that make you, you. Have you overcome some challenges? Work experience? You can get a little personal, it is your PERSONAL statement after all (haha! had to…sorry)

  • Don’t forget the spell check!: Another no brainer, but so very important. A lady who reads personal statements for a dental school I applied to told me that they pull each personal statement up on the mega board and read it together. I can guarantee that someone in that room will see that grammar error, spelling error, or typo that your brain overlooked because it knew what you were trying to say. 

DO: REVISE (some more). Take advantage of your resources. Ask multiple people to review your personal statement, run it through Grammarly, spell check, etc. Also, asking multiple people to read over your personal statement (their unique opinions will give you a sample of the various opinions of the committee board…use them to create the feel you want

 

BONUS: Personal Statement Worksheet

 

Ok guys, that’s all I can think of for now! I encourage you to google examples, talk to people who have experience on admissions boards if you can and seriously…BE YOURSELF.

If you have any questions or comments let me know! I will try to get back with you ASAP since I know that this is a very urgent and important time of year! Sending so much love and good luck your way!

Smile,

Andrea

 

 

Memorial Day

I hope that whoever you are, you are surrounded by family and those you love today. Today is a day to celebrate life. Celebrate the lives of those still with us, but do not forget those who laid down their lives so that we are alive and free today.

If you are  a pre-dent thinking about how you could serve our country here are some links to check out:

Army

Air Force

Navy

So its time to take the DAT

1.) Make a Plan and Stick to It. 

You have probably heard the saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, its true. My first piece of advice for you is to sit down and make a plan. Studying for the DAT is now your job and you are the manager…make the schedule!

For a great example of a study schedule check out Stephanie’s (author of Mirror & Explorer)

If you are working or going to classes on top of studying for the DAT it might be a good idea to make your schedule out weekly rather than monthly.

2.) Find the Right Study Material

It will be difficult to sort through what you need, don’t get caught up in buying too much stuff. Honestly, you may not have time for all of it! Instead, do your research and select a few resources that you think will be most beneficial based on your strengths and weaknesses. I listed my favorite below:

1.) Kaplan is amazing.  I know several people who scored well and only used the Kaplan program.

Pros:  Very organized, easy to understand and use. It has everything you need to prepare (practice tests, flashcards, practice problems, etc.) Kaplan will keep you focused and on schedule. They also offer extensions and money back guarantees if you do not score well after completing their course.

Cons: Pricey! I got really lucky and the Kaplan program was included in the MCAT/DAT Review program I participated in. I was lucky enough to have an “in person” class but if you decide to go with Kaplan I would definitely recommend at least doing the “live online” course.

2.)  Chad should become your best friend. 

I’m not even going to do a pro/con for this because you need him. Chad’s videos can be accessed through chemistryprep.com. I used him to study for the general chemistry and organic chemistry portions and guess what…they were my highest scores! That is saying a lot considering that I  actually received a C two of those classes (gen chem 2 and ochem 1).

The videos are not expensive and you can even purchase a bundle so you have access to all of the course. I actually purchased the bundle again after taking my DAT because I used his physics and biochemistry lessons.

Everything just makes sense when you learn from Chad.

3.) DAT DESTROYER

When it comes to the math portion of the exam it’s all about practice, practice, practice. The DAT Destroyer gives you just that. If nothing else I highly recommend buying “Math Destroyer”.

4.) Free Material:

https://datbootcamp.com/classroom/perceptual-ability/top-front-end-visualizer/ 

http://datgenius.com/Pledge/cdriver/index.html

http:/khanacademy.org

3.) Take Multiple Practice Exams

This is another reason why I like Kaplan! They provide you with more than enough full-length practice exams and give you a very detailed breakdown of your scores and what types of questions you are missing

How to use practice exams:

  1. Take a practice exam before you study. What are you good at? What did you expect to be higher? lower? are there any trends in the questions you missed?
  2. Study for 2 weeks -take another full-length practice exam.
    • full length is important to condition you mentally and physically to take a 4 hour test.
    • Notice what you did well on but really analyze what you missed. I recommend making a spreadsheet with the subject, the question, the correct answer and your answer. Then write a little note explaining why you missed it and how you can avoid that mistake next time. For example:Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 7.39.10 PM.png
  3. Study some more and take another practice test. Repeat step 2.
  4. 3 days before exam day: Take a final FULL-LENGTH practice exam, make your spreadsheet. Review areas that you are weakest in. Notice your improvements.

4.) Have a Designated Study Area

It’s summer. You roommates want to relax and binge watch Netflix and everyone else is posting their beach selfies. Not you, your cortisol levels are at an all-time high and you are studying for the most important test of your life (so far).

This is where having a designated study area (DSA) is vital. Go to a cubby in the campus library, the public library, desk at your fav coffee shop, or even the desk in your room. Wherever your quiet place is, make sure that once you enter it you are unplugged and focused. When you come here it is time to study and study only. No facebooking, blogging, or crying….STUDY!

I recommend studying in 3-hour blocks (any more and you probably will lose focus), bring water, all your study supplies, and healthy snacks.  If one DSA gets old, go to another one…but keep the same rules.

5.) Stay Healthy

This one is important. When I am in intense study mode I tend to gain 10 pounds. I start obsessing over vanilla coca-cola and all the chips and chocolate I can get my hands on.

But your brain doesn’t want sugary processed junk….Think about all the ATP you are using, give your brain the nutrients it really needs to do its job.

You also should try to fit in regular exercise and a good sleep schedule. A healthy body is a happy body and a happy body scores well on the DAT.

6.) Enjoy a Day Off

MY NUMBER ONE PIECE OF ADVICE: Take a day off. I know you think I am crazy, but trust me. It’s for the best.

For the day before the test, it is best to not think about the exam (if this scares you too much then you can go over some flash cards…but that’s it!). You have studied hard and you are going to do amazing, take a deep breath and stay positive. Cramming last minute just does not work for a test like this. You would be hurting yourself more than helping at this point…so don’t do it!

Your friends and family are going to be proud and excited for you so you can expect your phone to blow up the day before and the day of the test. Just turn it off.

Most importantly, remember that your DAT score does not define you. It is only one piece of your application. You get to show the admissions board what does define you (your drive, your compassion, your perseverance, and passion) in the interviews and personal statement. I did not score very well on the DAT…but guess what…I’m still going to dental school next year! Of course, you need to try your best but try to stay calm and remember there is more to a dentist than his/her standardized test taking skills.

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as always, let me know if you have any questions or concerns. I know I had about a billion questions about the DAT when I was preparing for it!!

Smile,

Andrea