Updated: Aug 23
You've done your shadowing, formed great relationships, and learned tons about dentistry. Now it's time to apply to dental school. Congratulations!
One of the most important factors for your application are your letters of recommendation.
Typically, at least one of your letters of recommendation is required to come from a dentist. Who better to write your letter than the dentist that you have been shadowing for years?
However, it can feel awkward to many to actually ask the dentist. In this article, we will go through how to ask a dentist for a letter of recommendation.
Steps to Ask for a Dental School Letter of Recommendation
First, Make sure you Have a Good Relationship
This is probably the most important factor to consider before asking for a letter of recommendation. If the dentist doesn't really know you, how would you expect them to write a good letter of recommendation? What will likely happen is they will write something very generic. It likely wouldn't be anything bad, but in order to get into dental school, you want to stand out.
If you have been shadowing the correct way and consistently dental shadowed with the doctor, you should have a good feeling about the way the doctor feels about you.
Ask for the Letter of Recommendation in Person
Although this is not the easiest for some students, we believe it is super important to ask the dentist in person. We believe it is helpful for many reasons.
You can properly thank the dentist for allowing you to shadow them and express your thankfulness. While an email or card does a great job expressing your thankfulness, actually thanking the dentist face-to-face allows for greater expression. They will receive your thankfulness not only through your words but also through your body language and tone.
It takes courage. Just showing that you are willing to ask the dentist face-to-face demonstrates that you have good conversational skills, which are vital to a dentist's job.
It is more professional. Writing a really good letter of recommendation is no small feat. It will likely take the dentist some time to get their letter just right. A request this big should be done in a professional manner.
When to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
Many students worry about when exactly to ask for a letter of recommendation from the dentist.
Honestly, this is up to you.
We would recommend asking at least a month before you apply in order to give the dentist enough time to write the letter. Our recommendation would be to ask on the second to last time you will be shadowing the dentist (about 2 months before you apply). With this approach, you will be giving the dentist plenty of time to write the letter, and you will see them one more time to discuss the letter before you're too busy with the DAT your application, and school.
When you return again to shadow for one last session, you can thank them one more time for being willing to write you a letter of recommendation for dental school and explain how the letter will be sent in.
Hopefully, with your good character and attitude of gratitude, this will lead to a great letter for you!
What to Say when Asking for a Letter of Recommendation
Now that you know when to ask for your letter of recommendation, how should you actually go about asking?
Many students feel awkward asking. They feel that the dentist already has so much going on and by asking, you are adding to their already long to-do list. However, if you have really put in the time to get to know the dentist and have been actively engaged when shadowing, the dentist will more than likely be excited to write you a great letter of recommendation.
Once it is one of your last times shadowing, before leaving we would simply say to the dentist before leaving for the day "Could I talk to you for just a minute before I go?".
Simply getting these words out will likely be the hardest part for most students. Practice it a few times at home if you need to, but once you've asked the dentist to chat, the rest is a piece of cake!
From here we would say something along these lines:
"Dr. _______ I want to thank you for allowing me to spend so many hours shadowing you over the months/years. I have learned so much about dentistry and being in your office has furthered my desire to become a dentist. I am planning on submitting my dental school application this summer, and it would mean a lot to me if you would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for me. Would you be willing to do that?"
Short, simple, and to the point. If you're feeling a bit nervous about what you might say, write it down a practice it a couple of times with a friend or in the mirror. Just know, the worst they could say is no, but if you've been actively visiting them, it's nearly a 100% chance they will say yes.
Have a copy of your CV prepared. Some doctors may want a copy of your CV in order to see what else you have been involved with while preparing for dental school. This isn't always the case, but be sure to have it ready just in case.
Don't forget to send a "Thank You" Letter. Even though you have thanked the dentist in person before asking for your letter of recommendation, you can never thank the dentist enough for all they have taught you and for allowing you to be in their office.
Lastly, be confident! Everything will work out great!
What questions do you have about asking a dentist for a letter of recommendation? Did this article make you feel more confident about asking? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!