May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


Student Recommendation FAQ

November 2012 Volume XLVIII Number 6

 A. Jeffrey Wood, D.D.S., professor and chair, Pediatric Dentistry, University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry


Reviewed August 2012

Anne Wells, Ed.D., senior vice president for Educational Pathways, American Dental Education Association

Martin Donaldson, D.D.S., postgraduate program director, Pediatric Dentistry, University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Students or alumni applying for post-doctoral programs (Pediatric Dentistry, GPR, AEGD, etc.) are required to solicit recommendations as part of their ADEA Postgraduate Application Support Service (PASS) packet, which is forwarded to the applicants selected programs by PASS once it is complete.

The evaluation is far more than a letter of support; it is a critical assessment of both a candidates strengths and weaknesses based on your knowledge of the applicant.

Your evaluation is essential to program directors in selecting the most qualified candidates; candidates who will be successful residents and great pediatric dentists. This is part of shaping the future of our profession!

We hope that the following FAQ will be helpful.

What information do I need to evaluate an applicant?

To give an accurate, informative evaluation of a student it is important that you have adequate information in addition to your impressions from working with them. You may want to request the following before evaluating applicants:

A current curriculum vitae (CV). There are a variety of online resources available to assist students with preparing a CV.

A current copy of their school transcript an "unofficial" copy of the transcript is adequate for this purpose. Former

students can request that the schools registrars’ office can supply an unofficial copy of the dental school transcript.

The personal statement which they are submitting to PASS. Even a draft copy is usually adequate.

Many faculty and administrators may require that the students waive their right to review their recommendation; otherwise students are advised to seek evaluations elsewhere. This by no means is a requirement, but an applicants unwillingness to waive review of your recommendation should be a red flag, both to you and to the program director.

If your experiences with an applicant arent recent, once you have reviewed the requested materials it is completely appropriate to arrange to speak with the applicant (in person, by phone, by e-mail) about their plans and any other information that you feel would be beneficial to your evaluation.

What information are program directors looking for?

Each program has specific qualities and qualifications which they prioritize, but in general they are looking for an honest, unbiased professional evaluation of strengths and weaknesses in the following:

The applicants qualification for postdoctoral training: academic achievement in dental school, intellectual ability (ability to understand, connect and apply information clinically), experiences in the specialty area, etc.

The applicants "teachability": her work ethic, typical level of preparation, their reaction to criticism and their ability to improve based upon criticism, their attitude toward learning and their receptiveness to instruction, their ability to learn from and with other students/residents, etc.

The applicants maturity in learning/clinical environments

The applicants demeanor with others: ability to relate to patients and patient families, colleagues, faculty, staff, other professionals, etc.

Your experience with the applicant and your honest estimate of their potential, both as a resident and as a practitioner.

Generally, think of the qualities which make a good resident and practitioner, and comment upon those.


How will I submit my evaluation for an applicant?


There are two common types of evaluations, either or both of which the applicants may request from you:


ADEA PASS Professional Evaluation. You may receive an e-mail request to complete this evaluation. This evaluation is completed via a Web link to a site where you must sign-in before completing the evaluation. You will be given a log in (usually your e-mail address) and a password in the request

e-mail. The evaluation addresses a number of areas and also allows you to submit a narrative recommendation at the end (a simple way is to cut and paste the formal recommendation letter for the student here).


You will indicate how long you have known the applicant and in what capacities. Next the PASS evaluation asks you to evaluate the applicant on the following attributes:


Professional Appearance/Demeanor


Assumes Responsibility







Ability to Accept Criticism

Ethical Behavior

Interpersonal/Communication Skills

Problem Solving Skills

Verbal Skills

Writing Skills

Clinical Skills

Community Service Experience

Didactic Knowledge

Research Experience

Student Government Experience

Teaching Experience

It also provides a large narrative field for general comments or into which you can insert your formal recommendation letter if you have prepared one.

Once you have completed all fields you will be asked to "Save" the evaluation. Next you will be prompted to review your entries and when you have confirmed that they are correct, you can click the "Submit" button to forward the evaluation to PASS. Once your evaluation has been submitted it cannot be changed. You will receive an e-mail receipt showing that you have completed the evaluation and the applicant will be notified as well.

ETS Professional Potential Index (PPI). You may receive an e-mail request to accept the invitation to evaluate an applicant. Clicking "Accept" in the e-mail notifies the applicant that you have agreed to evaluate them and takes you to a website where you will create your own log on and password for your first evaluation; the same logon and password are used for subsequent PPI evaluations of other applicants. Once you have accepted the applicants invitation to evaluate them, the website provides a link on which you can click to complete the evaluation.

First, indicate how long you have known the applicant and what capacities. The PPI evaluation consists of a number of parameters on which you are asked to rank the applicant:

Knowledge & Creativity

Communication Skills



Planning & Organization

Ethics & Integrity

Each of the above categories contains specific questions and also contains a field for related narrative comments be sure to give narrative comments (just a few sentences), as program directors find these as useful, if not more useful, than the rank scores. Be sure that your narrative comments are specific, possibly giving examples of an applicants qualification in the area instead of more generic comments such as "great student" or "very smart," etc. There is also a narrative field for summary comments into which you can insert your formal recommendation letter if you have prepared one.

Finally, you are asked to rank yourself as an evaluator; do you tend to be an easy or tough rater?

Assistance with either of these evaluations is available from:

ADEA PASS Customer Service (M-F 9-4:30 ET) (617) 612-2065

What is the deadline for student evaluations?

It is important to submit your evaluations as soon as possible after you receive the request. The applicants packet will not be sent out to programs until it is complete, thus one delayed recommendation will delay the entire application. There is a distinct advantage for the applicant if his or her ADEA Professional PASS application is complete (including all evaluations and PPI evaluations submitted) before programs’ deadline dates. Some programs do not review applications received after their deadline date.

The deadline for student evaluations via PASS is the individual program application deadline as provided to ADEA PASS. The applicant can provide you with the earliest deadline from the programs to which he or she is applying if necessary.

Will I be asked for a formal letter of recommendation?

Because the application process has moved primarily to an online submission format, formal letters of recommendation, if requested at all, are typically part of a secondary application required by some individual programs. These letters should be addressed specifically to the program director (by name) of the requesting program. Often these requests will come a month or more after programs receive an applicants ADEA PASS application packet.

The turn-around time for submission of these letters can be quite short. For this reason, you may want to compose a formal recommendation letter, formatted for letterhead, as you complete the online evaluations. You can then cut and paste the content of the letter into the large comment field at the end of either the PASS or PPI online evaluations. Should a formal letter be required by individual programs, simply insert the program directors name and address and the letter is ready to print and send.

When sending these letters to the programs, they should be mailed directly to the program director. When these letters are to be compiled by the applicant and submitted with his or her other secondary application materials, be sure to sign across the flap of the sealed envelope as many programs require this.

In conclusion, we all have valuable insights to share with programs who are considering our students or former students for their programs. As you know, being a great pediatric dentist goes far beyond grades and class rankings, thus your honest and

thoughtful evaluation of candidates is arguably one of the most important factors that programs need to make the best choices. Take the time to do this well our specialty depends upon it!