Preparing for The "Match" Process

Posted by Dr. Patrice Smith on Sat, Feb 06, 2016 @ 12:00 PM


By now many of you have heard about the “Match” and, if you’re like I was back in dental school, you may be thoroughly confused about it. Since the Match process can be a little daunting, I’m going to explain how it actually works. I will also include a general schedule of dates, based on some of my experiences with the Match, in order to clarify the process and provide you with a reference when it comes time for you to participate.

What is the Match, anyway? According to ADEA, the postdoctoral dental match program is the mechanism used by some postdoctoral dental education programs to determine the final placement of applicants into positions. Simply put, it helps applicants get into their choice programs and also helps programs obtain their choice applicants.

Think of a relationship: Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl, he flirts with girl; now girl likes boy. Boy and girl think they would be great together. Boy chooses girl to be his main girl but still keeps a few girls on standby just in case it turns out that girl doesn’t like him as much as he thinks she does, and vice versa. If it turns out the feelings are mutual, they choose each other and live in mutual happiness together. If not, then they must go down the list and choose the next best fit. Relationships aren’t complicated at all!

The Match should not be confused with PASS; they are separate entities. PASS is the centralized application service itself, which collects and distributes information to the different programs – this initiates the application process. Recall when you applied to dental school. The PASS would be akin to the AADSAS application system/process, whereas the Match is used by applicants and programs to determine final placement after the completion of application evaluation.

Let us assume you have chosen not to join the 48% of dental school graduates that go straight into private practice after school (according to a 2013 ADEA survey) and decided to take your education a step further. This means once again applying to different schools and programs, much like you did for dental school.

Ideally you would know early enough what you wanted to do after graduation or have figured it out at least by your third year. At the minimum, you would need to know that you wanted to continue your education after dental school and in which area of study.

The postdoctoral dental education programs that participate in the Match are Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD), General Practice Residency (GPR), Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS), Orthodontics (ORTHO), Pediatric Dentistry (PED), and Dental Anesthesia (ANES).

The best way to approach this is with a little organization. Start by identifying your desired program(s), and find out if they participate in the Match process. If possible, visit these programs and ensure that the program directors, attendings, faculty, and residents know of your interests in their particular program. By doing this preparation, you will have a good idea of which program best fits you and your educational needs.

The PASS application typically opens in May of each year. The deadlines for submission of your application will depend on the type of program to which you are applying to the particular program’s deadline. In addition, there are two phases of the Match process:

  • Phase I: Orthodontics and Anesthesiology Programs. Rank order lists are submitted late November each year for Match results in early December.
  • Phase II: General Practice Residencies (GPR), Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD), Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS), and Pediatric Dentistry (PED) programs. Rank order lists are submitted in early January of each year for match results in late January.

You must be organized in order to meet these deadlines and you need to ensure that you have all the required documentation loaded on time in the PASS application in order to submit on time.

Below I outline a general timeline that I used when applying to Orthodontics programs. Regardless of the program to which you’re applying, this timeline can be used to keep yourself organized and on task.

Applications open in May annually for acceptance into programs in July of the following year.

  • January – Happy New Year!! Identify and write out a list of potential programs that you would like to apply to. Re-visit this list often to update and make changes as necessary. Plan to visit these programs.
  • February – Write first draft of Personal statement. Identify individuals from whom you would like to get letters of recommendation and Personal Potential Index (PPIs) from and ask if they would be so kind as to write you one.
  • March – Edit Personal statement. Possibly request a meeting with the dean of your school and alert him of your post-graduate plans. Alert him that you will need a letter of recommendation from him soon. This personal touch may lead to him/her writing you a non-generic LOR.
  • April – Edit personal statement. Finalize your list of schools/programs.
  • May – Applications are open. Fill in all the areas of the PASS application that you can and request LORs and PPIs, board scores and transcripts.
  • June – Requested LORs, PPIs, board scores and transcripts should be in. There may be a waiting period as some professors can be slow in uploading LORs.
  • July – Submit application. Most of my deadlines for Orthodontics are in August.
  • August – Waiting period/correspondence from schools/programs.
  • September – Waiting period/correspondence from schools/programs/Interviews.
  • October – Interviews.
  • November – Interviews; submit rank order list for Match.
  • December – Match day this month for Orthodontics and Anesthesiology.
  • January – Submit rank order list for GPR, AEGD, OMS, PEDS.
  • May – Finish dental school requirements and graduate
  • July – Start program.

To download this timeline as a PDF for future reference, simply click here.

Also, for a similar perspective on the Match, you can listen to Dr. Matthew Ronconi’s podcast here or Student Ambassador Sukhmani Multani's blog post here.


Have more questions about the process or want to talk to others who have also experienced the process, like me? Enroll in THE NEXTDDS today to interact with dental students just like I was; enrollment is completely free.

Enroll Now!

Tags: Match Process, The Match, Match

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