Gaining Acceptance to a Postdoctoral Periodontal Program

Suggestions for strengthening one's application to a postdoctoral periodontal program, preparing for an interview, interview follow-up, and acceptance.

Strengthening Your Application

Prepare early to market yourself. Get to know a faculty member on a personal level, and undertake projects with faculty members. This will strengthen your letters of recommendation.

Do something extra while in dental school. Some suggestions:

  • Join a professional organization of the specialty that interests you
  • Do research
  • Present table clinics;
  • Try to publish work in your specific area
  • Make presentations at national meetings
  • Develop programs and seminars
  • Be a student teacher or tutor

Write strong letters of reference. When writing a letter about yourself, be concise and convincing. Avoid rambling. This is the time to sell yourself. Grammar and punctuation are important. Accuracy and writing style reflect your communication skills as a professional.

Tips for the Interview

While these may seem to be common sense, candidates often appear unprepared or unprofessional because they don't give the following items enough attention.

Be sure that you truly desire admission to the program for which you are interviewing. Remember that each interview requires time and money for both you and the program. A lack of interest surfaces quickly and results in a waste of resources for both parties, so don't use interviews as practice sessions.

Dress appropriately. Your attire should be professional and appropriate for an interview. Look like yourself - your best self.

Be honest and sincere when you ask or answer questions during the interview. Be friendly and appreciative of the opportunity to visit the program. Your questions and comments as a prospective specialist will be remembered in the future.

Be prepared. Do your homework:

  • Know the nature of the program and its emphasis
  • Know the names of the faculty
  • Read their publications (You may have to call the program director in advance to obtain this information)

Ask questions. Find out as much as you can about the program. Sensible questions reflect your intelligence, integrity, and motivation. If you have not already done so, ask your interviewers if it would be possible for you to speak with graduate students at their institution. Be aware of personalities that may or may not be compatible with yours.

Be flattering but convincing. Don't overdo it. False flattery is easily detected. Indicate what you can add or offer to the programs once accepted. State your specific areas of interest and elaborate on the experience you have had or plan to obtain.

Indicate your interest in the program. Before leaving, stop by the office of the department chairman to say thank you and goodbye. If you are very interested in the program, now is the time to say so.


Before leaving the interview, be sure to find out what happens next. When will you receive the notice of acceptance or rejection? Immediately after the interview, send a thank-you note to the program director or the individual responsible for setting up and conducting the interview. Upon the expected date of notification, write or call to indicate that you're still interested in the program, and that you would like to be notified as to which candidates have been accepted. If some time passes with no word from the program, write or call again to indicate your need to finalize your career plans. Request notification in writing, if possible.


Be honest with the programs to which you have applied. If possible, delay responding to programs with early acceptance if you are seriously considering another program from which you have not yet heard. Ask for an extension to your deadline, if necessary. Do not accept and then reject a program. The people at the program you reject will be your future colleagues. It can be tense and embarrassing if hard feelings arise because you broke an acceptance contract.

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