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- Personal statement
Your personal statement is a one-page essay (not to exceed 4,500 characters, including spaces, carriages, numbers, letters, etc.) that gives dental schools a clear picture of who you are and, most importantly, why you want to pursue a career in dentistry.
Although there is no set of rules mandating what a strong personal statement should include, here are a few tips to help you successfully craft a winning personal statement:
- Explain a defining moment that helped steer you toward a career in dentistry. Consider using that moment as the focal point of your essay.
- Be colorful, positive, imaginative and personal when discussing why you’re a good candidate for dental school. Ask yourself—in a pile of 100 applications, would I enjoy reading my statement? Be sure to convey your passion for dentistry in your statement.
- Be yourself. Don’t use jargon, clichés or big phrases that you would not use in daily conversation. Remember, dental schools want to know about the real you.
- Be original and thoughtful: Discuss how you would contribute to the profession and patient care, all of which will help you stand out from other applicants.
- Tell your story—make sure the essay is your story, not someone else’s.
- Recruit a friend. Ask a friend, relative or faculty advisor to read your essay and provide constructive criticism. Ask them to think about whether the essay is a good representation of your character, and what they know of your ideals and aspirations.
- Give yourself time to organize your thoughts, write well and edit as necessary. And don’t forget to proofread, proofread, proofread!
Here are a few things to avoid when writing your personal statement:
- Writing what you think the admissions committee wants to hear.
- Using a gimmicky style or format.
- Summarizing your resume or repeating information directly from your transcripts or recommendation letters.
- Emphasizing the negative.
- Waiting until the last minute to get started on your statement.
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7 Dental School Personal Statement Examples in
Including key tips for a strong dental school personal statement.
Article Contents 29 min read
Before you start crafting your own stellar dental school personal statement, you must review some dental school personal statement examples. Why? These sample essays can help you brainstorm and reflect on what you would like to include in your essay. In this blog, we'll first dive into some dental school personal statement examples from our own past successful students, and then our dental school advisors will go over our proven strategies to help you create your own from scratch! As you review these examples keep in mind that these are final works and the result of multiple rounds of reviews by our admissions experts as part of our application review programs. Writing fantastic statements for dental school requires patience and multiple rounds of revisions before a perfect statement can be written.
Note : If you want us to help you with your applications, interviews and/or standardized tests, book a free strategy call . If you are a university, business, or student organization representative and want to partner with us, visit our partnerships page .
Listen to the blog!
Dental School Personal Statement Example #1
"In the final moments of a key game in a hockey tournament, I jumped over the boards and onto the ice without putting my mouth guard back in place. It was attached to my helmet, but I had a chance for the puck, and I took it. Moments later, an opponent’s stick caught me in the face, knocking out my front tooth. Play stopped, and my team found my tooth on the ice. I looked to the bleachers. My mom was already on the phone getting initial instructions from our dentist for saving the tooth. Within 15 minutes, we were outside the clinic as my dentist unlocked the door, despite it being a Saturday night. As I was treated within half an hour, my tooth could be saved by stabilizing it as it healed. Until that moment, I thought of my dentist as someone I only saw every six months; I hadn’t seen her as a critical part of my healthcare team.
I realized from this experience that time is a factor in dental care, and thus a career in dentistry. My tooth was saved because I lived in an urban centre and had immediate access to care, not to mention the continuity of care I’ve had since I was a child. My mother is employed and has good dental coverage, but this is not the case for many. Without timely check-ups, both oral and medical issues that could be detected and prevented can become more serious conditions.
"“Ready, Set, Bake,” shouted the host of Bake-Off. I was 16 and a contestant of a televised baking show. Our 6th challenge gave us 3 hours to perfectly bake the most decadent and timing consuming dessert: the mille-feuille – layers of puff pastry, filled with whipped cream and custard, and glazed on top. Despite being the only teenager in a field of contestants ranging from 20-70 years of age, I’d made it through several days of cuts for one of the spots on the show. I wish I could say that my dessert was a masterpiece, but as the timer counted down and I plated it, the filling oozed, and the pastry crumbled. I’d made to the Top Six, but the mille-feuille defeated me and I was asked to hang up my apron. As I reflect on this experience, the solo and team challenges, the practice to get on the show, the mastery needed to gain a top spot, I realize that I’m grateful even for the defeat, because I learned valuable lessons that helped me develop key qualities and skills that are in-line with the core competencies necessary for dentistry, my chosen profession. Both dentistry and competitive baking require innovation and excellence, communication and accountability, and the necessity of precision, focus, and a steady hand.
Both of my parents are dentists. While the influence of their careers on my own access to knowledge cannot be underestimated, I have been deeply cognizant of making an autonomous career decision. That decision is my own, but my parents have admittedly opened unique conversations around ethics, technology, and patient care to me. My earliest memories include attending dental conferences with them and being encouraged to explore the Exhibits Floor, where I learned about the newest dental products and treatments and “test drove” the latest innovations in dentistry. I developed an aptitude for predicting which products and technologies were gimmicks and which would effectively support excellence in patient care. This knack has made me something of an informal consultant for my parents and their colleagues, who value my insights on innovation and efficacy of new treatments.
While technology is at the forefront of change, what remains consistent over time is the importance of communication and accountability to provide excellent patient care. I’ve had the privilege to shadow Dr. Ann Lee, an oral surgeon, over the past 3 years. Among many things, she showed me that inherent in communication is accountability. Many of her patients are children and teens having teeth extracted for orthodontic reasons. The son of a family who had been Dr. Lee’s patients for over a decade arrived for a complicated wisdom tooth extraction. Despite familiarity with the family, the doctor painstakingly reviewed the extraction process to prepare them effectively. The procedure went well in the office; however, on the way home, the boy began haemorrhaging. An artery had been compromised during the surgery. I watched as Dr. Lee packed bone wax around the artery to stem the bleeding. What struck me about this experience was the standard of accountability to which the surgeon held herself, as she communicated with the family by phone, made a house call later that evening on her way home, and remained on-call over the weekend to ensure the safety and healing of the child. The family maintained their trust in Dr. Lee because of her open communication and sense of accountability. I also learned just how fragile and technical dental work is, requiring both dexterity and precision.
Volunteering in a dental brigade in Haiti, Mirlande, 6, taught me about vulnerability and trust. Mirlande was scared and reluctant to open her mouth for her first dental exam. I took her aside and, as she watched, I carved a perfect tooth from soap using dental instruments. I carved slowly and precisely, and then presented her with the gift. She put the tooth in her pocket and then allowed me to clean her teeth. I was immediately struck by the vulnerability of not only soft tissue, but of hearts, as she leaned back and opened her mouth in trust. This moment solidified my decision to become a dentist.
Though the earlier comparison between baking and dentistry is merely an analogy, it is one that suggests I have developed key skills and am aware of the core competencies a dentist must hold to best serve their patients professionally and ethically. Dentistry is my vocation, baking a hobby, but both speak to my investment in excellence, precision, and doing for others." (4500 characters, including spaces)
If you're applying to dental schools in Canada or the US, a personal statement, or similar essay, is often required as part of your application package, regardless of whether you're applying through AADSAS or TMDSAS . This blog will help you understand the key things you must do (and that you must avoid) in composing your essay, with dental school personal statement examples that demonstrate these strategies, so that you can draft the strongest, most compelling dental school personal statement possible.
What is a Dental School Personal Statement?
A dental school personal statement is your opportunity to show admissions committees who you are as a person and aspiring dental professional, aside from your CV, GPA, Dental Aptitude Test (DAT) score, and other quantitative data. As any personal statement essay, the dental school personal essay should be a narrative account that gives the admissions committee the opportunity to learn more about you than what can be conveyed in a dry document like a CV or transcript.
For dental school ADEA AADSAS applications, the American Dental Education Association requires an essay of no more than 4,500 characters (including spaces), which must demonstrate your key personal qualities, aspirations, and reasons for pursuing a career in dentistry to the schools to which you are applying. This process isn’t as standardized in Canadian programs, so you’ll need to check the application requirements for the programs and schools to which you are applying to see if a personal statement is required. In doing so, you can also learn whether there are any specific requirements regarding the length of the essay, whether there is a specific prompt to which you must respond in your dental school personal statement, and whether there are any other application requirements.
Qualities of a Strong Dental School Personal Statement
1. tell a story.
Ideally, you will craft a story or detail a defining moment that helped you realize why this is the profession you want to pursue. Providing an anecdote or vignette – perhaps an experience you’ve had as a dental patient, an interaction you’ve witnessed as a volunteer or while shadowing a dental care professional, a story about someone you know, etc., – is often a useful way of giving the evaluators a window into your life and motivations.
To tell a great story, "show, don't tell" - here's a video that breaks down this concept:
Your dental school personal statement should also express why you are a strong candidate and a "good fit" for the school and program, while stirring the interest of your reader. Review our blog, dental school acceptance rates to find out which schools are best suited for you. Admissions committees will review hundreds of these personal statements, so draw on the values of the profession and the mission of the institution to highlight your alignment with the vision and goals of this vocation, and do so in a way that is engaging and enjoyable to read. Again, narrative is a great way of doing this – people love stories and are often naturally drawn in by them. Bear this in mind as you begin drafting your essay.
3. Be authentic and readable
In your personal statement, you want to present your very best self, emphasizing your genuine passion for the field and your enthusiasm for working in a healthcare profession like dentistry. Don’t try to cram in complicated terminology or jargon, thinking it will make you sound smarter (it won’t – true experts know how to explain their ideas effectively to an audience of non-specialists), and don’t rely on clichés (e.g., “I want to help people” – this is a lovely desire, but it’s over-used and too generic). Use polished prose that represents your genuine voice and reasons for pursuing the profession, and write in a way that will be comprehensible even to those outside this particular specialization.
4. Express your desired contributions to the field
Quite simply, you need to explain why you will be a good dentist, in both practical terms and in terms of devoting yourself to patient care. What does it mean to you to dedicate yourself to the profession and to patients? What experiences have you had with the dental profession so far, and how have these impacted you? What are your priorities as an aspiring dentist? Thinking through these questions, while also pointing to concrete experiences or accomplishments that support your responses, will help the committee see not just who you are now, but who you are working to become as you pursue the goal of becoming a dental professional.
Here's a great video on where to look for inspiration when trying create a dental school personal statement:
Things to Avoid in a Dental School Personal Statement
Here are some key “don’ts” in composing your dental school personal statement:
1. Don’t summarize your CV
Your personal statement shouldn’t simply repeat information available elsewhere in your application materials. Referring to experiences discussed in those materials, for the purpose of expanding on them or contextualizing them, is fine. Just ensure that you’re actually doing that work and demonstrating the significance of the experience(s) you describe. For example, if your CV indicates that you’ve done volunteer work at a dental clinic or with an organization, it’s totally fine to discuss this volunteer work in your personal statement; however, that discussion must go beyond what is offered in your other application materials. Your dental school personal statement shouldn't be a dry recitation of events in your CV. It should be a persuasive and engaging work that draws on just a few select experiences that epitomize your interests, priorities, and the work you've done so far in working toward becoming a dentist. For example, instead of giving names, dates, and general facts about your experience as a volunteer, you can tell a story of a particularly meaningful accomplishment or interaction, reflecting on how it helped solidify your desire to pursue this career.
If you’ve overcome challenges or if there are less-than-ideal aspects of your educational experience so far (such as a term where your GPA took a dip), it’s fine to address these in a personal statement essay. However, it is crucial that you reflect on this from a perspective of growth, resiliency, and capacity for improvement, rather than focusing on the negatives. If your grades took a hit one term because of extenuating circumstances, by all means, take some time to explain this, if you think it will be helpful (and it often is). However, the discussion around the circumstances should be minimal – just a set-up for a more substantial discussion of what you learned, how you grew, etc. – and you shouldn’t use this as an opportunity to make excuses. Rather, briefly describe the event, own up to your mistake or misstep (if applicable), and then spend the most time explaining how you addressed the issue, how you moved past it, and why you will be a better future professional for having gone through it.
3. Don’t wait until the last minute
Probably the biggest mistake students make is to not take the personal statement seriously enough, waiting until just a few days before it’s due to even begin. You must begin early – a strong personal statement essay can take months and numerous revisions to be the best it can possibly be. You need to put a lot of thought into this document, as it is a very important component of your application. This is your chance – and often your only chance – to address the evaluators on a human level, prior to answering dental school interview questions , including MMI questions . So, rather than thinking of this as a chore, think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate your best self to the admissions committee.
4. Don’t submit your dental school personal statement without getting expert feedback
The personal statement isn’t just about what you’ve done, it’s about who you are – what your values are, what your priorities are, what your reasons for pursuing this profession are, and how all of these things align with the discipline and school you are approaching with your application package. Getting expert feedback from those on the “other side” of such applications, those who have gone through the process successfully or those who have been part of admissions committees, will give you incredibly valuable insights into how to make your own personal experiences stand out and work for you most effectively. At this stage of your professional development, you face a wealth of “unknown-unknowns”; i.e., things that you don’t even know to look for or consider, because it's likely that you simply haven’t been exposed to the field or the process long enough or in an official capacity. This can be a considerable hindrance, so don’t try to take on this task alone. Seek out expert feedback, and do so early enough that you can review, revise, and implement any necessary changes to make your dental school personal statement the best it can possibly be.
Want a recap? Check out our video here:
Dental School Personal Statement Example: #3
We are shaped by our life experiences, and my most impactful life experience occurred when I was a year old. My five-year-old brother, [name of brother], drowned in a neighborhood pool, lacing my childhood experiences with sorrow. I remember the grief that lingered within my family and my feelings of wanting to comfort them, especially my father. When he came home from his long days of work, I would climb up beside him at the kitchen table and pat his back, hoping to relieve his despair. Growing up in a tightly knit, first-generation Greek American household strengthened my family as we worked through our sadness, and this tragedy made me acutely aware that nothing should be taken for granted.
It was not just the pain that I shared with my father; it was our passion for teeth. When I was six years old, I was thrilled to share with him that my first primary tooth was loose. It was fascinating to watch him cut and knot a piece of floss around that tooth. Holding my hand in his, together we pulled out my first central incisor. The exhilaration from pulling my tooth, hearing the crack, and stroking my tongue against the hollow space in my gum sparked my interest in teeth. I went on to pull the rest of my primary teeth, on my own; it came naturally to me. Next, I moved on to extracting all of my younger sister's loose teeth. By third grade, my peers were asking me to pull their loose teeth, and I was conducting my "practice" in the school restroom. More importantly, I cherished how my peers not only trusted my skills but relied upon my ability to comfort them.
Nothing can scare my father. Whether it is a giant spider, an aggressive encounter, or career adversity - he is never intimidated and handles everything with grace. Nevertheless, before visiting a dentist, my father would be so anxious that he would lose sleep the night before. He avoided dental visits as much as possible, but the inevitable visit happened after his falling teeth impaired his ability to eat solid food. After successful teeth implants, my father was able to eat the food that he loves. Moreover, he could laugh with confidence again as he no longer needed to worry about hiding his teeth loss. Despite the positive outcome, my father’s dental visit-induced anxiety persists. I keep wondering if my father’s experience could be enhanced if his anxiety were more closely addressed. Therefore, throughout my undergraduate study, I focused on exploring and developing the characteristics that would contribute to becoming a competent and empathetic dentist.
Effective communication skills and the ability to empathize with others are essential in building a professional and trusting dentist-patient relationship. As a behavioral health volunteer at [name of hospital], I worked closely with patients with dementia. Due to the nature of their neurological conditions, I found myself in many unexpected situations that required fast and effective problem-solving. Once, while accompanying a female elderly during a church service, she became confused upon arrival despite previously expressing interest in attending the service. I tried to reassure her, but she could not hear me well due to hearing impairment. As a result, she became agitated and repeated questions loudly, disrupting the priest’s speech. As more and more attendants looked over, I gently asked to escort the patient out of the room. While outside, I explained to her why we had to leave. Throughout our interaction, I empathized with her by understanding that her behavior was not due to ill intentions but rather her unpredictable condition. From our conversation, I realized that the patient wanted the companionship she missed from leaving the service. Therefore, I offered to chat with her and we talked for the rest of my service visit. During all my visits, I took the initiative to act with open-mindedness, compassion, and empathy to avoid taking advantage of the already vulnerable population. By doing so, I am better equipped to validate their feelings and resolve any conflicts while maintaining a safe environment.
In addition to an empathetic personality, a professional dentist should feel passionate about innovating through research and advocating for their patients. For the past year, I have been working as a research student at the [name of university]. Prior to this position, I had no experience in clinical research and my knowledge of kidney cancer was limited. However, I was always passionate about learning and improving patient care through research. After quickly catching up on the required literature reading, I became involved in multiple clinical research projects, including my own project on genetic screening in kidney cancer. I interviewed patients who fulfilled the criteria for genetic screening referrals in order to build a database for future research on related topics. Knowing the importance of genetic screening in ensuring more effective surveillance and treatment for patients and families, I advocated for genetic screening during patient interviews. In addition to asking patients research-related questions, I answered all their questions regarding germline testing to my full capacity. I noted the questions that I wasn’t able to answer in order to relay them to my principal investigator for his expertise. I am currently continuing the research in genetic screening as my thesis project, which assesses patient awareness of the procedure and identifying reasons why patients are interested or concerned about such procedure. I believe that it is as important to share information obtained from research with patients as conducting the research. Therefore, I plan to use the collected information to construct educational pamphlets and videos which will increase overall patient awareness and help them make informed decisions regarding germline testing.
Imagine going out for lunch one day, hopping into your car to drive home, only to wake up a few hours later with the most excruciating pain you have ever experienced to date. A doctor is removing pieces of glass out of the side of your head. There is a loud ringing in the back of your brain. You are extremely confused. A nurse is explaining to you that you were in a severe car accident and that you are in the intensive care unit. An intense sense of fear washed over me as I began to think of the potential implications this experience would have on my life.
I’ve always known that dentistry was my calling and I hoped to follow in my father's footsteps, but this life-altering moment made my life-long dream seem completely impossible. When I was young, I regularly accompanied my father to work. I know several of his patients and I deeply enjoyed seeing them being taken care of in many ways. My dream has always been to be able to provide the same high level of health care to as many patients as possible. This dream appeared impossible when I found out from my doctor that my life may never be the same again. I had to re-learn how to walk and talk, my short-term memory was severely compromised, and I had debilitating migraines daily. I remember how I felt when I went to take my first step after the car accident and fell to the floor. It was devastating.
I must admit, initially, I lost sight of my dream of being a dentist. I thought, “How can I possibly make it through all of the schooling ahead of me when I can’t even remember what I ate for lunch today?”. However, I focused on remembering what my parents always taught me; “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Each day I focused on one task that I could improve on and after several years I was back to the condition I was in before the accident. The most monumental lesson I learned from this experience has been to never give up or lose sight of what is important to you. Anything is possible when you set your mind to something and work every day towards that goal. After years of rehabilitation, I finally reached the point where I could return to my undergraduate degree. My ability to learn new information was returning to me quite well. Since then, my brain and memory have fully recovered, which has astounded my doctors.
During my childhood, I spent most of my time creating shapes from clay, as I enjoyed paying attention to the most discreet of details. When I turned 5 years old, my mother gifted me a kit containing sculpting materials. At first, I did not show any interest in my new gift; however, it wasn’t long before sculpting became my favorite hobby. The art of sculpting enamored me; I became quickly immersed in the craft, using it as a channel to express myself to the world around me, developing my dexterity skills organically. As I got older, I registered in official sculpting courses & followed my passion for shaping objects, professionally. Since then, my spare time has happily been spent creating various sculptors, forms of art that I am proud of. Little did I know that my love for the art of sculpting would help me discover my true passion and calling in life: Dentistry.
At the age of 18, I achieved 457th place among 833,000 other competitors in the [name of university] entrance exam. Growing up in a family of medical professionals inspired me to start my medical education in Iran. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that becoming a physician did not instill in me the same passion that my dedication to sculpting did. My interest and talent in manual skills and passion for providing health services to the community instead drew me to the art of dentistry. I started shadowing a dentist to explore my interest. I observed dental procedures and became familiarized to the dynamic work environment of dental offices. Once, there was a child who came to the office with an abscessed tooth, crying of pain. His mother, distraught and concerned, pleaded with the secretary for an appointment. The secretory was busy helping other patients, and unfortunately was unable to tend to the situation at hand. The child’s face was swollen and he had difficulty breathing. I realized that we were in a critical situation and proceeded to inform the dentist. He immediately came to the patient’s aid and assisted him. The dentist calmly explained the situation and the procedure that he was going to perform, to both the child and his mother, providing them with some relief. I stayed with the patient and his mother during the dental procedure, providing emotional support. After the procedure was finished, both the patient and his mother appeared reassured and relieved. The patient approached me to say, “I have always known angels are real and you are one of them”. That was a precious and unforgettable moment for me; it taught me the importance of proper communication with patients and its impact on their respective experiences during their visits to dental offices. This shadowing during my first year of my medical education opened the door to a new world for me; I was able to find the field representing my true calling and passion in life. I was instantly excited to change the course of my life, embarking on this new chapter of pursuing the world of Dentistry.
When I arrived in Canada, I started shadowing a general dentist, [name of dentist] and an orthodontist, [name of orthodontist]. I was able to observe how doctors restore oral health, transforming the lives of their patients. Two years ago, there was a young child who came to [name of orthodontist]'s clinic with the hope of having his bite realigned. When I began conversing with him, I learned that he had been bullied at school because of the shape of his teeth which caused him to lose his self-esteem. When he first started his treatment, he was afraid of getting bullied because of his braces, but I listened to him intently, reassured him and let him know there was no reason to pay attention to bullies. Over the past two years, I have been able to see his progress and the final result was inspirational. He regained his confidence, acquiring the most beautiful smile.
After this experience and many other experiences shadowing dentists, I became even more motivated to pursue dentistry as my career. I learned that active listening and communication are essential in building trust, forming quality connections, and overall, becoming a compassionate, caring dentist. I know that this is my true calling in life and I would love to be a part of the positive transformation in people’s lives helping them achieve beautiful, confident, and healthy smiles.
[Name of doctor] held up the mirror. "Go ahead", she encouraged her patient. After a few seconds of hesitation, her patient finally opened her eyes and I watched in surprise as she began to sob. Following 15 years of living with chipped teeth and constant self-doubt, her smile was perfect again. My alumni mentor [name of doctor] had invited me to shadow her at her clinic and she explained later that it was common to see patients respond with joy and tears upon seeing their dream smile.
That moment resonated with me and took me back to a similar time during my adolescence. Much like my peers, I struggled with my image and self- confidence. When combined with having crooked teeth and braces, this made for a difficult time in school. My lack of self-esteem led me to avoid social situations at a time when I should have been building relationships with my peers. In later years, once my braces came off, my smile was freed, and with it, my confidence. This carried on into university where my confidence grew to be an asset and emboldened me to join student groups, excel academically and become a student leader in my [name of university]'s community. In that moment, I realized that dentistry is more than just improving a physical smile, but greatly impacts how we feel about our whole selves.
During my formative years in high school and with strong interests in science, I expressed the desire to pursue a career in health care early on. It was through my volunteering experience at a local hospital in Dubai and rotating through several medical specialties that further confirmed my conviction, that dentistry was the right path for me. As I explored dentistry, the broad scope of practice it offered was exciting. It fascinated me to see the play between learned knowledge and the need for dexterity, along with creativity and aesthetic sense to produce the best results.
Through shadowing opportunities, I learned the importance of communication with patients, to be sensitive to their needs and queries. Observing how successful dentists connect with their patients, I discovered parallels in their patient care and my experience teaching piano to disadvantaged children through [name of university]'s Music Box Children's Charity. I had the privilege of working with children of different ages and family backgrounds and aside from improving their musical abilities, our lessons taught me to be both an active listener and attentive to each child's needs and strengths.
This past summer, I worked closely and developed genuine relationships with my peers to create a tight-knit community around me. I have been working as chairperson for Orientation at [name of university], managing a team of 150 undergraduates to create events that will best prepare students for university. The magnitude of this undertaking has given me the opportunity to learn about effective leadership styles when interacting with members of my team whilst managing and delegating tasks with consensus and mutual respect. I have seen that dental practice also requires a team approach, with the central focus and goal being to provide the best treatment plan and care for the patient. Having grown up in Dubai, I observed a lack of awareness regarding oral health with people having a reactive rather than preventative approach to it. Part of my enthusiasm for dentistry is to use my community-building experiences to develop positive, trustworthy patient relationships and encourage them to take charge of their oral health.
When you meet someone new, their smile has the power to reflect their personality and leave an impression. The smallest difference in one's oral care can have a big impact on their overall well-being and the significance of that instigates an excitement within me to pursue a career in this facet of healthcare. I believe that dentistry allows me to meet my career goals as dentists are healthcare experts with the skills and opportunity to work in a team setting, providing care to all ages, creating awareness, and giving back to the community. An opportunity to work in this profession would not only give me the level of personal satisfaction but would also allow me to pursue my dream of making a difference by helping people look and feel healthier, more attractive, and confident. Through genuine care, support, and encouragement, my dentist helped improve my appearance and self-esteem and I look forward to the opportunity to make the same positive impact in my future patient's lives.
- Starting too late. Getting your personal statement right requires multiple edits and revisions. If you start working on your statement too late, you risk running out of time for proper revisions and edits, leaving a rushed, sub-par statement. Remember, your personal statement is a direct reflection of who you are as a person, and who you'll become as a dentist. It's not something that can be, nor should be rushed.
- Showing instead of telling, for example, saying “I'm a great listener” instead of demonstrating that you're a great listener through real examples in your essay.
- Focusing on too many experiences. In general, it's best to discuss 2-3 experiences in your personal statement. You should be able to discuss each experience in-depth, and reflect on what you learned from a particular experience. Too many experiences crammed in doesn't allow you to really expand on each experience and doesn't provide an in-depth analysis of how this experience was transformative on your path to becoming a dentist.
- Listing information that's already found in your application materials. Your personal statement is not a list, instead, it should be a story of your journey to dentistry.
- Jumping around in time. Your personal statement should be in chronological order, beginning with your initial interest in dentistry and evolving to your absolution that dentistry is the right career path for you. Jumping around in time makes for a disjointed essay that will come across as confusing to admissions committee members. In addition, you want to ensure that you utilize strong transitional sentences, as these tie together paragraphs and aid in the overall flow of your essay.
- Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Mistakes and errors in your personal statement are harmful because they tell admissions committees that you're not detail-oriented, you rushed your statement and because of that, you don't really care about it, or their program. Ensure your statement is reviewed multiple times, ideally with a professional's help, to ensure your essay puts your best foot forward and is free from any spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
- Boasting. While you can certainly highlight a few key accomplishments in your statement, such as finishing at the top of your class or raising money for a good cause, it's important that you are tactful in how you phrase your accomplishments. You always want to be humble, and think about what an achievement means to you and why. Lastly, it's a good idea to reflect on what you learned from your achievements and how that can translate in your career as a dentist.
While the majority of your personal statement should be about you - your experiences and how they relate to your decision to pursue dentistry, you can certainly include information relating to another person. For example, you could mention a family member's struggle with a disease, a patient's story, or a conversation with a dentist. As long as you circle back to why this story is significant in your pursuit of dentistry, what you learned from the experience or even how an experience changed your point of view.
Your personal statement must adhere to the ADEA's character count of 4500 characters, including spaces. However, this doesn't mean that you must include this many characters. As long as your essay is below the count, it's most important that you focus on creating a powerful, in-depth essay that proves to the admissions committee why you want to be a dentist and why you would be suitable for a career in this field, then it's perfectly acceptable.
Your personal statement is one of the most important aspects of your entire dental school application. It will serve as your introduction to admissions committees – letting them know who you are a person, who you are as a candidate, and essentially, that you're suitable for a career in dentistry. A poorly crafted personal statement can result in rejection from dental school, so it's essential that your statement is both engaging and memorable to secure you an invitation to interview.
No, remember, this information will be included elsewhere in your application, so it's not suitable to include this in your personal statement.
- Brainstorm ideas.
- Create an outline.
- Focus on body paragraphs first using a maximum of 3 experiences.
- Ensure you SHOW what you learned (don’t tell) by using examples.
- Write your conclusion.
- Write your introduction last.
- Attention-grabbing introduction: Not just a thesis statement, but something interesting to draw the reader in, like a quote or a story.
- Transitions: These should lead from one paragraph to the next, creating flow. Use linking words such as however, additionally, also, next, etc.
- Strong examples: This way you are showing, not telling.
- Clear and direct language: Your language does not have to be fancy, what's most important is that it's easy to read and follow. For example, “utilize” is one of the most over-used words in academic essays and “use” works just as well.
- Conclusion: This should summarize your main points, but also leave the reader with a compelling closing sentence that makes them want to find out more about you. For example, include a call back to your opening anecdote and highlight how far you have come.
Begin by writing the BEST first draft you can and then bein your edit. Don’t write something of average quality, half-done, or way over the character limit. Trying to work from these copies will only create confusion and delays. Next, you should read your essay out loud to yourself sentence by sentence to ensure it flows well and to catch any grammatical errors. Each sentence should be contributing to the overall point. If you find yourself repeating your thoughts in multiple forms, think about paring your sentences down. Quality is more important than quantity.
Next, repeat this process 2-3 times. Resist the urge to keep tinkering over and over again. There are multiple strong ways to word sentences and express your thoughts. There are probably even multiple experiences you could highlight and have an equally strong personal statement. However, obsessing over each sentence and word once you have written a strong statement will just lead to changing too many things, delays, you feeling nervous, and sometimes even a weaker essay than you started with!
Yes, you can definitely mention experiences in your personal statement that are non-academic or not related to dentistry. A strong experience to mention should be one that taught you important skills and that influenced your decision to pursue dentistry. Personal experiences can also have a strong influence on which profession you pursue, so you can definitely mention non-academic experiences.
It’s certainly normal to want input from others when we are crafting personal statements. A strong reviewer is one who has experience and expertise with professional school applications and has helped other students before. For example, someone with an advanced degree like a practicing dentist or other professional. Even though you may feel tempted to ask friends and family, you may want to refrain from this, as they are often invested in your success and may find it hard to be objective.
Try to find someone who does not know you so well so they can give objective guidance. The other thing you want to avoid is having “too many chefs in the kitchen.” Too many different people reviewing your statement is only going to pull it in too many different directions, ultimately leading to confusion and even more delays.
Just like you would address this during an interview, your statement can address areas of concern by following these steps:
- Take responsibility.
- Explain mitigating factors.
- Don't make excuses.
- Share strategies for what you learned and how you would avoid a situation like this in the future.
- Make sure you end on a positive or proactive note.
Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!
Anything we didn't cover? Have a question? Ask below or share your comments!
Hi there Do you have any sample personal statements for a foreign trained dentist applying to ADEA PASS and ADEA CAAPID. Thanks
BeMo Academic Consulting
Hi Yutika! Thanks for your comment. As an international applicant, your personal statement should follow the same structure and contain pertinent info about yourself and your application. Use these samples to construct your own, unique narrative!
It is remarkable, very good information
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In response to popular demand, we are including a sample dental school essay. Note how the author reveals a lot about herself without overtly saying "I am this and I am that." She is obviously hard working and disciplined, probably compassionate and kind. Interested in dentistry for a long time, she has clearly considered other options. And she tells a good story . Our experts can help you tell your story just as effectively -- check out our AASDAS application packages here .
I could hardly keep myself from staring at the girl: the right side of her face was misshapen and bigger than the left. Only later did I notice that Cheryl, about nine at the time, had light brown hair, lively brown eyes, and a captivating smile. When she walked into the candy shop where I worked six years ago, Cheryl told me she was a student of my former fourth grade teacher with whom I had kept in contact. We talked then and spent time talking each time she visited. She became a very special friend of mine, one whom I admire greatly. At the time we met, I was taking honors and AP classes, working about twenty hours a week, and feeling sorry for myself. Cheryl's outgoing confidence and good cheer put my situation in perspective. Cheryl was strong, kind, and surprisingly hopeful. She never focused on her facial deformities, but always on the anticipated improvement in her appearance. Her ability to find strength within herself inspired me to become a stronger person. It motivated me to pursue a career where I could help those like Cheryl attain the strength that she possesses.
At the time, my initial interest turned toward psychology. Impressed with Cheryl's outlook, I overlooked the source of her strength: she knew that treatment will improve her appearance. Focusing on the emotional aspects of her illness, I volunteered at the Neuropsychiatric Institute. There, I supervised the daily activities of pre-adolescents, played with them, and assisted them in getting dressed. I worked with crack babies, autistic children, and children who had severe behavioral problems. I enjoyed interacting with the children, but I often became frustrated that I was not able to help them. For instance, a young autistic boy frequently hit himself. No one was permitted to stop this child. We had to turn away and allow him to continually strike and hurt himself until he tired.
I was increasingly disappointed with the lack of progress I saw in my volunteer work at NPI, but my job again pushed me in the right direction. During the fall quarter of my junior year in college, I left the candy shop where I had worked for nearly five and a half years, and I began working as a senior clerk in the Anesthesiology Residency Program. Ironically work, which frequently made study difficult, helped me find the right path. There I learned about the oral and maxillo-facial specialty, which will allow me to help people like Cheryl.
To explore my interest in dentistry, I volunteered as a dental assistant in Dr. Miller's dental office. Dr. Miller introduced me to various dental techniques. Although I was mainly an observer, I had the opportunity to interact with the patients. I came in contact with a diverse patient population with different problems and dental needs. I observed as Dr. Miller dealt with each patient individually and treated each one to the best of his ability. He familiarized me with strategies for oral health promotion and disease prevention. I learned a great deal from him, and as a result, my interest in dentistry grew.
I choose to pursue a career in dentistry after following a circuitous path. My friendship with Cheryl motivated me to enter a field where I can help the severely disfigured cope with their condition. Although I initially turned to psychology, I found my work at the Neuropsychiatric Institute to be frustrating and was searching for a different way to achieve my goal. Ironically, Cheryl had told me all along the source of her strength: the knowledge that her condition was treatable and improving. Through maxillo-facial dentistry I will help others with serious facial deformities have the same knowledge and source of strength.
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Dental School Personal Statement: The Ultimate Guide (Example Included)
Learn step-by-step how to write a unique dental school personal statement, including a full length example.
your dental school personal statement can mean the difference between and acceptance and a rejection
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: how to write a dental school personal statement, part 3: common dental school personal statement errors to avoid, part 4: full length dental school personal statement examples.
If you’re applying to dental school and beginning to contemplate your dental school personal statement, you likely fall into one of two categories:
You aced the DAT, have an excellent GPA, and after all of the work you put in for those scores you’re thinking, “I have no energy left… Does the personal statement even matter?”
Your DAT and/or GPA are good or average, and you’re stressed about how you can improve your overall application by writing an absolutely amazing personal statement.
Whatever position you find yourself in, this guide will address your concerns. We’ll explain the importance of the dental school personal statement and why it can make or break even the best application. We’ll also provide detailed, step-by-step guidance on how to write an excellent personal statement, along with multiple full-length dental school personal statement examples so you can see for yourself how it’s done.
How much does your dental school personal statement matter?
If you’ve got a good score on the DAT and a high GPA, this question has likely crossed your mind. It is true that admissions committees can and do use these scores to quickly sift through the thousands of applications they receive each year. That said, these scores are not on their own sufficient to get you accepted to the dental school of your dreams.
There are plenty of stories of applicants who had a strong GPA and an unbelievable DAT score but were not accepted to their top choice dental school (or any dental school at all). Often, the personal statement is the distinguishing element that can ruin a great application or significantly enhance an average application.
The good news is that there are predictable strategies for writing an excellent dental school personal statement—more on those momentarily.
(Suggested reading: How Hard Is It to Get Into Dental School? )
What is the goal of a dental school personal statement?
With both your GPA and your DAT score, the goal is quite obvious—the higher the better. It may be tempting to assume that the applicant with a 22 DAT and 3.8 GPA will be accepted over the candidate with a 20 DAT and 3.6 GPA, however the admissions process is not nearly this cut and dry, and it is often the personal statement that can separate these two candidates in the minds of an admissions committee.
So, what is the goal of a personal statement? The answer is remarkably simple: the goal of the personal statement is to get the admissions committee interested in you as a person, and to make them want to meet you.
The entire goal of your application is to land an interview at as many dental schools as possible (or at least at your dream school), and the personal statement is your opportunity to demonstrate your unique and interesting characteristics.
Think of your application as building a house.
Your GPA and DAT scores are like the blueprints. They are mathematically based and must meet specific structural and engineering requirements in order to support the eventual home. While there is certainly variation in blueprints between different homes, there are specific benchmarks and requirements that must be met for blueprints to meet city building codes and be approved.
Your personal statement, however, is a much more creative process similar to the interior and exterior design of the home. What color of paint will you choose? What type of windows do you want? Will you select a specific theme for the furniture, drapes, and paintings? After all of these creative decisions have been made, two homes with identical blueprints could have a drastically different appearance.
While the creative and subjective aspects of writing an excellent personal statement may feel overwhelming to the more analytical students who make up a large portion of dental school applicants, the good news is that there are very clear strategies that can help guide you in this creative process.
According to the ADEA , “ Your personal statement is a one-page essay (not to exceed 4,500 characters, including spaces, carriages, numbers, letters, etc.) that gives dental schools a clear picture of who you are and, most importantly, why you want to pursue a career in dentistry .”
That doesn’t quite convey the real goal of your statement, which is to convince the admissions committee that you, as a person, are interesting and unique, and to compel them to want to meet you off the page.
Just as understanding the goal of your personal statement is critical, starting the brainstorming process with a general roadmap can help simplify an otherwise overwhelming process.
Fortunately, there is a simple and well-tested format that has been followed by many successful dental school applicants.
Outlining your dental school personal statement
We’re fans of knowing exactly where you’re going before you even begin writing. Here’s the general format that we recommend using for your personal statement:
Intro : Engage the reader immediately with an interesting introductory paragraph
Body : Illustrate your unique dental journey in 3–5 paragraphs
Conclusion : Reinforce your passion for dentistry and tie back to the introduction
But how do you fill these in paragraphs with information that’s engaging and, most importantly, conveys what’s unique about you? What should you include? Next, we’ll go over five steps that will help you draw out the best topics for your dental school personal statement.
Step 1: Brainstorming
Begin by brainstorming possible topics or areas for your personal statement. Our recommendation is to come up with far more than you’ll actually end up writing about—even as many as 30.
We know what you’re thinking: Why would I brainstorm 20+ ideas and experiences when only 3–5 will actually make it into my personal statement?
The answer: Often a bad personal statement comes about because an applicant has chosen the wrong topic. Sometimes applicants choose clichéd material, or material that isn’t personally meaningful. Then they feel locked into the essay they’ve begun. But, by brainstorming strategically, and working with someone whose opinion you trust on subject matter, you can position yourself to enter the writing phase confident that you’ve got a subject you can write about fluently and passionately.
To get there, we like an exercise called “ the Rule of 5s ” that provides a systematic approach to guide the brainstorming process.
While we’re calling this the Rule of 5s, it could just as easily be the Guideline of 5s—the number five is simply a good target to help you stretch. However, don’t get too caught up on it. If you have three or four examples in one category and seven in another, that is fine.
Here’s the Rule of 5s: Brainstorm five good examples in each of the five categories listed below:
Five significant life experiences
Five unique and interesting accomplishments
Five unique and interesting hobbies or interests
Five failures and five lessons you learned from them
Five challenges or setbacks you have faced and had to overcome
Step 2: Your personal journey to dentistry
After completing the Rule of 5s brainstorming activity, your next step is to outline your personal journey to dentistry in a way that clearly answers the question of why you want to be a dentist. This outline should be concise and can even be in bulletpoint form. That said, be detailed and try to think of any key experience, interaction, person, class, conversation, or “aha!” moment that influenced you to ultimately choose a career in dentistry.
When your outline is finished, review it and identify 3–5 of the most interesting and unique aspects of your journey. If you are having difficulty narrowing it down, consider reviewing the other areas of the ADEA AADSAS application (Dental Experience, Employment, Extracurricular Activities, Research, Volunteer) and see if some of your experiences can be included in sections other than your personal statement.
Step 3: Choose a memorable opening
Admissions committees will be reading thousands of statements every application cycle, and many applicants will have similar stories about why they want to become dentists. Perhaps they had a good experience in dentistry early on. Perhaps they like science and want to help people. Those aren’t unique attributes in dental school applicants. You’re going to have to begin with something that’s more particular, interesting, and specific to you.
Let’s look at two different openings to see how they work and why.
Here’s June’s first attempt at an opening paragraph:
Growing up in a middle-class community I had the opportunity to go to my family dentist every six months. For most of my childhood, these visits were fairly routine as I had good oral hygiene and no major dental issues. However, when I was 16 years old, I chipped my two front teeth in an accident. My dentist was able to repair them and they looked even better than before the accident. At that point, I knew I wanted to be a dentist. I attended college and selected biology as my major as I have always enjoyed the sciences. I view dentistry as the perfect combination of art and science that will allow me to help other people the way my dentist helped me.
What aspect of herself is June emphasizing here? It’s hard to tell. She’s beginning with a story of wanting to become a dentist, but the writing is noncommittal and generic. It doesn’t give us something memorable about her to hold onto, and this paragraph is in no way unique to her experience or dental journey.
Let’s take a look at Marissa’s opening:
As I looked down, I couldn’t believe what I saw. One of my central incisors had been knocked completely out of its socket and sat in a small but noticeable circle of blood near the free-throw line on the basketball court. Just seconds before, I had taken an elbow to the face at the start of the fourth quarter of our state championship high school basketball game. As any high school senior would do, I picked up the tooth, put it in a cup and handed it to my coach. I finished the game with only one central incisor. My parents still have a picture of me on their fridge, hoisting the state championship trophy with an awkward, closed-mouth smile as I tried to hide the missing tooth. Little did I know that six months later, after a failed attempt to save the tooth and the eventual decision to get an implant, the determination and effort I had previously put into basketball would be transferred into my passion of becoming a dentist.
What works here? It’s simple. Marissa tells a story. She gives us images, characters, and a scene. Then she immediately ties that scene into her long-term narrative: becoming a dentist .
By opening with an anecdote and setting the scene the way a movie director might, you draw us into your story and stand out from the pack.
As you think about what anecdote you might use to open your personal statement, remember that it does not have to be directly related to dentistry. Ultimately, however, you will want to tie the anecdote into your dental journey.
Step 4: Connect your opening with your personal journey to dentistry
With your memorable opening created (step 3) and your unique journey to dentistry outlined (step 2), you are most of the way to completing your personal statement.
The key to an excellent personal statement is finding a creative yet smooth way to connect your personal experiences with your professional journey into dentistry, with a clear and concise answer to the question of why you want to be a dentist.
Let’s take one example from Yasmin:
I can still remember my heart pounding before my first “major” performance. I was six years old and had been asked to sing “Happy Birthday” in front of the entire family for my grandma’s 80th birthday. I love singing, and in high school and college I sang in a folk band with three of my friends. At times, singing has been my life, providing an escape from the day-to-day stresses and difficulties that we all face. And oddly enough, there’s something we don’t think of when we think about singing: teeth. They’re critical to singing. My desire to pursue a career in dentistry stems from a chance encounter with a singer in Argentina who taught me about the significance of our dentition.
While the transition from singing to dentistry is somewhat abrupt, this candidate has effectively and concisely described a unique personal characteristic, singing, that transitions smoothly into telling the story of her journey into dentistry, which started in Argentina. After reading this paragraph you immediately know something unique about the candidate—she sings—and you are interested to learn more about how her interest in dentistry developed.
Step 5: The conclusion
In most high school and college writing classes, you are taught that the conclusion should simply summarize your essay. However, in a one-page, 4,500-character personal statement, there is no room to repeat yourself. Rather than summarizing , consider using your concluding paragraph to reinforce two things in the mind of the admissions committee:
Why you want to be a dentist
Your personal and unique story
Your conclusion might refer back to one of your experiences, pulling through a message of how you hope to make an impact in the field of dentistry in the future.
Let’s look at two quick examples.
Here’s Eveline’s first attempt:
I have had several experiences that have all led me to pursue a career in dentistry. The opportunities I have had to shadow dentists have taught me that dentistry is much more than restoring individual teeth, as it incorporates a much larger scope including both oral health and systemic health. I am grateful for the opportunity to apply to dental school and I look forward to completing my studies and becoming an oral health professional focused on both the preventive aspects and restorative aspects of dentistry.
This concluding paragraph is full of buzzwords like “oral health,” “systemic health,” and “prevention,” however it ultimately does not leave the reader with any strong sense of the unique characteristics of this applicant. A paragraph like this could be found in almost anyone’s personal statement. It fails to reinforce the applicant’s specific and unique passion for dentistry, and it does not refer back to any personal experience or unique story. Eveline’s personal statement will blend in with all the rest and she will be less likely to get an on-site interview.
Here’s the conclusion that Yasmin, the folk singer, wrote:
Much has changed since my “performance” as a scared, six-year-old singing at my grandmother’s birthday. I never would have guessed that my passion for singing would have led me on a 16-year journe: to Argentina and, eventually, to dentistry. But I know I’ve found the path for me.
This concluding paragraph is quite brief at only three sentences, but it effectively reinforces both the unique origins of this applicant’s interest in dentistry as well as the applicant’s memorable history as a singer. The reader is left thinking about the unique aspects of this applicant and will be much more inclined to want to meet them in person by extending an interview.
While there is no perfect formula that encompasses all excellent personal statements, there are some fairly common errors that can quickly transform a good statement into a poor one, drastically decreasing your chances of getting an interview. Below we will discuss six common errors to avoid.
Error #1: Writing a dental school personal statement that reads like a medical school personal statement
It’s no secret that medical school and dental school applicants have many shared characteristics. The prerequisite courses are almost identical, the overall undergraduate experiences mirror each other, and the extracurricular, leadership, research and clinical shadowing experiences have significant overlap. That said, dental admissions committees don’t want lukewarm applicants who appear to have been on a premedical route their entire undergraduate career, as this brings up questions of whether the applicant is truly dedicated to a career in dentistry or merely views dentistry as a backup plan to medicine.
Of course, many students are “pre-health" during their freshman and sophomore years as they take prerequisite science coursework and explore various health professionals including dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, PA, etc. It’s normal to have had experiences in research, leadership, direct patient care, or other extracurriculars that span various health professions and which you may want to include either in your application or your personal statement.
The secret is tailoring all of the experiences you include in such a way as to leave no doubt about your interest in dentistry.
Let’s look at some example sentences that show how pre-health or premedical experiences can be described in a way that reinforces an applicant’s interest in dentistry.
Here’s what not to do:
While conducting research on the production of insulin in pancreatic beta cells, I became fascinated with the human body which sparked an interest in pursuing a career that would enable me to help other people.
An interest in the sciences and a desire to help people are two common characteristics found in nearly every applicant to any healthcare-related profession. While these are important characteristics, it is essential to take them a step further and make sure you connect them directly to dentistry.
It can sometimes be difficult to make that connection to dentistry if the experience occurred while you were either investigating all healthcare professions or perhaps were focused on a profession other than dentistry (i.e. medicine or pharmacy).
One tip is to realize that the connection does not have to be synchronous, meaning that even though you were not thinking about dentistry at the time of the experience, you now see how that experience connects to dentistry and enhances your interest in the field.
We can easily imagine that the candidate who wrote the previous example was conducting research regarding diabetes during their sophomore year as a premedical student. Two years later, during their junior year, they decided to switch to pre-dental. While there is a two-year gap between the research and the eventual interest in dentistry, the link between the experience and their desire to pursue a career in dentistry is easily made in an honest and genuine way as follows:
While conducting research on the production of insulin in pancreatic beta cells, I gained an appreciation for the systemic effects of diabetes. I have subsequently become fascinated with the oral manifestations of this disease, which can allow dentists to recognize the oral signs of pre-diabetes, sometimes even before a physician.
This example takes what could be viewed as a very medical experience (research on pancreatic beta cells) and seamlessly connects it to the applicant’s interest in dentistry. Sometimes you may need to do additional research—for instance, learning about the oral manifestations of diabetes—in order to make these connections.
Taking the time to focus any story or experience in your personal statement on dentistry will transform your essay from average to excellent. As you write your statement, continually ask yourself whether the examples and descriptions you have included could just as easily be found in a personal statement for medical school or pharmacy school or any other health profession. If the answer is yes, go back and find a way to make it hyper-focused on dentistry.
Error #2: Telling rather than showing, or using clichéd statements rather than specific examples
It is a common pitfall to tell rather than show the reader what you are trying to say.
For example, most students choose to pursue a career in dentistry for their shared interests in science, art, and helping people. It is completely appropriate if these are your reasons as well. The secret, however, is avoiding these clichéd statements by diving in-depth into the experiences and journey you have had that has ultimately led you to a career in dentistry. Rather than telling the reader that you enjoy science, art, and helping people, show them through your unique stories and examples.
As you write your statement, make sure to frequently ask yourself whether each paragraph and story uniquely describes you or could just as easily apply to someone else. Be sure to include details such as your hometown, family, culture, heritage, creative hobbies, physical characteristics, and anything else that is distinct to you.
Let’s look at a quick example of how you can add personalized elements and descriptions to a clichéd statement to transform it into something that is uniquely you.
What not to do:
Growing up, I was always interested in artistic and hands-on activities. The opportunity to pursue a career in dentistry, which is a perfect blend of both artistic freedom and working with your hands, is therefore particularly appealing.
As the only child of two working parents in a rural part of Oklahoma, I often had time alone and gravitated towards hands-on, artistic pursuits, eventually developing a passion for building model airplanes. Visualizing how each small piece would eventually come together to form an airplane actually has many similarities to the field of dentistry.
Notice how the first, clichéd example tells very little about the applicant. We have no details about what makes them unique, and the sentence “tells” us that the applicant enjoys artistic and hands-on activities; however, it does not “show” this through an example.
The second example, on the other hand, provides details that likely only apply to this candidate regarding two working parents and growing up in a rural part of Oklahoma. Additionally, rather than simply telling us about their interest in hands-on, artistic pursuits, they provide a specific example of building model airplanes.
Putting yourself in the shoes of the admissions committee, which of these two candidates would you rather meet?
Also, take heart: the second example isn’t telling some dramatic, flashy story. It begins with something simple—being an only child in rural Oklahoma—but ties it to the larger point of the applicant’s interest in hands-on activities as well as art. You do not need to have a life-changing or dramatic story to paint a unique picture of who you are as an applicant.
Error #3: Trying to convince the admissions committee that you are smart
The hypercompetitive nature of dental school admissions can lead applicants to use the 4,500 characters of their personal statement to try to demonstrate their superior intelligence.
This can be evident in either the specific examples and stories an applicant chooses to use or in the language the applicant employs to write their statement. Either way, this approach is rarely effective.
Here is an example of what not to do:
As valedictorian of my high school, my teenage years were occupied by hours of studying and homework each night in order to maintain my 4.0 GPA. When I entered college, I increased my level of discipline and dedication to my studies allowing me to maintain that same level of academic excellence throughout my collegiate career, finishing my undergraduate studies with another perfect 4.0 GPA.
Having a 4.0 GPA and being valedictorian of your high school are certainly accomplishments that should be included in your application. However, trying to convince the admissions committee of your intellectual abilities by including them in your personal statement is not wise.
Your GPA will be apparent from your transcripts, and the “achievements” section of the AADSAS application is a perfect place to include the distinction of being valedictorian. Neither your GPA nor your high school class standing are directly related to your desire to be a dentist and therefore need not be included in your personal statement.
Personal stories and unique experiences that relate to why you want to be a dentist or that help the admissions committee get to know you on a more human level should comprise the majority of your statement.
Remember, the goals of your personal statement are to convince the admissions committee that they want to meet you in an interview and to demonstrate that you’re personable enough to be in this patient-facing field. Sounding pompous, self-satisfied, or unrelatable will work against you.
Error #4: Repeating or summarizing what you have already described elsewhere in your application
Another common mistake is simply telling a chronological story that includes or repeats information from the rest of your application. This type of personal statement often reads like a resumé in prose form.
While it is certainly appropriate to use the personal statement to expand upon something mentioned elsewhere in your application, make sure that you are providing additional, specific information that cannot be gleaned from other parts of your application.
For example, if you have mentioned your shadowing experience in your application, it can be appropriate to include a story in your personal statement that occurred while shadowing a dentist. Make sure, however, that you focus your personal statement on a very specific event—remember, a story or an anecdote—rather than just mentioning your overall shadowing experience.
Here are two examples that illustrate the difference between simply summarizing what you have already described elsewhere in your application and providing additional, specific information.
What not to do:
My shadowing experience at the Jamestown Public Health Clinic taught me the importance of oral health education and prevention, especially in socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.
The above sentence provides little information beyond what can already be assumed by this applicant listing their shadowing experience at a public health clinic. Stacking sentences like these one after another wastes valuable space in your personal statement.
One day, while shadowing at the Jamestown Public Health Clinic, a three-year-old patient named Alice came in with her parents. Nearly all of her teeth were black and carious and she was crying because of the pain. Unfortunately, this situation of early childhood caries is not uncommon, especially among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. It was sobering to realize that, while the treatment options available for Alice were now limited, the entire situation could have been avoided by providing her parents meaningful oral health education and prevention techniques a mere one to two years earlier.
This example dives into the applicant’s shadowing experience in detail by describing a very specific patient encounter. The story brings to life this applicant’s shadowing experience and highlights the applicant’s ability to think critically and observe specific patient encounters with empathy while making broader connections to oral health education at a population level. This type of critical thinking will certainly be noticed by an admissions committee.
Error #5: Including too much information rather than focusing on a handful of meaningful experiences
With only 4,500 characters, and your chances of being admitted to dental school on the line, it is understandably tempting to attempt to fit as much as possible into your personal statement. Fight this temptation!
With a personal statement, depth is more important than breadth. You can offer an angle on yourself, a story about why you want to be a dentist, and 3–5 compelling details from your personal and professional history. Don’t try to do more.
Remember, the personal statement is only one portion of your application. There are several other sections that allow you to include many experiences and achievements beyond what you discuss in your statement (i.e. Academic Enrichment, Dental Experience, Employment, Extracurricular Activities, Research, and Volunteer).
Additionally, you will also be asked to write secondary essays for most schools, which provide additional opportunities to bring in other experiences to your application.
And remember: this work will help you in your interviews!
The personal statement can initially appear daunting. Following the process outlined above and avoiding the five common errors can help you craft a unique and genuine statement that catches the eye of the admissions committee and secures an invitation for an on-site interview.
Additionally, taking the time to write a thoughtful, introspective, and unique personal statement will not only help get you an interview, but will be some of the best time spent in preparation to set you up for success in your interviews.
(Suggested reading: How to Ace Your Dental School Interview )
Error #6: Not leaving enough time to edit, revise, and get feedback from trusted readers
As one of the most important components of your entire dental school application, you’ll want to invest considerable time not only in writing your personal statement, but also in editing and revising it. Part of that process involves recruiting trusted readers, such as friends, mentors, and admissions consultants, to give you valuable feedback from an outside perspective.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to begin the writing process well before you want to submit your application. We recommend beginning about six months before you plan to apply—so if you’re counting on submitting your application on June 1st, the earliest possible day, you’ll want to start brainstorming in December.
Aim to have a full-length first draft completed by no later than the end of April. This will give you at least one month to edit, revise, and solicit feedback before submitting your application in June or July.
Part 4: Full-length dental school personal statement examples
Let’s now take a look at two full-length examples in order to put together everything we’ve discussed. Each of these essays successfully conveys who its writer is, what is unique about them, and why dentistry is their ideal career.
Dental school personal statement example #1
The summer after my freshman year, I studied abroad in Buenos Aires to learn about Argentinian culture and history, especially Argentinian folk music. I spent many evenings in town squares and restaurants listening to local folk bands. One evening, I introduced myself to an impressive lead singer after a concert. We connected, talking music and influences. I was shocked when he reached into his mouth and removed a “flipper,” which included prosthetic teeth for all four maxillary incisors. This Argentinian singer became emotional as he recounted the story of a serious motorcycle accident that had left him without his four front teeth, making it physically challenging and emotionally impossible to sing in front of a group. Unable to afford any dental treatment, he had to quit singing wholesale for several years. Fortunately, a friend eventually introduced him to a dentist who restored his pronunciation and his ability to sing in front of a crowd.
Upon returning from Argentina, I began shadowing in dental offices. One afternoon, I observed Dr. Ashani, a general dentist, deliver a set of overdentures to a 36-year-old woman named Ashley. She had lost all her teeth due to xerostomia caused by radiation treatment for throat cancer. As Dr. Ashani placed the dentures in her mouth and handed her a mirror her entire face lit up. She had regained a sense of dignity and self-worth. I also noticed a change in Dr. Ashani. Later that day, we talked, and he said he’d been anxious about delivering the dentures as he understood both the responsibility and the opportunity he had to dramatically change this woman’s life. Those two words, “opportunity” and “responsibility,” seem to capture the essence of dentistry.
As I continued along this path, I sought a research assistant position in the lab of Dr. Delia Acosta where we focused on stem cell tooth regeneration. While we are several years away from re-growing teeth, the possibility of stem cell treatment in dentistry is fascinating at a scientific level and potentially life-changing at a human level. It is exciting to think that I might be able to provide stem cell treatments to people like Ashley or the Argentinian folk singer to restore not only dentition, but also function and confidence. And while stem cell tooth regeneration is an exciting possibility, even a traditional root canal on a painful molar or a class III filling on a maxillary incisor can have a significant impact on the life of a patient.
Much has changed since my “performance” as a scared, six-year-old singing at my grandmother’s birthday. I never would have guessed that my passion for singing would have led me on a 16-year journey: to Argentina and, eventually, to dentistry. But I know I’ve fund the path for me.
Dental school personal statement example #2
With spindly legs and frizzy hair, I backhanded the bright yellow tennis ball across the court to my opponent. She quickly ran up to the net, hit an overhead shot, and the ball zoomed towards me faster than I had expected. The next thing I knew, I was on the concrete court with a handful of blood gushing from my mouth. The ball had hit me in my face, knocking out my front tooth. I was horrified—our yearly school photographs were the next day. The first thought that raced through my mind was how I would have to smile with lips glued together, fearful of being teased by my classmates. It was in this moment that I recognized how my teeth and, specifically, my smile were so integral to who I was as a person. My teachers and friends described my smile as a contagious form of love, and the thought of losing this trait was terrifying. This experience laid the foundation for my keen interest in dentistry, a career that will afford me the opportunity to enable my patients to smile brightly and to feel like their most confident selves.
My interest in dentistry further matured after I traveled to India to help assist with a dental health mission with my temple in the rural town of Dwarka. Here, our team set up a clinic in several tents and offered free dental services to those in need. Specifically, I assisted dental hygienists with cleanings, observed dentists fill cavities and fit dentures, and helped with dental hygiene education. I recall meeting Mona, an 8-year-old girl with a lopsided ponytail. She inquisitively wrapped the bubble gum flavored floss around her fingers and mirrored my motions guiding the tasty strings through her teeth. Her mother told me that she had received floss before, but no one had taken the time to explain how to correctly floss or the benefits of flossing. Though a simple exchange, here, I recognized the power of dental education. A brief conversation with Mona had set her on the path to healthy gums and teeth, not to mention a new friendship.
In an effort to learn more about dentistry upon returning from India, I began volunteering at a general dentistry practice. My main duties involved welcoming patients to our practice, performing health screenings, and coordinating their follow-up care. Through this experience, I also had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Simon, a pediatric dentist who had a cabinet overflowing with yo-yos and an ability to put children at ease despite the painful procedures they were anticipating. I was frequently reminded of my own experience as a child, as many of our patients came in with broken front teeth secondary to various misadventures. Regardless of the pathology that plagued the patient, Dr. Simon took the time to ask his patients about their favorite class in school, what laughing gas flavor they preferred, and any new comic books that he should know about. As we developed a closer relationship, Dr. Simon told me that he was drawn to dentistry because it enabled him to both help kids live healthier lives and have beaming, confident smiles. He spoke with genuine conviction, and his words resonated deeply with me.
My experiences working with patients motivated me to pursue health care services research related to dentistry. My main project observed various demographics including gender, race, and socioeconomic status and categorized which adult patients have increased access to regular dental care as classified by yearly cleanings and required fillings. Here, I saw a stark difference in which patients have stable access to dental care and gained a deeper understanding of the disparities that contribute to the less reliable care of those from underserved communities. My research motivated me to institute an outreach program at the pediatric dental clinic I had volunteered at. I described the problem and constructed a proposal for which I received community funding that I subsequently used to create educational brochures for patients and their families. We also utilized this funding to offer these patients free cleanings and screenings on Friday afternoons for over a year. Through this experience, I recognized that, as a dentist, I would be able to serve as a health advocate for my patients to equally restore smiles across several communities.
Although my experience of losing my front tooth occurred at a young age, it left a lasting impression, just as a smile does when you first meet someone. I have been fortunate to learn about dentistry through the lens of different practitioners and patients in a variety of environments. All of these experiences have culminated in my strong desire to pursue dentistry, a career that will empower me to deliver necessary care to ensure that others can live healthier lives with confident smiles. I will carry my compassion for helping others and my desire to increase equal access to healthcare services with me forward as a future dentist.
THERE'S NO REASON TO STRUGGLE THROUGH THE DENTAL SCHOOL ADMISSIONS PROCESS ALONE, ESPECIALLY WITH SO MUCH ON THE LINE. SCHEDULE YOUR COMPLIMENTARY 30-MINUTE CONSULTATION TO ENSURE YOU LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE.
1311 Jackson Ave Dental
Linh Nguyen, DDS David Chen, DDS Long Island City Dentist
- May 18, 2022
- 10 min read
How To Write A GREAT Dental School Personal Statement
Updated: Oct 12, 2022
You've got everything in order for your dental school application (DAT scores, Transcripts, Shadowing) except one last remaining item, the personal statement. You've looked at it and looked at it again multiple times, only to realize that there are zero instructions on how to write it. It literally only has two words on it, "Personal Statement" and nothing else... What are you suppose to do?
Table of Contents:
Introduction - Why is a personal statement so difficult to write?
The greatest fallacy of a dental school personal statement, the actual purpose of a personal statement, tips for what you should include in the personal statement, things to avoid in your personal statement, an example of my dental school personal statement, takeaway and alternative uses.
It is incredibly difficult to write due to the breadth of the topic and the inherent vagueness of what you're suppose to answer. In regards to it's open-endedness, it is equivalent in complexity to the interview question , "So, tell me about yourself." The only difference is that this is being asked in a written format as opposed to a verbal one.
The reason why most people get stuck on how to start writing it
The reason for why the vast majority of people get stuck on how to write it is because they're looking for a question to answer but slowly realize that there isn't actually a question to answer. Akin to the interview question above, it is technically not a question but rather a directive statement .
Yes, that is correct. People get stuck on trying to find a question to answer except for the fact that there is no question. This is very different from all of the other questions that are part of your supplemental dental school applications.
Some common questions in the supplemental applications:
Why do you want to go to this school?
What are you strengths?
What are you weaknesses?
Are you curious as to what you are supposed to do in this case? There is a legitimate purpose to a personal statement (PS) and its not there just to put you on the spot or see what kind of creativity this prospective dental student can create out of thin air... But, before that we should address one widely held misconception.
Despite not having a direct question to answer, the vast majority of us could unanimously agree that the most important question which you should answer in a personal statement is, "Why do you want to be a dentist?" but that in itself is the greatest fallacy. It is an important question but it is not THE most important question which you should answer.
Imagine for a second if you were an admissions committee member (ADCOM) reading through all of these statements.
They're all trying to tell you why they want to be a dentist.
They're all listing traits and characteristics of what will make them a good dentist
They're telling you stories about their experiences with dentistry.
They're trying to tell you what it is that led them to wanting to choose dentistry as a career.
Basically, you're trying to convince whoever is reading your statement that you'd make a good candidate for the next incoming class of dental students. But you should pause for a moment and rethink that. Is that really the most important thing running through the admissions committee member's head when they are reading this?
Are they simply choosing another kid to be one of the next dental students? No, that couldn't be further from the truth because the admissions committee member's job is far more important than that. They're not just choosing another dental student, they're choosing a future colleague because the ADCOMs are the gatekeepers of their respective profession. Only one question runs through their mind while they're reading your personal statement.
Is he/she one of us?
That is THE most important question that you must answer in your dental school personal statement. It actually sums up all four of the bullet points above about what people try to write about. Is he/she one of us?
The entire purpose of your dental school personal statement is built around convincing the ADCOM that you are one of them. You're not writing about why you want to be a dentist because that only helps you sort out your feelings in regards to the decision that you're about to make. Its relevant but doesn't directly answer the question on their mind.
They're not screening for a dental student but for a future colleague and where they draw the line is by determining which side of the line you fall on.
Are you on our side?
That is an incredibly important concept to understand. Imagine a multi disciplinary conference where dentists, physicians, optometrists, and pharmacists all congregated together. After about a few minutes of casual conversing, all of the dentists would most likely all congregate together because they not only bond over daily experiences but they also inherently know who is one of them just through conversation.
Alternatively, if you've ever had a retail job or any job for that matter. All of your coworkers all stand on one side because you're one team and then there is everyone else, namely the customers. Whenever an incident between a staff member and a customer occurs, think of the words that are being used.
We were just doing our jobs!
They started making a mess by tearing clothes off the shelf.
They were drinking a smoothie while browsing clothes and spilled all over it.
We had to clean up after them before the store manager returned.
So, which side are you on and how do you get from one side to the other?
Make the first sentence count and the whole first paragraph for that matter.
You should tell a story.
Acknowledge the challenges of dentistry.
You need to make an impact and that impact needs to be destructive because people will skim read so you need to grab them immediately and never let go. This is the perfect place to incorporate industry jargon or something that only an insider would know about and be able to relate to.
All the patients refer to them as xrays but we use different terms such as PAs, BWs, FMX, and PANO.
Demonstrate to me that you are an insider and not an outsider.
Do it tactfully because we know that you are not yet a dentist but at the same time we need to know that you're not just blowing hot air. How would you know this information? Well, what did you think the shadowing was for? Heh. There are a million more examples, be creative.
Highlight your strengths through telling a story, for example if you want your reader to know that you're a dedicated hard worker, don't just state that you are a hard worker because all healthcare professionals are trained through experience that patients are typically poor historians. We sort of apply that concept to all information that we receive in life and a prospective dental student giving us information is no different.
Let me tell you a story. Back in residency when we were on call to repair facial lacerations... most of the patients that were brought in would tell us that they tripped and fell, therefore sustained a 5 inch laceration across their face. What we write in our clinical notes is as such:
Patient allegedly tripped and fell, sustaining a 5 inch laceration across their face.
The keyword is allegedly because we don't know if it is true or not but simply what the patient stated. The same applies to your PS, you're allegedly a dedicated hard worker.
In order for you to sound more convincing, you need to tell it to me in a colorful story. Don't even mention that you're a dedicated hard worker but instead you should say something along the lines about how you're the last one to leave after work and you've even stayed quite a few times well after your shift has ended just to finish up your work. That invokes the image of a hard worker without even having to mention it.
You know that as glamorous as dentistry may seem to you, it is a HARD profession. It isn't all rainbows and unicorns all the time because it is ROUGH being a dentist. There is the good, the bad, and the ugly but that is the same as any other profession. You should acknowledge the bad and maybe even some of the ugly at least briefly within your personal statement.
What that tells me is that you're not just some wide-eyed kid trying to make a break through into the profession. It tells me that you know what you're getting yourself into. Keep it the bad points very brief because you do want to maintain an overall positive tone.
Please avoid a sob story.
Do not rehash your curriculum vitae.
Do keep it positive because you want to be accepted based on your merits and not out of sympathy. This is a dental school personal statement and not a GoFund me page soliciting sympathy for a cause. If the entire tone of the PS is morose, it doesn't actually convince the ADCOM that you're a future colleague... you may be a future patient instead.
If you do have something dreary to talk about, keep it brief with just two or three sentences but keep the overall tone positive please.
There is no reason to regurgitate what is on your curriculum vitae because page real estate is scarce on your PS since the recommended length is about one page single spaced. Save it for getting across important information about yourself because the CV section of your application is already dedicated to what you've done.
Perhaps it was the one night stand that the facial of #9 had with a hockey stick back in fifth grade, which left me with half of an anterior tooth. Therefore, forcing me to go through a root canal, a post and core, a crown, countless recements, and a crown redo just to fix the stigma, which discouraged me from smiling in photos. Did these events nurture the desire to give back?
Or maybe it was because I was sick and tired of being a shy and timid kid, too afraid to raise his hand in class, too afraid to ask for directions, and too afraid to even talk to customer service reps over the phone. Thus, I made a firm resolve to invite change by venturing outside of my comfort zone because I knew that I could and should do better. Was dentistry a mean to achieve a coinciding personal end because of it’s social aspect?
What initially piqued my curiosity in dentistry may have been due to a plethora of factors but what solidified my decision was not until I started working as a full time assistant for Dr. L, a general practitioner. She has not only become my employer but also my mentor, and through my time with her, I’ve had the opportunity to witness and learn about the numerous sides of dentistry. Sometimes it may be by a case to case basis and other times it may be a conceptual lecture about a certain procedure or even introducing to me a new skill.
Ever since my first step into that office, every moment has been nothing less than a learning experience. The first week of work was accompanied by a very steep learning curve due to the vast amount of procedures, instruments, and the dozens of different burs on the spinning bur carousel that literally made my head spin too. As if that wasn’t enough, each procedure might differ slightly depending on the tooth, the number of surfaces, or even the individual’s anatomy. Dentistry is certainly a very challenging field and beneath the surface there is so much more than what meets the eyes.
In fact, I would even consider dentistry as an interdisciplinary field because it incorporates various other fields such as physics, psychology, neurobiology, business management, and also art. The core in a post and core is designed in such a way that it distributes the force and also acts as a stopper. Injections can also be administered painlessly or minimally via distraction techniques, which interfere with the pain pathway in C fibers. Aesthetic cases also rely on artistic techniques, which create illusions that blend into the rest of the mouth. These are just a couple of concepts that I’ve come to grasp over the past few months but they are nothing short of intellectually captivating.
Aside from the intellectual stimulation, there is a certain appeal to the contrast between technological innovation and the innate rusticness of dentistry. Gradually over the years technology has crept into every niche of dentistry, even into something as small as a shoulder bur. The shape and size of the bur, such as the diameter and it’s angle of taper, gives it the ideal measurement for a crown prep but in order to prep the crown, work with your hands are required, which gives it a primeval feeling at the same time. Although often overlooked, there is a generous margin for individuality ranging from bur choices to instrument choices, and also techniques for approaching the same procedure.
These are all aspects of dentistry, which have contributed to my decision but the icing on the cake was because I thoroughly enjoyed my time working despite the fact that I’m tired and exhausted by the end of each day. Sometimes I just can’t help but laugh and laugh because of something our staff did or even because of something that the patient did. Its because of priceless moments like these that just make it all worth it and heck, I would even bend over backwards twice for some of my patients. For awhile now I’ve been contemplating about dentistry being a viable career option but I think I’m ready to take the big leap.
Hopefully that helps you in your journey on writing your dental school personal statement. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how to write it specifically because if I did, it would no longer be your "personal" statement. Then again, that is the beauty in a PS because it is so open-ended that it gives you the opportunity to peer into the depths of their soul.
Show me who you are and what drives you. Show me that you've taken into consideration all of the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of dentistry.
Dr David Chen, DDS
Disclaimer: I am a practicing dentist in long island city and I'm currently not affiliated with any dental school admissions committee. This is solely my opinion and we may all agree to disagree.
About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS
Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City , NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!
American Dental Association
New York State Dental Association
Queens Count Dental Society
Medical Disclaimer :
This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.
The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.
Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!
Duke Pre-Dental Society
AADSAS requires an essay from each applicant that will give admissions officers a personal account of who the applicant is, what his or her interests are, and why he or she is interested in the field of dentistry. The essay is limited to 4500 characters (approximately one page, includes spaces and punctuation). The prompt for the essay on AADSAS is purposely blank so that applicants do not feel restricted in what/how they should write, but the ADEA recommends that “your Personal Statement […] address why you desire to pursue a dental education and how a dental degree contributes to your personal and professional goals. The Admissions Committee members who read your essay are looking for individuals who are motivated, academically prepared, articulate, socially conscious, and knowledgeable about the profession. Write about your experiences and any qualities that will make you stand out”. In short, your personal statement should focus on your interest in dentistry, some things you have done to this point that illustrate your interest, and how these attributes will help you succeed in your future career as a dentist.
While the focus of your essay should not prevent you from writing an interesting and enjoyable composition, avoid writing in a vague, philosophical manner. The personal statement is not meant to be a creative piece, but rather a clear, concise, professional essay indicating your interest in entering the field of dentistry and providing solid information to support your acceptance. Remember, the admissions committee at each dental school will be deciding who they wish to invite for an interview based solely on the AADSAS application so the personal statement will be your only opportunity to speak to them in your own words (until you meet them in person on interview day). Make it count.
Although a poorly-written essay may not prevent an applicant with highly competitive credentials from being invited for an interview, a well-written essay can be strongly influential in persuading admissions committee members to interview (or even accept) an applicant who is lacking in one or more aspects of their application (see Dental School Preparations ).
Below are some of the Duke Pre-Dental Society’s favorite resources for perfecting a dental school personal statement. Feel free to browse through the wealth of information found in the links below.
Duke University HPA Personal Statement Advice
“Writing the Primary Essay for Medical School” — Dan Scheirer, Duke University Dean of Health Professions Advising
Student Doctor Network Essay Workshop 101
Student Doctor Network Essay Workshop 101 Supplement
Excellent Inquarta Article on “Writing a Winning Personal Statement”
University of Michigan Personal Statement Tips
Duke Pre-Dental Society “AADSAS and the Personal Statement” Powerpoint
Sample Dental School Personal Statement (with Dean Scheirer’s comments)
Sample Medical School Personal Statement #1 (with Dean Scheirer’s comments)
Sample Medical School Personal Statement #2 (with Dean Scheirer’s comments)
DMDStudent.com Personal Statement Examples (part 1)
DMDStudent.com Personal Statement Examples (part 2)
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How to write a sparkly dental school personal statement
by tkaprowy | Feb 26, 2019 | Uncategorized
First off, congratulations on applying to dental school! Someone’s teeth and smile can change their whole way of interacting, feeling, even just being. That you are investing your skills to ensure that their smile can be a carefree one, well, that’s good, important work.
But first, you have to get over the hump of writing your dental school personal statement. I’d be honored to give you a few tips. Let’s begin:
Most dental schools participate in the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), which means you fill out one application and send it to the dental schools to which you’re applying.
In that application, you have 4,500 characters to work with for your personal statement, which roughly translates into a single-spaced page of writing. Be aware that spaces and punctuation count toward your character count.
In your personal statement, according to the AADSAS , you want to give “ dental schools a clear picture of who you are and, most importantly, why you want to pursue a career in dentistry .”
So, essentially, your personal statement should answer: Why do I want to be a dentist? Or, if you like, what about me will make me a good dentist?”
START WITH TWO LISTS
Before you begin writing, I want you to make two sets of lists. Yay, lists!
First, I want you to list what traits you possess that would make you a great dentist. Are you:
- a good communicator
- a good listener
- intellectually curious
For more about the traits a good dentist should have, click here .
Next, I want you to make a list of your:
- “aha” moments (moments of sudden insight or discovery)
Whittle down these lists so that each of them contains three strong traits of yours and three of your passions/drives/challenges/”aha” moments, etc.
Then I want you to think of the stories that demonstrated times when you felt most passionate/regretful/driven/aha’ed and what traits those moments triggered in you.
The goal here is to get one solid story that helps encapsulate what kind of person you are.
NO STORY IS TOO SMALL
For personal statements, the best stories are honest, detailed, show vulnerability, and go somewhere. Try to zero in on a truly important moment in your life, something that has helped define you and led you toward the path you are now trying to pursue .
Don’t worry too much if it doesn’t seem that interesting or unique from the outset; the key is that it was important to you. It can be about the day you volunteered at a day camp for kids with special needs. It can be about a day in the park when someone fell off their bike. It can be about the day in the park when you fell off your bike. It can be about someone choking on a waffle in a diner. It can be about cooking with your grandfather. It can be about figure skating. It can be about playing the violin. It can be about swimming in a lake. It can be about pushing a wheelchair. It can be about being in a wheelchair.
Thinking of this story, I want you to activate your senses . What did you see? Hear? Taste? Feel? Smell? What are the littlest details that you remember about it? What were you wearing? The person beside you wearing? What did the concrete feel like? The water feel like? What were you cooking? Playing? What did you smell?
Know that no detail is too small. In fact, I want you to activate the mundane intentionally. Life’s littlest details are exactly what is going to make this story uniquely yours. Why? Only you noticed something so small and detailed. That is what will make your story authentic.
WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU DID
Once you’ve zeroed in on your story, I want you to write about your place in the story . How did you behave in the moment that you’re describing? What did you do? What did you think? How did you react? How did your brain work? How did you tackle?
Here is the point where I want you to show your vulnerability (and if that gives you the heebie-jeebies, too bad: go there). You need to let the reader know what role you played in this moment and what you realized and learned and thought and how all of that changed you .
One important point: You don’t have to be the hero. In fact, it’s probably better if you aren’t. It’s been my experience that “aha” moments that help define one’s life are often shockingly small in nature.
Another important point: If your moment intrinsically involves someone else, say your grandfather or your mom, or something else, like a trip or an event, you must constantly be careful to make the essay about you reacting to your grandfather, mom, trip or event. It cannot actually be about your grandfather, mom, trip or event, OK?
WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT AFTER YOUR OPENING STORY
Remember your lists? And that I had you isolate three traits and three passions/drives/aha moments? That wasn’t for nothing. After your opening story, I want you to write about the other reasons why you want to go into dentistry and, likewise, tie them to short anecdotes that demonstrate both your traits, “aha” moments and what you did in those moments. Obviously, these will be less detailed than your first story, but they will show different aspects of why you want to be a doctor.
WHAT NOT TO WRITE ABOUT
There are stories I think you should avoid. A story about a 6-year-old you “cleaning” your Barbie’s teeth is one. I don’t care how many details you add to that story, it’s just been played out . Same for the story of a 7-year-old you being entranced by the oversized toothbrush at the dentist’s.
By and large, I prefer for stories to be about the adult you , rather than the kid you. To me, what you have realized as an adult says more about you than what you realized as a child. If there isn’t a way to work around that, that’s OK, if you stick to being honest and rely on the details. It’s also preferable if you are still involved in whatever it is you are writing about. Meaning, if you write about your passion for drawing, it needs to be something you’re still passionate about as an adult.
Further, I strongly recommend you avoid the sentence “I like to help people” in your personal statement. Guess what? Every dentist does. And more than that, liking to help people doesn’t uniquely belong to being a dentist. Teachers help people. Dental assistants do it. Cops do, too.
Finally, don’t be too chronological in your dental school personal statement. You don’t want your essay to be plodding. We don’t need to read about your childhood, then middle school, high school, college experiences. Even if they demonstrate you being consistent about wanting to be a dentist, they don’t show much else. Besides, everyone applying will have these milestones in their lives; they’re not unique enough to write about.
ADDRESS YOUR SLIP-UPS IN YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT
The personal statement prompt invites you to address gaps that may appear in your transcript, whether you had to take a year off or you failed a class. If you have these slip-ups in your academic record, you should absolutely save some space to address them. Remember what I said about vulnerability and honesty? That’s what is important. In fact, these slip-ups say as much about your story as anything else — and they don’t have to be a bad thing.
Just focus on what you learned because of them. Again, it might be a time to explain the exact moment (another anecdote!) you realized the benefits of a hardship.
HOW TO END YOUR DENTAL SCHOOL PERSONAL STATEMENT
Once you have established what you’re made of and have demonstrated why you’re passionate about becoming a dentist, I want you to answer this in your conclusion:
- What is the significance of what you’ve shown the reader?
- What are its implications?
How to pull this off? Show me what you see for yourself in the future. What, for example, could possibly be your most honored day as a dentist? And how were the seeds of that perfect day planted in your opening story?
Or tell me about a patient you will have and what you will do for her.
Or tell me about how you will be changed.
Or tell me about how you will change your community by being a dentist.
Most importantly, broaden my idea of you and your passion in your conclusion , do not simply restate what you’ve already told me. I know they often tell you to do this in essay-writing seminars, but a restatement is just another way of saying “repeat yourself.” With just 4,500 characters to work with, you don’t have the luxury of that. So expand. Indicate. Send me in the direction you are headed, the direction that you want me to see.
Know that you already have all the material needed to write an excellent dental school personal statement. Using these tips and tactics will help turn good into great. If you need more help, click here and here . And, as always, don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected]
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