You are applying to dental school and putting together your application. You have maintained good grades and have obtained a competitive DAT score, but so have the other hundreds of applicants applying for dental school this year. What makes you different? Why should a professional dental program choose you? Your personal statement is your chance to show prospective dental programs who you really are. It is your chance to be more than a face in the crowd and to make your story jump off the page.
Where to start?
Start by brainstorming and asking yourself these essential questions. Why do I want to become a dentist? What qualities do I possess that will make me a good dentist? What experiences can I share that changed the way I see dentistry and confirmed my desire to be a part of the profession? Why is dentistry the only choice for me?
Setting the tone
Your personal statement should mirror your personality and your voice. It is important for you to be as honest and transparent as possible. You don’t need to put on airs or try to adapt the sentiments of someone else because you think that’s what dental schools want. The person they read about is the person they want to meet. This is the only piece of your application that enables you to really show your passion, drive and love for dentistry — so be yourself.
It is imperative that you capture your reader’s attention from the very start. When you are beginning your opening paragraph, it is important to tell a story and, more importantly, your story. You need to be as descriptive as you can and creative in delivering it. You must also remember to tie your opening and closing paragraphs together to bring your reader full-circle. Make sure the main points of your personal statement echo throughout its entirety. You want to be at the top of the interview list, right? Give your reader something they cannot wait to learn more about on interview day.
Make it personal
This is the time to “sell yourself” and who you are. So what makes you you? Talk about any special talents, skills or accomplishments that you may have. You may want to mention a moment or experience that personally connects you to the dental profession. There was a pivotal moment for me, personally, that sparked the passion and drive that I still have for dentistry today. If you have one too, make it the shining star of your personal statement. Lastly, ask yourself, “How did I make it to where I am today?” What hardships or challenges have you overcome in order to get to this point? As the saying goes, “it is hard to know where you are going unless you know where you have been.”
The finishing touches
Don’t forget to proofread your personal statement. Your statement should be clear and concise and, of course, grammatically correct. Have a friend, family member, professor or someone else read your personal statement. For that matter, have several people review it for you. Did they understand your message? Was your story clear to them? Your reader’s opinion could help steer you in the right direction for making critical improvements or additions to your masterpiece.
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.
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.
Other Sample Essays