How Long Does Dental School Personal Statement Have To Be
The AADSAS Dental School application prompt seems fairly straightforward at first, but can be difficult to answer in less than 4,500 characters (including spaces), roughly a page. The prompt for the past few years has been:
Your Personal Statement should address why you desire to pursue a dental education and how a dental degree contributes to your personal and professional goals.”
Writing a personal statement for dental school can be one of the most challenging tasks in preparation for the application process. It is highly advised to start early and have many revisions over a long period of time. Strategy is also a big part of having a strong personal statement that compliments an application. Many schools will request the completion of a secondary application which often includes a few short essays. It is important to have a variety of experiences brainstormed in advance so you have a better idea on how all your writing accent one another and add on to to your application’s uniqueness. For this reason, I recommend using the following categories to plan out your personal statement and brainstorm your secondary application topics.
- Community Service
- Manual Dexterity
- Personal Interest (e.g. technology, music)
Create separate documents for each category and start listing all of your key experiences related to each group. After doing so, select several experiences from each category to further develop as possible experiences to use in a personal statement. Begin plotting out a basic outline and structure for your message. The goal of the personal statement is to emphasize your strengths without giving everything away. You don’t want secondary applications to seem dry and do not advance you as an applicant and future dental student. Address 2 or 3 of the following groups:
- Talents and leadership
- Commitment to something you care about
Using these groups ensures that your personal statement samples a variety of your characteristics that you feel make you a strong candidate for dental school. The personal statement should show what is important to you, why you want to be a dentist, and why you are a valuable addition to a dental class. Throughout your personal statement, discuss how and why your experiences have affected your decision to pursue dentistry.
Writing your first draft of a personal statement can be challenging. One of your priorities should be to have a strong opening paragraph that catches the readers interest. Members on the admissions council have thousands of statements to read and are not required to read each one in its entirety. The first paragraph decides if they will continue to review or put your application off to the side.
Often I get asked where to find examples of dental school personal statements, and while I have found various resources, I highly advise against reading any other dental personal statements until later in your writing process. I say this because reading other statements tends to make an applicant want to follow a similar structure to the statements reviewed. This is a problem because many of the freely available examples are used as templates by many pre-dental students and as a result are the most common structures. This can annoy admissions very quickly as there is no creativity to the personal statement when reading through hundreds of these in a few days. For this reason, I will not be supplying examples to read, including my own. However, I will discuss the content of my personal statement to some degree.
One of my first articles on this website, Why Dentistry?, had a writing exercise with an example of my answer to the question “Why Dentistry?”. While none of this writing exercise was used in my personal statement, it helped me first put my answer into words that others could understand. In the article I say,
This write up does not need to be perfect. The exercise is designed to “outline” what is important to your story and to help you stay on focus when telling your story to others. It is not meant to be memorized and regurgitated. Here are some key points of my story that together show my interest in dentistry:
- I mentioned my interest working with my hands.
- I looked into career choices and saw what appealed to me in dentistry
- Experienced dentistry by shadowing
- Took the initiative and started working as a dental assistant
- Memorable experience that explains the joy dentistry gives me”
Don O. over at Inquarta did an excellent job writing strategy guides for a dental personal statement. I recommend his article “How to Write a Winning Dental School Personal Statement” prior to starting to write a draft of your statement. You can check out the rest of his dental school personal statement posts here. I used his post to better understand what the personal statement means to dental schools and what to focus on in writing a well developed paper.
While working on your personal statement, be sure to have others read it. People with a background in dentistry tend to give the best advice since they could relate to the content of your personal statement. Keep in mind to keep all large edits in your own words. With plenty of writing in your secondary applications, admissions will be able to easily tell if your personal statement is actually written by you. If they differ, this may affect your applications integrity and possibly hinder an admissions decision.
Check out the Pre-Dental Student Doctor Network forums for FREE Personal Statement critiquing. Using this service will give you a good idea of how different people will react to your personal statement and to learn of your essay’s strengths and weaknesses and what changes to make accordingly. I would like to remind you to be courteous to these individuals and ask if they would like to review your personal statement before providing a copy. The thread for the last cycle was titled “Personal Statement Reviewing Service (2013-2014 Cycle)“, but is largely inactive now since the application cycle is coming to a close. Future reviewing services will be similarly titled and likely stickied at the top of the pre-dental forums.
If you have any questions during the process or would like to me review your personal statement, feel free to use the Ask Elias page! Good luck writing!
The personal statement is a very important aspect of the application process for dental school. It is a great opportunity to display facets of an applicant that cannot necessarily be seen in the rest of the AADSAS application. This is an opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of in order to help set oneself apart from other applicants.
There is no official prompt for the dental school personal statement, but it is widely known that the essay should primarily address the question of “Why dentistry?” While there are many ways to go about answering this question, I believe that the applicant should rely heavily their unique experiences that have inspired them to pursue a career in dentistry and their distinctive attributes that will contribute to their future success in the field of dentistry. Here are some questions you should ask yourself when starting to write your personal statement:
- What have I observed while shadowing/volunteering/as a patient that has inspired me to pursue a dental career?
- What common qualities have I seen in successful dentists?
- How will I incorporate these qualities and ideals into my future career as a dentist?
- How have my experiences prepared me for a career focused on serving others/the community?
The following is a list of some my Dos and Don’ts for personal statement writing:
- Have an attention-getting introduction.
Admissions committees/staff read HUNDREDS of personal statements over the course of the application process. It is important to be able to spark their interest from the start and hold their attention throughout the entirety of your personal statement.
- Be personal.
Don’t be afraid to show emotion in your essay. This is not a lab report. Showing your empathy, compassion, passion, or other feelings in this essay helps give the reader insight into your personality.
- Make a statement!
Make your commitment to dentistry obvious and show that you are ready to take on dental school and the challenges that dentistry presents.
- Be original.
Chipped front tooth and braces stories are very commonly used anecdotes. Use unique or original experiences so that you don’t blend in with the rest of the applicants.
- Relate your experiences to how you will practice dentistry in the future.
Take what you have seen/experienced/learned and share how you plan to incorporate it into your own dental career. This is a good way to wrap up a paragraph before moving onto the next topic.
- Use dental terminology.
Show that you are knowledgeable about the profession by using accepted dental terminology. For example, use central/lateral incisor instead of front tooth or maxillary left molar instead of upper left molar. Don’t go overboard though.
- Be organized.
Have a good structure to your essay that is easy to follow: Intro, Topic 1, Topic 2, etc., Conclusion/Summary. Use strong concluding sentences in your topic paragraphs and make smooth transitions into your new topic paragraphs. This also gives the admissions committee insight into the level of your organizational skills, which are extremely valuable in dental school.
- Have your paper edited for grammar and punctuation.
Have a professor/teacher/student evaluate your paper. Many campuses have a free writing center that offers these services.
- Have several people give you feedback on your essay.
The more feedback you get the better. You don’t have to accept every piece of feedback that you receive, but it’s a good idea to have different sets of eyes evaluate your work.
- Talk about your grades or other statistics.
All of this can be seen in your application already.
- Include irrelevant details.
Space is limited in this essay (4500 characters including spaces) so don’t waste it by including unnecessary information. Admissions committees don’t necessarily need to know what kind of mouse model you set up in your research or what food you served at your club meetings.
- Get ahead of your training.
More and more students are taking advantage of health care mission trip opportunities in order to boost their resume. Some of these students have asked me if they should reference their experiences in their essay. The answer is pretty simple, if you did something that is usually only done by a licensed dentist, do not reference it. It’s okay to talk about your experiences, observations, or assisting works on the trip, but don’t reference anything that might border on practicing without a license. It probably won’t be received well.
- Rush yourself.
Writing a personal statement takes time. Don’t expect to write one draft and submit. Start writing down ideas early and refine them as you go along. I usually recommend starting your personal statement around January of the year you plan to apply. This will give you time to make any revisions or changes based on the feedback you get. (I personally made 16 revisions before I submitted.) Having a draft of your personal statement available to give to whoever is writing your letters of recommendation is also helpful.
If you have any further questions about dental school personal statements, applying to dental school, or dental school life you can interact with me on twitter @askaDDSstudent or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
UMN DDS ‘14
Writing a Personal Statement?
Ben Frederick M.D.
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