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)
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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