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.
Other tips to consider
- Your personal statement cannot exceed 4,500 characters (including spaces, carriages, numbers, letters, etc.), but keep in mind that you are not required to exhaust this limit. All of your content should be relevant. Don't be tempted to use filler words to bulk up your personal statement. Use only the space you need to clearly deliver your message. Your personal statement doesn't have to be lengthy to be impactful and effective.
- If you’re struggling with the writing process, walk away and get some distance. Then come back to what you’ve written a day later and take a fresh look at what you have. Don’t put pressure on yourself to create a perfect personal statement the first time you try; fill up the page with fragments or an outline, then go back, review, rewrite, review some more. Even the most successful professional writers create draft after draft, then edit and polish.
- If you are a re-applicant, make sure you do not submit the same personal statement. It is important to share how you have grown since the last time you applied. What have you done to show not only your dedication to improving yourself as an applicant, but readying yourself to join the dental profession?
- Make sure that your personal statement is not school-specific. If you are applying through the ADEA AADSAS, every school you select will receive the same copy of your statement.
- Don’t forget to show your passion! This is your moment and your time to rise above the other applicants applying to join (what I consider to be) the best profession in the world!
Brainstorming for your personal statement
Need help getting started? Consider questions like these for a less traditional approach to your personal statement.
- What makes you a different or exceptional applicant compared to other people applying to dental school?
- Share an adventure you have taken and how it has affected your world view or career plans.
- Describe an extracurricular or volunteer activity that has made you want to pursue dentistry.
- What was the turning point in your life that led you to pursue dentistry?
- How do you plan to impact dentistry as a whole if accepted into the profession?
- What perspective will you bring to the dental profession?