“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.”
After this open-ended statement lies a blank box on the AADSAS dental application for you to wow admissions committees with your courageous goals and impressive abilities. Undoubtedly, filling in the 4,500 characters of your personal statement is an intimidating task. Although you have a lot of information to cover, don’t get overwhelmed. Follow these simple steps to get your dental school personal statement started (and finished) in no time.
First – What Does a “Losing” Personal Statement Look Like?
To write a winning dental school personal statement you need to first avoid all of the errors that transform so many essays into unimpressive “losing” essays.
A losing personal statement is:
- Generic: Here’s the test to see if your essay is generic and unoriginal. Cover up your name at the top of the page and ask yourself: “Is there anything in this personal statement that is unique to me, or could it have been written by any pre-dent?”
- Safe: A safe essay has shares no vision of the future, gives no promises, shows no ambition and no passion. A safe essay relies on discussion of your past experiences rather than expectations of your future career.
- Restrained: All the ‘blood’ — the joy, excitement, and enthusiasm — is drained out of a restrained essay. My favorite example is an essay that says ‘being a dentist won’t suck as much as my original plan of engineering.’
Your Three Main Goals
Your personal statement has three main goals: it tells the committee why you want to be a dentist, proves that your experiences have prepared you for dental school, and shows that you have the qualities that will make you a successful dentist. Start by asking yourself a few important questions. “How will dental school help me fulfill my dreams?” “How do my academic work, my community involvement, my clinical experiences, and my future ambitions all relate to dentistry?”
Paint a Vivid Picture
After you have answered these questions, it’s time to show, not tell. Find stories from your experiences that will illustrate these ideas. Ask yourself, “What stories demonstrate that I already have a head start on developing the skills of a competent and caring dentist?”
You don’t want to start your essay with, “I desire to pursue a dental education because of a, b, and c.” Start with a bang— immediately pull the reader into an engaging story. Effective statements weave together two or thre e personal anecdotes that illustrate why you want to be a dentist—and why you would make a good dentist.
To find your stories, think about aspects from your background that relate to dentistry. What patient contact experiences have you had? Think about one specific patient you showed compassion to or helped. When have you been a leader? Strong leadership stories can come out of group projects, clubs, sports teams, tutoring, being a TA, work, etc. What accomplishments have you achieved? Achievements can range from research projects to job performance to advancement in club leadership. Admissions committees love diverse applicants. What are your talents? Playing the guitar or sculpting not only shows that you’re well-rounded, but also that you work well with your hands—an integral skill for a dentist.
Passion Wins — Don’t Hold Back
The best stories show your readers, rather than tell them about your experiences and qualities. Write about pivotal moments by zooming in on the action. Be descriptive and creative. If you write, “I feel that I can be truly compassionate when a patient is in pain,” you are telling your reader something. If you write, “As tears rolled down the girl’s cheeks, I found myself grabbing her hand. I wanted to keep her from squirming. I squeezed her hand tighter and looked her in the eye,” you are showing your reader how you are compassionate when a patient is in pain. Paint pictures for your reader. Anchor images in their mind with descriptions and dialogue. Detail not only makes your writing more interesting, but it also shows that you have an observant mind—and a good memory.
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