Although no personal statement is ever perfect, whether the errors fall into the category of minor stumbles or major pitfalls can make a difference in your ability to secure a spot in a dental school program. Here’s a list of the top mistakes to avoid in writing your dental school essays.
1. Not planning ahead
Sure, you might get lucky. Somewhere between finishing up your undergraduate program, preparing for the DAT, research/shadowing, and maybe even gainful employment, you might have a grand moment of inspiration and write a stellar essay off the top of your head.
But probably not.
Keep in mind that the dental school admissions officers are sophisticated people. They’ve seen it all, so it’s going to be pretty obvious to them that you didn’t spend much time on your personal statement. Especially considering that the personal statement is the aspect of the application over which you have the most control, failing to take the time to plan and write your best dental school essay will make you seem unprepared for the academic or schedule demands of dental school.
2. Writing about your childhood, including your parents
If you knew when you were little that the only career for you was dentistry, great. Good for you. But it has no place in your dental school personal statement. At this point in your development towards applying to a professional graduate school, your anecdotes should come from your adult life.
Additionally, dentistry families are not uncommon. If you were inspired by a family member to become a dentist, you can state this (very!) briefly but move quickly to your own goals and reasons for wanting to have a career in dentistry. If your only reason for choosing dentistry is your family, the admissions officers will likely view you as someone who needs to do some soul searching.
3. Using your dental school personal statement as a soapbox to criticize The System
As the evidence connecting good dental health with good general health mounts, people increasingly recognize the role of dental hygiene in having a healthy population. Unfortunately, disparities in access still exist. Even so, your dental school essay is not the place to rant about failures in the system of care. If you are passionate about providing for underserved communities, that’s wonderful. Keep the tone positive and stay focused on specific actions that you can take to improve the health of the community by improving your patient’s smiles.
4. Forgetting to write about dexterity
While you don’t need to write an entire paragraph about this, some place in your dental school personal statement should mention dexterity. Whether you want to write about playing an instrument, drawing or just a general love of working with your hands, let the admissions officers see that a hands-on career appeals to you and that you have the physical skill to be able to do your work well.
5. Emphasizing lifestyle over career passion
As a group, dentists have objectively good lifestyles by pretty much any metric. For this reason, it is not surprising how often I see dental school personal statements that discuss extensively how being a dentist will provide the applicant with plenty of time and the financial resources to pursue goals outside of the dental office.
While this level of honesty is admirable in its own way, it’s probably not the best strategy for your dental school essay. The admissions officers are not particularly interested in what you plan to do with your spare time after you complete dental school, and stating that dentistry is really just a means to an end isn’t likely to resonate with them. In every paragraph of your dental school essay, demonstrate that you are the type of passionate applicant who has the ability and desire to make a meaningful contribution to their program and to the profession.
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