Sample Essay

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Not every dental school applicant has supported himself for five-and-a-half years jousting and sword fighting in a Las Vegas show. This colorful and physically demanding work is actually just one of a number of nontraditional elements of my background. My academic history in particular is likely quite different from what you normally see. I am 26 years old and will not be completing my undergraduate work until next spring. Working each night, for a total of 42 hours a week, has forced me to structure for myself an educational schedule that has required more time in college than most spend. However, as a result, I will be emerging from my university experience with greater maturity, self-knowledge, and certainty about the professional direction I am choosing to follow than many of my peers.

Unlike many others, I did not begin college immediately after completing high school. Having no focus at that time, I chose instead to work for my uncle in the construction industry, building hotels in Las Vegas, where I grew up. I enjoyed the pay and working with my hands, but there was a void in my life and an absence of the intellectual stimulation I wanted. When I was 21, a terrible tragedy struck my family. My 19-year-old sister, who was involved with drugs, committed suicide. Her death was devastating for me and served as a wake-up call that I needed to set a meaningful course for my own life without delay. I tentatively began taking classes at a local junior college while still doing construction. Not long afterwards, though, I had the opportunity to become part of a show at a Las Vegas hotel. I was one of a dozen men selected (from 300) for this show, largely on the strength of my equestrian and fencing skills, and my size (I am 6'4'' tall). Since 1990 I have worked from 5-to-midnight six (and sometimes seven) nights a week at the hotel, while also attending college. The dangers are significant and I have had my share of serious injuries, including a broken leg, a skull fracture, and a cut that required 26 stitches. Some of these injuries occasionally exerted a negative impact on my academic performance, but I have still managed to compile a very respectable record (trending upward) even with the rigorous Cell and Molecular Biology major I chose for myself.

While many around me were setting their sights on medical school, I was always drawn to the idea of entering dentistry. I enjoy working with my hands and have seen my manual dexterity through my efforts in sculpting, drawing, and building (I have remodeled my own house and built a loft within it). What I have learned during the past year, while working as a volunteer for an oral maxillofacial surgeon, has only corroborated and intensified my enthusiasm for the profession. Working with the surgeon has been an exceptional experience for me because he has allowed me to observe him in every phase of his activities, from his initial consultations with patients to the various surgeries themselves. I have watched his interactions with patients and seen how he deals with their fears and concerns. I have watched him repair broken jaws, under-bites and over-bites, and perform extractions. I am impressed with the intricacy and detailed nature of the work, the need for precision when working in such small spaces, the technicalities, challenges, and need for patience. I like the fact that dentists, oral surgeons, and orthodontists work in tandem with one another, and that there is such professionalism and collegiality within their ranks. I know that I can function well in this environment, with all of its demands, and am excited by the prospect of being able to relieve patients of their pain (be it psychological or otherwise) and help them lead happier lives. The job satisfaction expressed by virtually every dentist with whom I have spoken also appeals to me, as does the fact that dentists' schedules normally leave them time for a life outside of the office. As I am a married man who looks forward one day to raising a family, this is an important consideration.

I consider myself a well-qualified applicant who is unusually mature, grounded, determined, and committed to making an important contribution within the dental profession.

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