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)
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.