1) Why do you want to do dentistry?
For most, this should be the first question you need to ask yourself. Without an answer to this, you will not be able to progress through the application process successfully. In such a difficult course and application, you need to have a major motivation to go to dental school. There are a whole array of reasons for choosing to do dentistry, to name a few:
- Meeting a variety of patients
- Hands-on practical skills
- Satisfaction in helping and treating patients
Whatever your motivation may be, ensure you stick to it and you use it to drive you through the application process.
Note: Your motivation should not be that you’re doing it for the money!
2) Scouting Universities
The next step is identifying potential universities to apply to – a lot of things need to be considered when doing this which I will cover in another post. However, the basics of it come to entry requirements and the location.
It is important that you visit the university’s website and look at the specifics of their entry requirements for your year – they frequently change and so stay up-to-date!
The location of the university also matters. Whenever possible, try to visit the universities you are trying to apply to – ideally on an open day. You want to get a feel for the city and how it would be living there. Things like the distance from home, transport links and nightlife (of course!) come in to play and it’s something you will have to sit down and think hard about.
3) Personal Statement
This is probably one of the most hated things about the application process but it has to be done AND it has to be done well. Your personal statement is aiming to sell you as a person to the university. It is your chance to show them why you are dedicated to this course and why you will be the best candidate for them to choose for the university. There is a word count for the personal statement so it’s quite difficult to fit everything you may want to into this one spiel.
Two things I shall emphasise – do not plagiarise and do not lie! These are two of the worst things you can do. Copying will be picked up within the system and lies will be picked up at interview.
Your personal statement should show how you are a well-rounded person. Yes, you will be good academically but so will every other student applying for the course! So what’s set YOU apart? Things that you should think about covering include your motivation for dentistry; your work experience and research; your hobbies and extra-curricular activities; why YOU are good for the course. These are just to name a few things.
Work experience and extracurricular activities
These are both aspects of your personal statement that are crucial to work on! Work experience is your way of showing motivation and dedication to the course. I will cover this in greater detail when discussing personal statements, however, it is important to have a mixture of work experience which you can later talk about during your interview. Volunteering is also an important aspect of this to show you are willing to give back to society and a willingness to help others.
On the other side of things, dental schools don’t want you to just be a student who is fixed on the academics! As I mentioned, the aim is to show you are well-rounded and so you want to take part in extracurricular activities. You may want to choose activities which will emphasise skills that would be in an ideal dentist e.g. team sports and activities needing manual dexterity.
4) Entrance Exams
In the UK, there is now the widely used UKCAT entrance exam for entrance into dental school. Majority of universities now use this during their application process and it is crucial that you check the university requirements. Many people complain as to the relevance of this exam but at the end of the day, it must be done!
It tests your mental aptitude and abilities through a variety of sections including verbal reasoning, decision making and abstract reasoning. This IS a test that you can practice for. The book I would recommend is ‘Get into Medical School – 1250 UKCAT Practice Questions. Includes Full Mock Exam‘, which is very realistic in terms of the real test. The test is not something to stress over – provided that you have done a little practice! It can only be taken once per admission process which is something to bear in mind!
More information can be found here: http://www.ukcat.ac.uk/
5) The Interview
Your interview is almost an extension to your personal statement. Again, this is a very broad area that will be covered in greater detail in another post however, I shall summarise the basics here.
There are two main types of interview – multiple mini interviews (MMIs) and traditional interviews. MMIs involve having several timed stations with different tasks. They have the great advantage of being able to establish a first impression ‘repeatedly’. A traditional interview typically involves 2-3 interviews asking a wide variety of questions.
There are some standard questions that you can expect to be asked including:
- Why dentistry?
- Why did you apply to this university?
- What work experience have you done?
- Why NOT medicine?
Often the interviewers will go through your personal statement and pick out areas to ask you about to check the validity as well as learn more about what you have done to show your commitment. As well as this, they may test your knowledge about basic dentistry as well as important topics including caries, fluoride use and amalgam fillings.
Practicing interviews with friends and family is VERY important. Your interview isn’t just about what you say! It’s also a lot about how you speak, your body language and how you communicate with the interviews. Dentistry is heavily reliant on effective communication skills and so this is something they are likely to pick up on!
As I’ve mentioned, this is a VERY broad area to cover and I will provide further, detailed, information on each area in the near future. Till then, I hope you find this little post useful for the basics of applying to dental school.
DISCLAIMER – This post consists of pointers that I have picked up. It by no means guarantees you a place in dental school, but merely behaves as a resource and guide for you to utilise.