As I promised, this is an addition to the existing ‘intro’ post on getting into dental school. Writing your personal statement is one of the most important aspects of applying to dental school. It is your license to sell yourself (be it in a rather limited word count). Every student who applies to dental school is going to have the same academic ability and so your personal statement has to set you aside from other students through other methods.
Before you read on, a major warning – NEVER LIE ON YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT! YOU WILL BE CAUGHT OUT!
There are overall 4 areas in your personal statement that you need to focus on.
First and foremost, your entire personal statement should be targeted at dentistry as (in the UK) you will be applying to 4 dental universities and not a mixture. However, you should NOT target your personal statement towards a particular university! The introduction should be a paragraph or so long and it should highlight WHY you want to be a dentist. You want to get across what interests you in dentistry and how was this interest sparked.
It could be that someone in your family is a dentist or maybe you had dental treatment in your life which has significantly benefited you and thus sparked an interest in the area.
Note: Do NOT say that you want to do dentistry because of the money! This is not something universities are looking for!
A key area of your personal statement which you should devote a good section to. Most UK universities look for a minimum of 10 days of work experience (however, I advise you to check the requirements at the specific universities as these are constantly changing). The whole point of doing work experience is to show that you have seriously looked into the career and are aware of what it entails. It shows that you have taken your time to study the job and degree and a level of commitment.
It is important that, wherever you go for work experience, you take away some form of knowledge or understanding of the career. At interview, questions can be focussed on what you learnt from your experience – this, for example, could be something like the comparisons between NHS and private dentistry.
You may choose to carry out work experience in a dental practice, dental technicians lab or a MaxFax department. Ideally, you want to have a variety of experience so that you can compare and contrast more BUT this is not a requirement. Wherever you do experience, pay close attention to what is going on around you. Look at the skills the dentist requires not just for his clinical work but also whilst working within the practice. Always ask questions! It is your chance to learn as much as you can and then you can reflect this in your personal statement and in your interview.
Once you’ve mentioned the experience that you’ve had, try to link this back to your desire of doing dentistry. As I mentioned, everything is targeted towards dentistry and your passion towards it.
Again, it’s not just your academic work. You also need to show how you’re a well-rounded student that the university will want. This can often include employment and volunteer work as well. You can discuss virtually anything here from playing musical instruments to enjoying athletics. Whatever you mention, always link it back to how the hobby will help towards your chosen career as a dentist e.g. how playing the guitar will help with manual dexterity. Some key skills that you will require as a dentist include manual dexterity, teamwork and communication skills. Try to include these some way into your hobbies and activities when you describe them.
That Killer Conclusion
Finally, you need to finish off your personal statement with impact. This is usually a line or two at the end which sums up your personal statement, your qualities and why the university should pick you. Spend a good amount of time perfecting this!
- Ensure spellings are correct and your grammar is good. You don’t want to lose universities with such simple things!
- Make sure your personal statement is structured well and that it flows when read. Everything should link together and run seamlessly.
- Your introduction and conclusion are crucial to get right – these are the things that will be read first and last and so what will usually be remembered about you. Get the right!
- Have lots of people read through your personal statement. You will end up writing a lot of drafts, and I mean a lot, but it is something that you want to perfect.
- You’re trying to sell yourself but DON’T make yourself seem arrogant and big-headed. It’s a fine art which you must get right!
- ALWAYS link back to why something helps towards your chosen career in dentistry in terms of skills or knowledge.
References and Recommended Reading
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.