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Developing an Attention-Grabbing, Unique Dental School Personal Statement

A unique and engaging dental school personal statement is essential as it sets you apart from other applicants and captures the attention of admissions committees. It helps you stand out in a competitive pool of candidates and leaves a lasting impression. By showcasing your individuality, sharing your personal journey, and presenting your experiences and ideas in an engaging manner, you demonstrate your passion for dentistry and critical thinking skills. An attention-grabbing personal statement increases your chances of being invited for an interview and convinces the admissions committee of your suitability for dental school. A personal statement can make or break your application to dental school.

The ADEA personal statement prompt is capped at at 4,500 characters. In this space, you have the opportunity to tell your story and show the admissions committee why you are an exceptional applicant.

Here are some key tips to help you write an exceptional and engaging dental school personal statement:

  1. Start with a Compelling Opening: Begin your personal statement with a captivating introduction that hooks the reader's attention. Consider using an engaging anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or a powerful statement to create intrigue right from the start.

  2. Highlight Your Motivation: Clearly communicate your passion for dentistry and what motivated you to pursue a career in this field. Share personal experiences, such as interactions with patients or shadowing experiences, that inspired and influenced your decision to become a dentist.

  3. Showcase Your Unique Experiences: Stand out by highlighting the experiences that set you apart from other applicants. Discuss your involvement in dental-related research, community service projects, or leadership roles. Emphasize how these experiences have shaped your skills, knowledge, and commitment to the dental profession.

  4. Demonstrate Your Personal Growth: Reflect on challenges you have faced and the lessons you have learned along the way. Discuss how these experiences have contributed to your personal growth, resilience, and adaptability. Admissions committees appreciate candidates who can demonstrate self-awareness and the ability to overcome obstacles.

  5. Connect Your Background to Dentistry: Illustrate how your background, whether cultural, educational, or personal, has influenced your perspective on oral health and patient care. Showcasing the unique insights you bring to the field can make your personal statement more memorable and impactful.

  6. Emphasize Your Skills and Qualities: Highlight the skills, qualities, and values that make you well-suited for a career in dentistry. These may include attention to detail, empathy, problem-solving abilities, effective communication, and a strong work ethic. Demonstrate how you have developed and applied these attributes in relevant situations.

  7. Show, Don't Just Tell: Instead of simply listing your achievements and qualities, provide concrete examples that illustrate them. Use storytelling techniques to vividly describe experiences and convey the impact they had on your personal and professional development.

  8. Discuss Your Future Goals: Convey your vision for your future dental career and how you plan to make a positive impact in the field. Explain why you are specifically interested in the dental program you are applying to and how it aligns with your goals.

  9. Seek Feedback and Revise: Share your personal statement draft with trusted mentors, professors, or writing advisors for feedback. Incorporate their suggestions and revise your essay to ensure clarity, coherence, and strong overall structure. Take the time to proofread and edit meticulously for grammar and spelling errors. The Writing Lab staff is particularly trained to provide feedback on personal statements.

  10. Be Authentic and Reflect Your Voice: While it's essential to present your best self, be genuine and let your unique voice shine through. Admissions committees are interested in getting to know the real you, so avoid using clichés or trying to fit into a perceived mold of what a personal statement should sound like.

Writing Your Opening

Tips for Crafting a Compelling Opening

Start with an engaging anecdote: Begin your personal statement with a captivating story or experience that is relevant to your journey towards dental school. This can help grab the reader's attention and create an emotional connection.

Showcase your passion: Express your genuine enthusiasm for the field of dentistry right from the beginning. Use compelling language and vivid descriptions to convey your dedication and interest.

Start with a captivating statement: Begin with a bold or provocative statement that challenges conventional wisdom or presents a unique viewpoint. This can pique the reader's interest and make them eager to explore your ideas further.

Craft a compelling hook: Create a compelling hook that grabs the reader's attention right from the beginning. It can be a surprising statement, a captivating story, or a thought-provoking observation that entices the reader to continue reading.

Pose a thought-provoking question: Begin with a thought-provoking question that prompts the reader to ponder an important dentistry or care-focused issue. This can stimulate their curiosity and make them eager to delve deeper into your personal statement.

Share a personal experience: Open with a personal anecdote or experience that influenced your decision to pursue dentistry. Be specific and provide details that highlight your growth, resilience, or commitment to your field.

Provide a compelling statistic or fact: Begin with a surprising statistic or compelling fact that underscores the significance of dentistry or a particular issue you are passionate about. This can immediately capture attention and emphasize the importance of your personal statement. Whatever statistic you use, immediately connect it to YOU as an applicant.

Paint a vivid picture: Use descriptive language to create a vivid scene or imagery that transports the reader into a specific moment or event. This can help them visualize your experiences and connect with your narrative on a deeper level. Talk about how the air feels in a treatment room, the grim in our eyes after a long day of shadowing, or how to make a cast. These details set you apart.

Use a unique perspective: Introduce your personal statement with a fresh and unique perspective that showcases your individuality. Avoid clichés and strive to present a fresh take on your experiences or motivations for pursuing law.

Your opening should be engaging, authentic, and reflective of your personal journey and aspirations. It sets the tone for your entire personal statement, so invest time and effort into crafting an impactful introduction.

Things To Avoid When Writing an Opening Paragraph 

  1. Clichés: Avoid using overused phrases or clichés that can make your opening sound generic or uninspired. Aim for originality and authenticity in your writing. Statements such as "Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a dentist..." doesn't grab attention because it is overdone...unless it is core to your intent to study dentistry.

  2. Generic statements: Steer clear of generic statements that could apply to any applicant. Instead, focus on showcasing your unique experiences, perspectives, and motivations. "Treatment of teeth is important to the overall health of a community." This means nothing to a committee.

  3. Excessive quotations: While a well-placed quote can be impactful, avoid relying too heavily on quotes to carry your opening. Your personal statement should primarily reflect your own voice and thoughts. YOU are who they want to hear from!

  4. Negative or overly personal information: While it's important to be authentic, avoid sharing overly personal or negative information in your opening. Maintain a professional tone and focus on the positive aspects of your experiences and aspirations.

  5. Rhetorical questions without purpose: If you choose to use a rhetorical question in your opening, ensure that it serves a purpose and relates directly to your narrative. Avoid using rhetorical questions solely for the sake of grabbing attention. "How important is dentistry?" is vague and meaningless. Show them why you think dentistry is important.

  6. Excessive background information: While some context is necessary, avoid providing excessive background information in your opening. Get to the heart of your story or motivation without delving into unnecessary details. Rather than providing every detail of your research study on mice, cut to the findings. A committee does not need the gory details. They need to know what qualities you are trying to illustrate.

  7. Overly complex or technical language: Keep your opening clear and accessible by avoiding overly complex or technical language. Aim for a balance between sophistication and readability.

  8. Repeating information from your resume: Your personal statement should complement, not repeat, the information already present in your resume. Avoid duplicating information and instead focus on providing unique insights and perspectives.

  9. Inappropriate humor or gimmicks: While a touch of humor can be refreshing, be cautious with jokes or gimmicks in your opening. Ensure that any humor you incorporate aligns with the professional tone expected in a law school personal statement. There's no way to know if your humor matches with the committee's.

Tips to Strengthen Your Authentic Voice

Why does an "authentic voice" matter?

Your medical school personal statement is an opportunity to showcase your unique perspective, experiences, and voice. Admissions committees are interested in getting to know you as an individual and future colleague, so it's crucial to convey your authentic self in your personal statement.

Be True to Yourself: Write in a manner that reflects your true personality, values, and beliefs. Avoid trying to mimic someone else's writing style or presenting yourself as someone you think the admissions committee wants to see. Authenticity shines through and helps you stand out among the applicant pool.

Pro-tip: Don't read too many example personal statements. Read 2-3 to get a feel for the genre. Then, set those examples aside and start outlining your own. 

Use Natural Language: Write in a way that feels comfortable and natural to you. Avoid using overly formal or complex language if it doesn't reflect your everyday communication style. However, remember to maintain a professional tone appropriate for a medical school application.

Share Personal Insights: Use your personal statement as an opportunity to share personal reflections, insights, and lessons learned from your experiences. Be open and honest about your journey, including any challenges you have faced. Sharing personal insights demonstrates self-awareness and maturity.

Showcase Your Passion: Convey your genuine enthusiasm for dentistry, research, and/or care. Share specific experiences, encounters, or academic interests that have sparked your passion for pursuing a medical career. Let your enthusiasm and dedication shine through in your writing.

Highlight Your Individuality: Embrace what makes you unique. Discuss your diverse background, perspectives, or interests that set you apart from other applicants. Your individuality brings valuable perspectives to the dental profession and can contribute to a diverse and inclusive learning environment.

Fun fact: You can break with convention in dental school personal statements. You can write a poem, write creative fiction, or break with traditional norms in mechanics or grammar. As long as you are intentional and you feel it is illustrating who YOU ARE, then you can submit something non-traditional. 

Use Personal Examples and Stories: Support your statements with personal anecdotes and examples that demonstrate who you are and what you have accomplished. Personal stories help the reader connect with your experiences on a deeper level and make your personal statement more engaging.

Revise and Seek Feedback: After writing your personal statement, revise it with a critical eye, focusing on maintaining your authentic voice. Ensure that the final version accurately represents who you are. It can be helpful to seek feedback from trusted advisors, mentors, or writing professionals to ensure that your authentic voice shines through. The staff at the Writing Lab is prepared to support your authentic voice. 

Being true to yourself in your personal statement allows the admissions committee to gain a genuine understanding of your character, passions, and aspirations. Let your unique voice and perspective be the driving force behind your personal statement, and present yourself as a confident and authentic candidate for dental school.

Tips for Emphasizing Empathy and Advocacy

Connect empathy to understanding clients: Show your understanding of the importance of empathy in medicine, particularly when working with patients and families going through challenging situations. Explain how you will approach patient care with empathy, compassion, and a commitment to their best interests. If you do not think that this figures into the way you are approaching dental study, emphasize your research interests instead. 

Discuss experiences working with marginalized communities: If you have experience working with marginalized communities or advocating for underrepresented groups, highlight these experiences in your personal statement. Demonstrate your understanding of systemic issues and your commitment to promoting justice and equality in dental care.

Describe your future goals: Explain how you plan to use your dental degree to advocate for positive change in society. Discuss specific areas of dentistry that interest you and how you hope to make a difference in those areas. This shows your dedication to using dental care as a tool for empathy and advocacy.

Connect personal stories to medical aspirations: Weave personal stories and experiences throughout your personal statement to humanize your narrative and demonstrate your personal connection to empathy and advocacy. Show how these experiences have influenced your decision to pursue a career in dentistry and how they will inform your approach to care.

Be specific and concrete: Provide specific examples, anecdotes, or experiences that illustrate your commitment to empathy and advocacy. This adds depth and credibility to your statement and helps the admissions committee understand the impact you can make.

Developing Your Storyline

Start with reflection: Take some time to reflect on your experiences, values, and motivations that have led you to pursue dentistry. Consider the key moments, challenges, or turning points in your life that have shaped your journey.

Identify a central theme: Choose a central theme or message that you want to convey in your personal statement. This could be a core value, a significant experience, or a particular aspect of your identity that is relevant to your interest in a dental care career.

Create an outline: Outline the key points and events you want to include in your personal statement. Organize them in a logical sequence to create a coherent narrative that flows smoothly from one idea to the next.

Use transitions effectively: Employ transitional phrases and words to connect different sections of your personal statement and create a smooth transition from one idea to another. This helps to maintain coherence and clarity throughout your narrative. Watch out for your habits in transitions. Don't repeat a transition in your statement. 

Show progression and growth: Demonstrate how your experiences have shaped your growth, maturity, and readiness for dental school. Highlight the lessons learned, challenges overcome, and the development of key skills or qualities relevant to the medical field.

Be selective with details: Choose the most relevant and impactful details to include in your personal statement. Avoid including excessive or unnecessary information that may distract from your central storyline.

Maintain focus and clarity: Stay focused on your central theme and avoid going off on tangents or introducing unrelated ideas. Ensure that every aspect of your personal statement supports your overall storyline.

Use storytelling techniques: Incorporate storytelling techniques such as vivid descriptions, dialogue, and engaging narratives to make your personal statement more compelling and memorable.

Tips For Connecting Your Experiences to Dentistry

Highlight relevant experiences: Identify experiences from your academic, professional, and personal life that have direct or indirect connections to dentistry. These could include clinicals, shadowing, internships, volunteer work, research projects, or leadership roles.

Draw parallels: Find connections between your experiences and the skills, values, or principles that are important in medicine. Showcase how your experiences have developed qualities such as care giving, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, or advocacy. Don't put the work on the committee to make these connections. Do that work as the writer. 

Provide concrete examples: Use specific examples or anecdotes to illustrate how your experiences have influenced your understanding of dentistry and its impact on individuals or communities.

Emphasize your unique perspective: Highlight any experiences or backgrounds that bring a unique perspective to medicine. This could include cultural, socioeconomic, or personal experiences that inform your understanding of justice and equity. 

Connect to your long-term goals: Explain how your experiences align with your long-term goals in dentistry. Articulate how your background and interests make you a strong candidate for pursuing a specific area of dentistry or a particular career path. If you don't know what your long-term goals are, that's okay. Do your best to illustrate your intent to study dentistry and find a specialization that best fits you as you learn more at their institution. 

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