Dos and don’ts of dental school interviews

Waiting for interview

By now, some of you predents have sent in your application to dental school and are awaiting interviews. You are hoping that your academic record and your essays were good enough to land you an interview and give you a chance to tell adcoms why you belong at their schools. So you finally get that email for the interview, you are excited but nervous at the same time (as you should be!). This could make or break your admission. So here are some general tips to guide you towards a great interview day.


  1. Review your application
    The first step is to know your own application inside and out. Review all of your activities, education, volunteer work and research both your primary and secondary application. Be prepared to articulate your involvement in outside activities and research. For example, if you were in a laboratory studying Osh6 gene overexpression in yeast, you should be able to articulate the background, hypotheses, methodology and results in a way that shows a strong understanding of your project.
    Also maintain consistency throughout your application and interview. If your personal statement talks about a single life-changing experience that influenced your decision to pursue dentistry, you should refer to that experience in your interview when asked about experiences that led you to dentistry. Remember, you were selected based on the information on your application. Your responses pertaining to anything presented on the application should be consistent. Failure to do so can reflect negatively.
  2. Be honest
    I can’t emphasize this enough. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes that people make in interviews. Admissions committees want to get a sense of who you are in the short time that they spend with you. Many interviewers have already read about you and know where you’re from, where you’ve gone to school and what volunteer work you did last summer. During your interview, they want to get a sense of WHO you are, something about your character. If they ask about why your grades slipped a little in one semester, be honest about why and use the moment as an opportunity to talk about what you learned from that experience. If they ask you what field of dentistry you are interested in and you honestly don’t know yet, don’t make something up – just be honest and be yourself. As an applicant to dental school, you are being considered for a profession in which integrity is of the utmost importance.
  3. Be confident and enthusiastic
    No overzealous bone crushing handshake, no insincere double-handed politician greetings, no awkward misfires, or lame, limp dead-fish hands! You must communicate strength, competence and excitement when meeting people. Your first impression is absolutely key, and will largely stem from how you are feeling inside. You were invited to interview because the school already knows you are qualified! You are a dental doctor in training, so act the part and be confident. Most importantly, when you shake their hands, look them in the eye. Nothing says “timid and immature” like staring at your feet when you shake hands.Also, interviewers are looking for applicants who are passionate about becoming dentists. It takes a lot of drive and dedication to become a dentist–and many years of hard work. You need to demonstrate this passion, drive and excitement about your chosen profession. If you keep your head down, you won’t make an impression.


  1. Don’t be arrogant
    You may have the highest GPA in your class. You may have the highest DAT score ever recorded in the nation. But if you come off as haughty and superior, you will likely burn bridges and destroy your chances of admission. There is a certain confidence that is required in being an oral care provider, but don’t ever mistake this for arrogance. When a dentist is arrogant, he/she is more likely to make mistakes. Being a dentist also requires a dedication to lifelong learning due to developing technology and new techniques, so don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that you know it all. (PS: this is also a good life tip to make you more likable in general.)
  2. Don’t stand out (too much)
    Normally, it is a great thing to stand out from the pack and be noticed by the admission committee, but not if that means wearing a hot pink suit. This is a professional job interview. Your Friday night dress or plaid golf pants are not appropriate for your interview. You don’t have to be plain, but definitely don’t go overboard. Business suits are your safest bet (for both men and women). If you don’t own a suit, there is no need to go out and buy one. There are plenty of places to rent a suit (women may have a tougher time, or may consider borrowing one from your friend who is already in the working world). Men should plan on wearing a tie. Women should wear shoes that are professional, yet comfortable and easy to walk in.
  3. Don’t ask bad questions
    People always say that there is no such thing as stupid questions. This may be true for a library poster in an elementary school, but there are definitely questions that can make you look bad on a dental school interview. If the answer to the question is something that can easily be found on the homepage of the interviewing institution’s website, then don’t ask it. For example: “what is the yearly tuition at your institution?” Is a bad question because this information could be easily found on the school’s website. Another example of a bad question is NOT ASKING A QUESTION. Counterintuitively, not asking ANY questions can be worse than asking bad questions. This is your opportunity to show interest in this particular school. Not asking any questions makes you look disinterested. Come prepared with a few questions so that you have something to ask the committee at the close of the interview.

If you are looking for more resources for your dental school interview, here are some articles and tips to check out:

~ Guy Njewel, Columbia ’18

Guy Njewel

Guy is a 2nd year dental student at Columbia University who has recently become involved with organized dentistry. He is currently a member of his school's ASDA Pre-dental committee. When not studying or attending dentistry meetings, Guy loves to travel and cook. He has been lucky enough to see much of the world and learn from many different cultures. Similar to traveling, Guy believes dental school isn’t about the final destination – it’s about the journey one takes to get there.

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