No matter where you are in the process of applying to dental schools, “Your Essential Guide to Dental School Admissions” by Dr. Helen Yang is a must-read. Applying to dental school may be overwhelming, but this resource “for pre-dents, by dentists” provides firsthand knowledge from new dentists about this formidable yet exciting process that marks the beginning of your dental career. These contributing authors, many of whom have served on the admissions committees at their dental schools, have a breadth of experience and strategies about ensuring strong candidacy and building a well-respected application for the dental school you wish to attend.
In the first part of the guide, Dr. Yang and her colleagues highlight what admissions officers look for in applicants. They demystify the ADEA AADSAS portal criteria for extracurriculars and offer ways to help you engage in your activities. They provide a list of considerations to help you secure unique recommendation letters, and even devote two chapters to writing the personal statement and navigating your interviews. Many people believe that they need to be able to answer every interview question, but as you will learn, there are alternative ways to approaching questions that you may not have expected. Interview etiquette and frequently asked interview questions are also included in the book.
Dr. Yang understands the challenge of crafting a compelling personal statement that captures your “experiences, hopes and dreams in just 4,500 characters.” While existing predental guides such as “Getting into Dental School: ASDA’s Guide for Predental Students” or the “ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools” lay out detailed statistics on each dental school, “Your Essential Guide” is a resource for writing your best personal statement, including real, well-crafted examples for students to gain inspiration from.
In fact, the second part of the book features a collection of 30 personal statement essays in original form from real applicants who are now dentists or dentists-to-be. These authors were accepted into dental schools such as University of Connecticut, Harvard University, University of Michigan, Columbia University, University of Colorado, University of Pennsylvania and Tufts University. Each essay is followed by the author’s bio and commentary that analyzes the strengths you might have overlooked. You can learn a lot about how to improve your own writing from reading these notes, which point out positive aspects and areas for improvement for each essay that you can apply to your own.
As a predental student, you might be unsure of where to find inspiration for your personal statement or what experiences to draw upon or how to describe an experience. After all, the essay themes, “Who are you?” and “Why dentistry?” are extremely open-ended. After reading these essays, you will understand what it means to write a personal narrative. Some writers connected their passion for dentistry to childhood experiences. Others elaborated upon college extracurriculars or mentors who introduced them to dentistry.
You might be worried that an experience may sound too “ordinary.” While many of these personal statements had similar topics, such as research or volunteering, the individual experience and personal insight made each one stand out. You will also enjoy seeing a variety of writing styles and formats as well as some things to avoid. Some essays are written like a story, while others have a more clear-cut organized format. It is advantageous to see them conveyed in so many different ways.
If you are looking to apply this cycle or next cycle, then this book is for you. You will not regret perusing this collection of personal statements or learning how you can map the rest of your road to dental school.
~Hilary Wong, Northeastern University, and Elika Ebrahimi, Wesleyan University