AADSAS requires an essay from each applicant that will give admissions officers a personal account of who the applicant is, what his or her interests are, and why he or she is interested in the field of dentistry. The essay is limited to 4500 characters (approximately one page, includes spaces and punctuation). The prompt for the essay on AADSAS is purposely blank so that applicants do not feel restricted in what/how they should write, but the ADEA recommends that “your Personal Statement […] address why you desire to pursue a dental education and how a dental degree contributes to your personal and professional goals. The Admissions Committee members who read your essay are looking for individuals who are motivated, academically prepared, articulate, socially conscious, and knowledgeable about the profession. Write about your experiences and any qualities that will make you stand out”. In short, your personal statement should focus on your interest in dentistry, some things you have done to this point that illustrate your interest, and how these attributes will help you succeed in your future career as a dentist.
While the focus of your essay should not prevent you from writing an interesting and enjoyable composition, avoid writing in a vague, philosophical manner. The personal statement is not meant to be a creative piece, but rather a clear, concise, professional essay indicating your interest in entering the field of dentistry and providing solid information to support your acceptance. Remember, the admissions committee at each dental school will be deciding who they wish to invite for an interview based solely on the AADSAS application so the personal statement will be your only opportunity to speak to them in your own words (until you meet them in person on interview day). Make it count.
Although a poorly-written essay may not prevent an applicant with highly competitive credentials from being invited for an interview, a well-written essay can be strongly influential in persuading admissions committee members to interview (or even accept) an applicant who is lacking in one or more aspects of their application (see Dental School Preparations).
Below are some of the Duke Pre-Dental Society’s favorite resources for perfecting a dental school personal statement. Feel free to browse through the wealth of information found in the links below.
Duke University HPA Personal Statement Advice
“Writing the Primary Essay for Medical School” — Dan Scheirer, Duke University Dean of Health Professions Advising
Student Doctor Network Essay Workshop 101
Student Doctor Network Essay Workshop 101 Supplement
Excellent Inquarta Article on “Writing a Winning Personal Statement”
University of Michigan Personal Statement Tips
Duke Pre-Dental Society “AADSAS and the Personal Statement” Powerpoint
Sample Dental School Personal Statement (with Dean Scheirer’s comments)
Sample Medical School Personal Statement #1 (with Dean Scheirer’s comments)
Sample Medical School Personal Statement #2 (with Dean Scheirer’s comments)
DMDStudent.com Personal Statement Examples (part 1)
DMDStudent.com Personal Statement Examples (part 2)
In response to popular demand we are including a sample dental school essay. Note how the author reveals a lot about herself without overtly saying "I am this and I am that." She is obviously hard working and disciplined, probably compassionate and kind. Interested in dentistry for a long time, she has clearly considered other options. And she tells a good story.
I could hardly keep myself from staring at the girl: the right side of her face was misshapen and bigger than the left. Only later did I notice that Cheryl, about nine at the time, had light brown hair, lively brown eyes, and a captivating smile. When she walked into the candy shop where I worked six years ago, Cheryl told me she was a student of my former fourth grade teacher with whom I had kept in contact. We talked then and spent time talking each time she visited. She became a very special friend of mine, one whom I admire greatly. At the time we met, I was taking honors and AP classes, working about twenty hours a week, and feeling sorry for myself. Cheryl's outgoing confidence and good cheer put my situation in perspective. Cheryl was strong, kind, and surprisingly hopeful. She never focused on her facial deformities, but always on the anticipated improvement in her appearance. Her ability to find strength within herself inspired me to become a stronger person. It motivated me to pursue a career where I could help those like Cheryl attain the strength that she possesses.
At the time, my initial interest turned toward psychology. Impressed with Cheryl's outlook, I overlooked the source of her strength: she knew that treatment will improve her appearance. Focusing on the emotional aspects of her illness, I volunteered at the Neuropsychiatric Institute. There, I supervised the daily activities of pre-adolescents, played with them, and assisted them in getting dressed. I worked with crack babies, autistic children, and children who had severe behavioral problems. I enjoyed interacting with the children, but I often became frustrated that I was not able to help them. For instance, a young autistic boy frequently hit himself. No one was permitted to stop this child. We had to turn away and allow him to continually strike and hurt himself until he tired.
I was increasingly disappointed with the lack of progress I saw in my volunteer work at NPI, but my job again pushed me in the right direction. During the fall quarter of my junior year in college, I left the candy shop where I had worked for nearly five and a half years, and I began working as a senior clerk in the Anesthesiology Residency Program. Ironically work, which frequently made study difficult, helped me find the right path. There I learned about the oral and maxillo-facial specialty, which will allow me to help people like Cheryl.
To explore my interest in dentistry, I volunteered as a dental assistant in Dr. Miller's dental office. Dr. Miller introduced me to various dental techniques. Although I was mainly an observer, I had the opportunity to interact with the patients. I came in contact with a diverse patient population with different problems and dental needs. I observed as Dr. Miller dealt with each patient individually and treated each one to the best of his ability. He familiarized me with strategies for oral health promotion and disease prevention. I learned a great deal from him, and as a result, my interest in dentistry grew.
I choose to pursue a career in dentistry after following a circuitous path. My friendship with Cheryl motivated me to enter a field where I can help the severely disfigured cope with their condition. Although I initially turned to psychology, I found my work at the Neuropsychiatric Institute to be frustrating and was searching for a different way to achieve my goal. Ironically, Cheryl had told me all along the source of her strength: the knowledge that her condition was treatable and improving. Through maxillo-facial dentistry I will help others with serious facial deformities have the same knowledge and source of strength.
Other Sample Essays