Writing A Personal Statement For Dentistry: Five Key Tips
The personal statement aspect of a UCAS Application for dental school serves as an invaluable bridge between the pre-interview application elements (namely subjects, grade predictions and UCAT performance) and the interview itself when considering an applicant’s eligibility for admission. The guidelines provided below should help to provide some clarity or offer a point of inception for crafting a balanced, well considered personal statement that best lends itself to augmenting an individual’s undergraduate Dentistry application.
Aim to maintain a clear and cogent structure
Brevity is important because the objective of the personal statement is essentially to provide stimuli for discussion at the time of interview and therefore, lengthy detail is not required as there will be an opportunity to elaborate at a later date. The main sections to include and divide the personal statement into are:
Establish the rationale for applying to dental school early on in the personal statement (it is advisable to make this the introduction) and ensure that the statement is specifically focused on Dentistry even if placing a non dental course as a fifth choice (in many cases, institutions will understand the objective of the fifth choice as a security option).
An applicant’s commitment to studying Dentistry should be made apparent throughout the personal statement and when explaining the justification behind their choice, assessors are normally gauging if the applicant has undertaken their due diligence prior to making their application and have a pragmatic view of what this area of study entails.
Work Experience and Additional Research
- Focus on dental-specific work experience (whilst it is tempting to include an array of different work experience undertaken, in order to maximise the efficacy of the limited 4000 characters available for the personal statement, it is preferable to discuss fewer placements, which are more dental targeted and diverse within the landscape of dentistry namely different dental disciplines eg general practice/primary care, specialist practice, hospital or community care, oral health education programmes)
- Avoid listing large volumes of work experience and focus more on the reflections and insights gained from the experiences undertaken (although arranging a large amount of work experience can fare favourably for an applicant in the way of demonstrating their commitment to research into the profession and informed decision making, this is negated if the applicant is unable to analytically retrospect on their experiences and therefore, it is imperative to strike a suitable balance between the two)
- Additional research: beyond the scope of conventional work experience, attendance at healthcare lectures, student dental conferences and reading of dental journals and publications (along with specific references for validity) can be illustrative of an applicant’s understanding of the importance of independent, initiative led extended learning within the dental profession.
- COVID-19 Update: understandably, for the foreseeable future, it may be difficult to arrange practical work experience in a face to face manner given current circumstances and social distancing affecting standard operating procedures in all primary care dental settings. In this instance, it may be prudent for applicants to undertake auxiliary wider reading (such as the British Dental Journal-Student Edition, Dental Update etc) and presently, there are a host of online platforms hosting free e-learning health and medicine based courses (such as FutureLearn or Harvard University-Online Courses) to compensate for a lack of practical experience whilst still demonstrating overall diligence and a fervour for studying Dentistry.
This aspect of the personal statement reflects the applicant’s capacity to be a well rounded individual with a good sense of balance, time management and transferrable skills acquisition all of which are integral attributes when undertaking a dental degree. In this section, consider the activities undertaken and the skills learned from them as well as how this can lend itself towards rising to the demanding challenges that are associated with Dentistry.
The activities discussed can also include voluntary work undertaken, non academic prizes/awards received and exercises in manual dexterity or motor skill precision so as to further elevate an applicant’s personal statement and distinguish exceptional applicants from good applicants.
Personal attributes and aptitude exploration
Applicants should include a degree of contemplation on the various challenges and demands of being a dental professional as well as how the elements outlined in the personal statement are demonstrative of an applicant’s anticipated capability to adapt and grow through said challenges based on their existing experiences.
Seek selective and suitable feedback
Ensure to share your personal statement with a handful of trusted advisors for vetting and feedback allowing you to make suitable corrections (share with faculty at school, previous dental school applicants, dentists etc.) but do not share with too many as this can often convolute the process and cause one to lose clarity and individuality in what they have written-it is important that the personal statement is ultimately personal by the time of submission.
Maintain the correct and consistent tonality
The personal statement tone should of course be articulate and formal as well as reflective of a conscious, well considered thought process regarding why the applicant has chosen to pursue Dentistry. The statement should be illustrative of a sense of professionalism, pragmatism and deliberate choices indicative of measured decision making (in the way of school subjects, work experience, voluntary work and extra curricular activities) that lends itself towards or is demonstrative of an applicant’s aptitude for studying Dentistry and ultimately becoming a dental care professional.
Avoid discussing subject choices and their relevance to Dentistry
Dental Institutions will have mandatory requirements as they are already aware of the importance of science based subjects towards studying a healthcare based degree and there is little need to reiterate such in the personal statement. However, in the event of applicants undertaking specific additional subjects such as a technology or practical skills based subject (such as Graphic design, Textiles, Resistant Materials, Electronics etc.) there may be some merit in highlighting these areas of study if they have contributed to or allowed and applicant to develop skills which lend themselves to the clinical aspect of dental undergraduate training such as manual dexterity, hand or motor skills precision, attention to detail or a calculated and coordinated approach to practical tasks.
Ensure continuity between written and spoken word
Although an applicant should strive to submit an eloquently written personal statement and avoid colloquialisms, it is important to consider the succeeding interview stage of the admissions process as well. The manner in which the applicant expresses themselves and converses naturally should be congruent with the tone of their personal statement for an overall strong application. Therefore, it is recommended for applicants to read the personal statement aloud, use grammar checkers and avoid the use of superfluous vocabulary if unable to communicate in this manner verbally as well.
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