The Inconsistency Trap
As an international dentist, you are in a unique position with regard to your dental school application. You may already know a lot about dentistry, but you may need help with the intricacies of the university application process. A dental university will look at more than only your knowledge when considering you as a candidate for their dental program.
Because you never know which part of your application profile will win over the admissions committee, the best plan is to present your profile as a holistic bundle. Give attention to each document. After all, it is likely that it will be your overall profile that impresses the committee, so each part should do its share to feature your best qualities.
In order to make the best impression, you want to avoid the inconsistency trap. This means you need to make sure that you build a consistent profile by giving the same attention to detail to all aspects of the application and interview process.
What Dental Schools Look for in Candidates
Applying to dental school is not exactly the same as applying to other university programs. Like any program, the admissions committee will want to see that you are a good student. However, they will also look for traits that indicate you would be successful in your future role as a dentist.
For your best chance at successfully being admitted to the university, showcase your other good qualities, as well as your intelligence and scholarly success. The admissions committee may look for the following characteristics:
• A desire to help people
• The ability to meet challenges
• The ability to get along with people
• The capacity to work independently
The only way the admissions officers will know if you possess these characteristics is if you tell them or show them. Ideally, you should do both. Use your application profile documents to tell them about yourself. Provide specific examples to illustrate your good qualities. For example, if you have volunteer experience, mention how you volunteered and why you chose to do so. When you get an interview confirm that you possess these characteristics by arriving prepared and speaking in a confident, friendly manner.
Your Candidacy Profile
The CV is your primary document for conveying your qualifications to a potential dental university. If writing is not your talent and you hired someone to write your personal statement, then hire someone to edit your CV, as well. Having a polished personal statement but a sloppy CV makes you look inconsistent in your efforts. You want this document to be straightforward and easy to read. Therefore, you don’t want to turn off the admissions committee with spelling and grammar errors that distract from your qualifications.
A personal statement, on the other hand, is more personalized than the CV and should come across as uniquely yours. It should not read as merely a list of qualifications or experiences. Because a dental school is looking for someone who would make a good dentist as well as a good student, they want to see that your personality is conducive to the career. The committee will want to hear about why you want to be a dentist. Tell them about your current experience in the field and any related organizations or activities you participate in. Also, be sure to explain what you have gained from your involvement.
The most important part of the personal statement is illustrating to the dental university why you, in particular, are a good fit. Show them what talents and accomplishments have been important to you, what you are proud of about yourself, and how the person you are makes you a great candidate for dental school and beyond.
As you write your personal statement, go back to your CV to make sure your experiences match on both documents. If you share an anecdote from your participation in an organization, check that you have listed your membership to the organization on your CV. When your experiences match on each document, it helps the information to stick in the minds of the admissions officers.
The Importance of Recommendation Letters
If your CV and personal statement really stand out, but your recommendation letters are bland and generic, the admissions committee will feel that how you represent yourself does not match how your reference represents you. Worse, they could wonder if you were insincere in your application.
When requesting a recommendation letter from someone, always make your relationship with that person a priority in choosing who you ask to write your letter. The name of a well-known professor you took one class with may look good as a reference, but if the individual is too busy to provide a good recommendation letter, the name does not help much.
Instead, request recommendations from colleagues and professors who know you and have worked with you long-term – those you have an established relationship with. These people are in a better position to write a sincerely flattering letter.
Also, when you request a recommendation, be sure to speak up about how you would like to be portrayed. For example, if you are requesting three recommendations, ask one person to write about your ability to work with anyone, one to write about your good study skills and research capabilities, and one to write about your dental expertise. By directing your references to focus on specific aspects of your qualifications, it showcases all of your talents and helps their letters to match up with how you present yourself in the application.
Confirm Your Profile Persona at the Interview
Creating a consistent presentation of yourself does not end with writing your application documents. The best personal statement is useless if you do not hold up its promises during the interview. Most dental schools require an interview so they can assess your personality traits. They are looking for the same traits listed above, primarily the ability and desire to help people and get along with them, as well as the capacity to work independently.
The main purpose of the interview is simply to ascertain whether you and the dental school are a good fit. The admissions committee wants to see that you are truly interested in their university. They are not interviewing you in an attempt to ask trick questions. They want you to attend their dental program and be successful.
Remain calm during the interview process, and show the admissions officer who you meet with that all of the wonderful qualities you discussed in your personal statement are sincere. You do not want to come off as stiff and overly serious. This is not an examination of your knowledge. However, you should be familiar with the items on your CV and personal statement in case the admissions officer uses information from these documents to make conversation. It is always a good idea to review your application materials before an interview.
Although it helps to prepare yourself by practicing answers to questions you may expect, you don’t need to memorize your responses. Keep your tone conversational. Your ability to appear confident and collected will speak volumes about your probability to succeed both as a student and a dentist.
How to Communicate Politely
Even with a stellar profile, you can turn off admissions officers by presenting yourself rudely or carelessly in communications. You want to make sure that all of your communications consistently present you as an intelligent person who is easy to get along with. Here are a few tips to avoid annoying the admissions committee and possibly turning them off to your application:
• Follow Email Etiquette—If you have questions about how to apply or what to do next, certainly contact the appropriate person to make sure you complete the application process properly. Remember, however, to compose professional emails regardless of who you are contacting. This means avoiding too many exclamation points and words written in all capital letters, since this comes across as yelling.
• Don’t Call or Email Too Often—It is understandable that you are anxious to hear back about the status of your application, but admissions officers are busy with many other applications, as well as other duties. Be respectful of their time. If it has been a while since you applied or had an interview, and you have not heard back, make one follow-up contact. Leave it at that, whether they respond immediately or not.
• Remember to Send a Thank You—After you have had an interview at a dental university, send a thank you note to the admissions officer with whom you met. This not only shows that you are polite and friendly, but also that you are seriously interested in their dental program.
When you coordinate your CV, personal statement, interview skills, and communication methods, you come across as a candidate who is both honest and well-prepared. It signals to the admissions officers that you are serious about attending their dental school. Taking the time to follow these tips shows your determination and will help you to avoid the inconsistency trap.