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Personal statement advice: dentistry

We've been researching and collating the top things that dental schools want to see from your personal statement. Here’s what they say…

You'll need great grades and a spot-on personal statement to catch the eye of a dental school and nab an interview for a place on one of these demanding courses. 

The good news is the dental schools themselves are pretty open about what they're looking for. For more advice about studying dentistry, see our dentistry degree subject guide.
 

1. Motivation and commitment

As the University of Liverpool's dental school says: 'applicants must demonstrate motivation and commitment to a career in dentistry'. So how can you achieve this?

One way is to explain what first attracted you to dentistry in the first place, and what, as the University of Manchester puts it, 'has sustained or confirmed this choice'.

The University of Sheffield's dental school wants you to demonstrate your knowledge of the profession, what attracts you to it and that you’ve researched the possible career opportunities. Be honest about what's fuelling your ambitions (ideally that you're driven by the impact you can have on society at large, rather than by the earning potential).

And as well as evidence of your commitment to the profession, King’s wants you to demonstrate a 'realistic appreciation of the academic, physical and emotional demands of a dental degree programme and career', bringing us nicely on to…
 

2. Dental experience 

Before you apply, you need to have made efforts to gain an insight into the profession through work experience or observation, especially in general dental practice. As for where and how much, here’s how some dental schools view it:
 
  • Dundee and Cardiff don’t specify how much, but both expect you to take every opportunity to gain as much as you can.
  • Sheffield expects it to be in a general dental practice.
  • Liverpool says that it should preferably be in a dental practice or hospital 'and preferably in more than one establishment'.
  • Bristol ideally wants you to have experienced various fields of dentistry, such as general practice, hospital, community or laboratory.
  • Manchester wants you to have had at least two weeks experience or observation in general practice and to state how much in your statement. If you also have additional experience in a specialist area of dentistry, all the better.
  • King’s adds that if you’ve been unable to observe in a dental establishment then, at the very least, they want you to reflect on any work experience you’ve had in a caring environment or in another setting where you’ve interacted with the general public. But clearly, they would also then expect you to demonstrate your knowledge of dentistry in other ways in your statement.
Of course, it won’t be enough just to say you’ve had the experience. What matters is that you write about it in a way that demonstrates the insight you’ve gained into the role of a dentist and, as Cardiff describes it, 'an understanding of the demands of dental training and practice.' 

So within your 47 lines, outline the breadth and duration of the experience you’ve had but, even more importantly, describe what you’ve learned from it. To do this, it might be best to focus on the highlights and the key things you gained tutors would rather read about what you learned from observing one filling than a list of all the procedures you saw. What counts is the quality of your observations and how they’ve influenced your understanding.  

Note that both King’s and Cardiff mention an awareness of the demands of the degree as well as the career research dentistry here, compare individual courses and get to an open day. 
 

3. Leadership and non-academic achievements

Most dental schools also want to read something about you as a person and your extra-curricular interests. Be selective and prioritise what you think is paramount.
 
  • Reflect on anything that genuinely shows strong teamwork and leadership qualities, like your part-time job, sport, drama, Duke of Edinburgh Award, positions of responsibility or whatever you do that showcases them.
  • Demonstrate self-motivation through significant ongoing commitment to school, college or community activities, volunteering, charity work, sports teams, mentoring and so on.
  • Show that you have a range of hobbies and interests too, that you can manage your time well alongside your studies, that you’re well-read, well-rounded and know how to relax when you take a break from studying.
  • Show your caring attitude, a sense of social responsibility, courtesy, an interest in people and their welfare or the ability to reassure people and put them at ease.
  • Demonstrate effective communication and that you can explain complex information simply and coherently.
  • Demonstrate logic, independent thought, goal-setting, problem-solving, organisation, reliability, conscientiousness and that you’re up for a challenge.
Give them a glimpse of you as a person, what you enjoy doing and what you feel passionate about or excel at.
 

4. Manual dexterity

Dentistry admissions tutors also need to feel confident that you have the necessary fine motor skills to perform intricate tasks.

There are some subtle ways to convince them about this in your personal statement mentioning your active involvement in arts and crafts, playing an instrument, model-making, maintaining your car or bike or whatever else you do that requires good coordination and attention to detail.
 

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