This post is one of the core features of my blog. It is one of the main reasons why I initially wanted to create dorkydentalstudent and the aim was for it to be a super useful resource for any prospective dental students.

I’ve made it thorough, so I will start by introducing this post with the warning that it is LONG.

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Dental school applications are long and multi-faceted.

The personal statement (PS) is one of the most important facets of your application to dental school, but the process will have started a while before you even begin writing your PS.

Of course to begin with, the idea of dentistry needs to be seeded in your mind at some point – this will be different for everyone. Once you’ve thought that dentistry might be an option, and you’ve done some research online, you might then go on to do some dental work experience. After all of this, you’ll conclude that you do want to become a dentist and so need to apply to dental schools.

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In the UK, there is a small window of one month when the application pages on UCAS are open. Unless it has changed, the first day you can submit a UCAS application is 15th September and the deadline is the 15th October.

Your dental school applications can only be made during this period, but you can begin to complete your UCAS application before the 15th September opening date and I would strongly recommend you do so!

Failing to prepare means preparing to fail

You need to be organised with your time to save yourself the last minute stresses that will almost inevitable mean your application isn’t as good as it could be.

Pretty much as soon as I was certain in myself that I wanted to become a dentist, I opened a couple of new documents on Microsoft Word and saved them on my desktop as:

  • “Plan for Personal Statement”
  • “Dentistry Personal Statement Draft #1”

Writing your personal statement is not easy (but its not difficult)!

It took me many weeks before I produced the final draft that I was 100% happy with. In this post, I will discuss everything to do with the personal statement and will break it down into sections to try and make it as helpful as possible.

Here’s a list of the thing’s I’ll aim to cover within this post:

  • What is the Personal Statement?
  • How long is the personal statement allowed to be?
  • Why do I need to make one?
  • What do I need to do before I start writing my PS?
  • How do I start my personal statement?
  • What is important to include in my personal statement?
  • What should I leave out of my personal statement?
  • How should I structure it?
  • What are the best approaches to take when writing my personal statement?
  • How do I conclude my PS?
  • How do I know when my PS is complete?
  • Quality Checks for my completed PS
    • Grammar and speling (I hope you got that I did that deliberately!)
    • A Second Pair of Eyes
  • Things to Avoid with Personal Statement writing
    • Worrying about what other people’s personal statements like?
    • Is it ok to lie on my PS?
    • Is it acceptable to copy bits from other people’s personal statements?
  • Top tips for PS writing
    • What makes a PS good? What makes one average? What makes one bad?
  • How to prepare for dental school interviews using my personal statement?

 

WHAT IS THE PERSONAL STATEMENT?

A personal statement is exactly what you think it is based on the name.

It’s a short written statement written by you in which you are discussing relevant details about who you are and why you want to be a dentist.

It is not enough to write that you want to be a dentist; you need to explain why you want to study dentistry, what efforts you have made to explore dentistry in order to give you a real idea of what it is like, what skills/characteristic/features/personality traits you have that are important for dentistry and a few other bits.

Personal statements can be the key component that assessors consider when deciding who to invite for interviews but they can also be the downfall of an application if poorly written. I’m not writing this to scare you but to emphasise its importance.

So you can’t expect to sit down one evening and knock out a good PS from scratch. It might be possible to write a history essay in one evening and get a top grade, but unfortunately it’s not so easy when it comes to personal statement writing.

HOW LONG IS THE PERSONAL STATEMENT?

The maximum character limit is 4000, which equates to 47 lines of text. That might sound like a lot, but trust me, it is not.

I’d like to think that a well suited dental applicant will have a lot they want to write about and for that reason it will be a challenge to write succinctly.

Personally I’d have loved an extra 2000 characters to work with but that’s the way it is.

From an assessors perspective, this is important as they have to read through hundreds of statements!

Everyone has the same limit and the same rules apply for everyone which makes it a perfectly fair system.

WHY DO I NEED A PERSONAL STATEMENT?

By default, all applicants for dental school are strong academically. Unless you’ve been voted the best biology student in the world, or have written a textbook on biochemistry, it’s really not that special to be a ‘straight A student’.

Of course being clever is very impressive and I’m not down playing that at all here, I’m simply stressing that it doesn’t define your application.

What does define your application is your personal statement. This is your opportunity to be unique. No two personal statements are the same. Although most are very similar in the sense that they all pretty much detail the exact same things in a similar structure discussing: work experience, academics, desire to be a dentist, extra-curricular activities, examples of manual dexterity.

You are basically trying to sell yourself.

What you include has to be relevant because you only get a limited number of characters to use – 4000 characters – the same number of characters as the hundreds of other applicants competing for interviews at each dental school.

Another reason why you need a PS is because dental school applications are super competitive. There are too many strong applicants each year, meaning that the team of assessors at each dental school are unable to invite everyone in for an interview. I’m sure in an ideal world every single applicant would have the chance to interview but it just isn’t logistically feasible.

The competition includes thousands of other brilliant applicants:

  • School leavers
  • Mature Students
  • Graduate Students
  • Dental Nurses
  • International Students

This is a terrible shame because I’m sure some of the best applicants to dental school will not even get a chance to interview because their PS was not deemed good enough/interesting enough and therefore it wasn’t chosen. And also, there might be some applicants who are not the most suitable to dentistry for one reason or another, but they have a strong application including a well-written PS, so get invited to interview ahead of other, better potential candidates.

Dentistry requires a lot more than just a super bright individual. You need to show signs of leadership, empathy, manual dexterity and so much more which you need to try and convey through the personal statement.

The assessors need to be adequately convinced that you have what it takes to be a good dentist.

WHAT DO I NEED TO DO BEFORE WRITING MY PERSONAL STATEMENT?

From my experience, one of the most difficult things when writing my personal statement was right at the start. Before I’d even typed a single character in my draft word document I had difficulties.

So in this section I’d like to give some little bits of advice to you on planning your PS.

First thing I want you to do is go online and spend an hour or so researching personal statements in general – read articles you come across and any other web pages you think look useful. Take mental notes on what you read and after that, perhaps write down on a piece of paper the ideas you have based on what you’ve just read about.

Here is a really useful video I came across when doing some research before I began to write this post. It’s on the UCAS website and is titled: How to Start and What to Write About.

Next, I’d do the same thing but be more specific and do online research into personal statements that are related to dentistry AND medicine. The reason I would also look at medical personal statements is that to some extent, they will be similar. Not only that, there is lots of useful advice online related to medical PS writing, so if you excluded it based on the fact it is linked to medicine not dentistry, you’d be neglecting lots of useful tips. And ultimately, the two professions are one and the same!

If you go Studential you can read dentistry personal statements.

Please try not to download and save some of the dental personal statements you read online, this will set you up badly as you’ll begin to rely on those and try to make yours match them.

When you read dental personal statements you come across online, see if there’s also a note with each one that explains how successful that PS was.

For example, you might read a PS and then read a linked note for it stating something like: “This PS got me three interviews at Kings, Bristol and Sheffield” – that suggests it was a well written PS associated with a good application.

This little detail is important because you might read another PS which doesn’t read all that well, and it might have a note saying something like: “I didn’t get any interviews with this PS” – this would confirm your suspicions that it wasn’t great.

And obviously you don’t want writing your own PS be influenced by a badly written one you read on some dodgy website.

Once you’ve read a few, you’ve got an idea of what they look like, how they’re structured and most importantly what kinds of things get mentioned in them. The next step is to start thinking about planning your own PS.

Don’t dive straight in and start writing it, you need to plan it first. When you get into dental school you’ll be taught exactly the same thing when it comes to treatments; you need to first assess the patient thoroughly, then plan your treatment approach in detail and document your plan before you can begin to drill a cavity or whatever the treatment may be!

The planning is important so that you can structure your PS to effectively allow you to showcase yourself as a well-informed and well-suited candidate.

From my experience, the planning is so important because you need to get everything mentioned in 4000 characters and it’s hard to do so!

MAKE LISTS

For me, the best way to begin is to get a blank sheet of paper and write down every single thing you’ve done/achieved so far in your life that you might want to include in your PS. Don’t limit yourself just yet, list everything going way back to when you were at primary school if you want. Then add to that list with anything you are planning to have achieved in the next few months (before your application gets submitted).

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Lists help a lot

I didn’t write my list in one sitting, I kept adding things to it whenever I remembered something I wanted to add. You probably won’t make a full list in one go either – whenever you think of something new, add it. You might be in the gym, or on a train when a thought comes to you, write it on your phone then remember to add it to the list when you can.

It’s better to have an excessively long list to start with. Then when you’re confident you’ve written everything that you think is worth including on your list go and speak with someone close to you, someone that knows you well. The best people would either be: a parent or a sibling or a best friend. Ask them to do the same; either to write a list about you, or just talk to them and see what they think you should consider. If they mention anything that isn’t already on your list, add it!

Once you’ve got what I hope is quite a long and extensive list you can begin to start organising it. Make a new list based off the original. In this new list, I want you to start categorizing things that are similar.

Here are some categories you probably will have:

  • Sports
  • Music
  • Art
  • Hobbies
  • Academics
  • Volunteering
  • Family History in Dentistry
  • School Achievements
  • University Degree
  • Employment (Part-Time and/or Full-Time)
  • Travel
  • Charitable Work
  • Work Experience
  • Previous Dental Experiences (eg. braces when you were younger/cleft lip and palate)

For example:

If you play rugby, are the captain of your football team and go to the gym, these are obviously related so they can go in one category – sports

If you’ve done an EPQ (extended project qualification) related to dentistry, the Duke of Edinburgh, were the Head Boy/Girl of your school, won the debating tournament – school achievements

Then I want you to prioritise everything in your list in each category.

So basically, you can use a scoring system:

1= very relevant

2= quite relevant

3= not very relevant

Then add a number next to everything in your list. This will help you to decide what is important and needs to be mentioned within your personal statement. Because you only have 4000 characters to use for writing your PS, which trust me, is will be a struggle to limit yourself to.

Not everything is worth including in your PS and you’ll need to establish what’s in and what’s out. But I think by making a long and extensive list to begin with will help you to see things clearly. Only by making your list will you really appreciate what are the key ‘selling points’ that need to be mentioned in your PS.

The list you’ve made will need to get more and more organised. One of the most important things that a good PS has is links back to dentistry throughout. Many people forget this and write lots of impressive things about themselves without linking it back to dentistry.

It’s impressive to be an athelete, someone who is on the football team and the rugby team. But what has this got to do with dentistry?! You need to make the link in your PS.

So to make the point abundantly clear, everything you write about must have relevance to why you want to be a dentist, why you have what it takes to become a dentist, and proving that you understand what dentistry requires.

So make a list of all the things you believe a good dentist should be/possess:

  • Compassionate/Empathy/Emotional Intelligence
  • Good communicator
  • Professionalism
  • Self-Confidence
  • Self-Critical
  • Team player
  • Leader
  • Good manual dexterity
  • Honesty/Approachable
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solver
  • Desire to Learn
  • Good Business Sense
  • Ethical

The above is by no means a complete list, but includes many of the key skills/characteristics/qualities that a good dentist should have.

I just Googled: “qualities a good dentist should have” and found lots of great webpages.

Here’s one: http://www.gapmedics.com/blog/2015/01/02/seven-qualities-of-a-good-dentist/

You need to consider this against your first list and start to think about what you have achieved can demonstrate the necessary qualities of a good dentist. Start making these connections on paper. You will need to write your PS in such a way that highlights this because in the end of the day you’re trying to convey to whoever reads your PS that you have the potential to make a decent dentist.

Here are a few examples to help explain what I mean:

  • By playing a sport, you can demonstrate that you are a team player, are dedicated and committed to something. If you are the captain of your team you are also demonstrating leadership qualities.
  • If you have a part time job, you are demonstrating good time-management and organisation skills as well as business sense, professionalism and maturity.
  • If you are a volunteer at any sort of charity, you are showing empathy and a good sense of community spirit (social responsibility is important for dentistry).
  • If you paint, play guitar, sew/knit or play Warhammer for example you are demonstrating fine motor skills. Manual dexterity is hugely important for a dentist.

I hope you understand my point! You need to link anything you mention in your PS to dentistry and also it is important to clearly make the link. You can’t assume that by writing about your part-time job that the assessors from dental schools will immediately think of you as a well-organised individual. Spell it out for them.

HOW DO I START MY PERSONAL STATEMENT?

Lots of people start their personal statement with a story, anecdote or quote. I personally hate this approach and find it to be very cliché.

I would urge you not to but ultimately it’s your PS so you can write it however you please.

If you do decide to start with a significant story that demonstrates your desire to be a dentist that’s fine, but ask other people to read it and see if they think it works or it doesn’t.

It’s really important to remember that the dental schools will be reading hundreds of personal statements a day. So the first sentence/paragraph can set the tone. Readers will immediately form an opinion on a PS, you want it to be a positive one.

So avoid beginning with:

  • “As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a dentist…”
  • “It has always been a dream of mine to become a dentist.”
  • John Smith once wrote that “XXXXX”

I don’t want to influence your PS too much so will avoid making suggestions about how you should start it. But I’d say you need to avoid waffling and try to get to the point. Try to inject some of your personality at the start and some mention of the word dentistry in your first sentence is a nice idea.

I can guarantee you though that whatever you do write will make you cringe when you read it back in a few years time.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR ME TO INCLUDE IN MY PS?

WORK EXPERIENCE

Probably the #1 thing you have to talk about in your PS is work experience. I’d say that at least 40% of your PS should be about your dental work experiences.

I’ve written a separate post focused on dental work experience – you can read it here.

Make it clear how long your work experiences lasted. This is important because some universities will expect you to have done at least a specific amount.

You can highlight this easily by saying things like:

  • “My first experience of dentistry was shadowing a general dental practitioner for a week in July….”
  • “I spent 4 days in the paediatric dentistry department at Guys Hospital where I got to….”

Pick out a few specific moments from your work experiences you might like to mention in your PS that are interesting. This is a great idea because it gives the impression that your work experiences had an impact on you.

If you particularly enjoyed seeing the dentist do root canals or implants then why not talk about this. It is not a bad thing to have a preference for one kind of dentistry or another, even at such an early stage.

A good case to describe in your PS might be one where the dentist had to demonstrate a certain quality. Qualities such as professionalism, teamwork, leadership for example can be drawn out, and then you have set yourself up well to then be able to relate this back to a you have demonstrated the same quality.

For example:

  • If you saw the dentist have to deal with a rude patient but stayed cool, calm and dealt with the situation very professionally can be mentioned.
    • You could then relate this to a time when you dealt with a very rude customer when you were doing your Saturday shift at Debenhams and had to react professionally to neutralise the situation very politely
  • You can discuss how you got a real appreciation for teamwork shown primarily by the dentist and dental nurse but also with the receptionist etc.
  • You may highlight how impressed you were with the ease and ability with which the dentist was able to communicate with a wide variety of different patients (those who don’t speak much English, those who aren’t very well educated, those who were very young/old).

Anything you’ve mentioned in your PS can be brought up for discussion during interview, so if you’ve talked about a particular moment from your work experience this could very well be elaborated on in interview.

If you’ve written about how much you enjoyed seeing the dentist treat child patients then they might ask you why you liked it.

Doing work experience not only exemplifies your desire to want to pursue dentistry, it also demonstrates your knowledge of what it is actually like to be a dentist.

NON-ACADEMIC (EXTRA-CIRICCULAR ACTIVITIES)

You should also have a section where you write about your non-academic hobbies/achievements. Similarly to the work experience part, this should make up a fairly large chunk of your PS.

Hopefully after making your lists, you will have decided on a few interesting non-academic things that you want to include in your PS that have relevance to dentistry in some way.

Dentists don’t fix teeth 24/7 – they have other interests and passions that can be pursued.

You want to convey who you are as a person in your PS. What makes you tick? What makes you you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you do with your weekends?

Not only do the assessors want to get to know a little bit about the person (you) who wrote the PS being reading about what you like doing, they need to read it to accept that you have the variety in your life that is almost essential. Dentistry can be a very stressful and draining job at times, so as human nature dictates, we need something else to do that maintains our vitality and keeps us sane.

Assessors from the dental schools who read all the hundreds of personal statements want a way to define you.

Every single applicant had got good academics and has done a couple of weeks of dental work experience. But you might be the only applicant who has a passion for kite surfing, or makes sculptures of horses from clay.

This is how you can add some colour to your PS. Who knows, maybe the person that decides who gets interviews is also a keen kite surfer and so they are immediately drawn to your PS?!

YOUR FIRST UNIVERSITY DEGREE

If you’re a graduate, it is definitely worth spending some time to talk about your first degree, why you did it? And link it to dentistry: how will your first degree benefit you moving forward as a dental student. Don’t limit this to the academic achievements from your degree, you can also talk about your maturity, improved interpersonal skills, improved study skills etc.

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Dental Applicants with a Relevant Previous Degree Qualification have an Advantage – Write about it in your Personal Statement!

In my PS, I wrote briefly about why I chose to study biomedical science first. I didn’t know I wanted to be a dentist at 17 years old but what I knew for sure was that I was most interested in how the human body works (physiology) so that’s why I chose my course.

EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

After I graduated from Imperial College with a BSc, I still didn’t know I wanted to be a dentist. So before starting at dental school in 2015 I had two full time jobs. I could have talked about these but I decided not to due to the character limit as I preferred to focus more on things that were more relevant to dentistry.

But even though there was no mention of my previous employment history on my PS,  I could well have mentioned my previous jobs during interview! When I went to interviews I was actually still employed and had to take days off as annual leave in order to attend interviews.

Although I chose not to talk about my professional life, it could well have been a core feature of my PS had I decided to include it, because for me, my office job working as a headhunter in the City talking to investment bankers everyday was one of the key push factors that drove me away from office jobs to want to do something practical that involved healthcare! I mention this because you might be reading this and be in a similar position to the one I was in pre-dentistry and so I’m saying you should definitely talk about your work if you want to!

So if you have had any jobs that you think could be interesting for the dental schools to know about through your PS then mention them! You will be the best person to judge whether it should be included or not but always keep in mind it has to be linked back to dentistry in some way.

If you’ve worked as a receptionist at a dental practice on Saturday mornings, or perhaps you’ve spent a few years working as a dental nurse then of course you should definitely talk about that experience since it’s super relevant!

CHARITABLE WORK/VOLUNTEERING

Hopefully many dental school applicants have done some kind of volunteering or charitable work but its not a requirement. If you have done something then its definitely worth a mention.

I spent one summer when I was 16 in Moldova, the poorest country in Europe helping the charity AGAPE. Me and some friends from school spent a few months prior to travelling to Moldova raising money for the charity – one of the thing we did was collectively swim the distance of the channel in a swimming pool. Then in Moldova, we each lived separately with local families and each day would go to the local school to teach the children of various ages English and then in the afternoons would organise activities for younger children at the local community centre.

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Volunteering Looks Great on a PS

During my AS-Level year at school I also spent one afternoon each week at the local community hospital getting to know and entertain some of the in-patients, many of whom were very elderly. This was a part of my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.

You should know that as a dental student, we are required to do some volunteering in years 2,3 and 4 whilst at dental school. At Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, where I am studying, we are required to do a minimum of 10 hours volunteering each of those academic years. The volunteering can be of any kind, we have access to a huge online database and can search through the available opportunities and apply to any that we are interested in. I mention this to give you a heads up as I hope it helps to put into perspective how important it will be moving forward to have social responsibility and that’s why it is good to demonstrate you have a social responsibility awareness as an applicant.

 

Note: You’ve got to be careful when writing about your achievements as there is a chance it could come across as showing off. So when you read back what you’ve written make sure it doesn’t read with undertones of arrogance.

WHAT SHOULD I LEAVE OUT OF MY PERSONAL STATEMENT?

ACADEMICS

It depends on your own situation: you either will be currently doing, have already done or plan to do the requisite academic subjects to the required level in order to be acceptably qualified to be able to apply to dental school. You only have 4000 characters and you shouldn’t waste any of them talking about your academics.

The assessors don’t need to know that you got an A* in GCSE Biology through your PS because as a part of your UCAS application you will include all your academics which they can see.

PREVIOUSLY UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS

Some applicants might have tried to get into dental school before but unfortunately been unsuccessful. There’s nothing wrong with trying again and being rejected one year should not put you off applying again. In fact even after two unsuccessful rounds of applications you still shouldn’t be put off if you know you really want to become a dentist.

We learn more from our failures than from our successes – I won’t talk more about that here because I plan to write a whole separate post about this. The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t need to explain in your PS that this is your second time applying for dental school – they don’t need to know that information.

Many dental school applicants with a previous university degree qualification applied for dental school the first time and through unsuccessful attempts they ended up going the long route to dentistry and studying a scientific course like Biomedical Science. There’s nothing wrong with this path! In fact, I see it as an advantage, but I don’t you need to mention that as the reason for your first degree in your PS.

FAMILY HISTORY IN DENTISTRY

I’m sure many applicants for dentistry have got family members within the field of dentistry but I’m not sure whether its worth mentioning in your PS or not.

I should stress right now that it is not definitively wrong to talk about dental family members but if you choose to discuss it then you need to be careful with how you do so.

For total transparency I should tell you that I wrote one sentence in my PS about my family history in dentistry, so I guess this advice is massively contradictory and hypocritical. I was careful to write about it in a way that simply suggested my late grandfather (who was a dentist) was an inspiration to me. And this sentence was near the end of my PS, in my final paragraph forming a part of my conclusion.

Your personal statement should be all about YOU. So if you write how your dad is an orthodontist and that you want to follow his footsteps it needs to be worded in a way that it doesn’t seem like the only reason you want to do dentistry is because its the ‘family path’ or anything like that.

In my opinion, its a blessing and an advantage to you if you have dental family members. And you’d be lying to yourself if you said they didn’t have some king of influence over you wanting to become a dentist but perhaps its worth leaving it out of your PS.

For example: if you did work experience with your auntie who is a dentist, when you talk about that, you do not need to specific it was with your auntie! Just leave that detail out.

WHICH DENTAL SCHOOL(S) YOU ARE APPLYING TO

The universities you choose to apply to will know you want to study there by default, so I don’t think you need to mention where you are applying within your PS. Even if you are only applying to one dental school.

Or perhaps if you are only applying to the two dental schools in London – don’t bother explaining in your PS that you want to study in London specifically, it doesn’t add any value to your application in my opinion and can actually negatively affect your chances.

If you’re a good candidate, as well as you competing for a place at dental school, the dental schools will sort of be in competition for you to come and study at their school!

Here’s a couple of connected lists I found for things to avoid mentioning that re-inforce some things I’ve mentioned in this post:

HOW SHOULD I STRUCTURE MY PERSONAL STATEMENT?

There are no rules for how to structure your PS, but many articles I read online when researching suggested a similar breakdown.

You only have 4000 characters and this means only 47 lines of text. That means even paragraph spacings are included.

The best thing to do is have a 3 or 4 paragraphs. And instead of a blank line between each one, to avoid wasting empty characters use an indent.

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WHAT ARE THE BEST APPROACHES TO TAKE WHEN WRITING MY PS?

Everyone is different, so I won’t offer too much of my own advice here to avoid influencing anyone away from their own approach.

But there are some things I believe will help you when working on writing your personal statement.

First thing I’d say is to not worry about the character limit when writing your first draft. Of course don’t write a 12 page long draft but don’t stop yourself from writing things because you are concerned with keeping to the 4000 character limit. You can always shorten it afterwards.

I would also recommend you save multiple drafts instead of working into one file and continuously saving an updated version of it. So the first draft you write can be saved with “v1” in the file name, then “v2”, “v3” etc. By keeping a copy of each draft you write, you will be able to refer back to them if you need to. Each version should be an improved iteration of the draft before and ultimately you will end up with your final draft = your finished PS ready to upload onto UCAS.

Don’t use short hands or abbreviations either, keep it proper. It can be very tempting to use lots of shortened words in an attempt to cut down your characters but it’s not good practice.

HOW TO CONCLUDE YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT?

As the suggested structure shows, you also need to have a conclusion. This is so important as it will be the last thing the dental school assessors read and an effective concluding statement can leave a really positive lasting impression.

Tell them again, this time explicitly why it is that you want to be a dentist.

It shouldn’t be too long and ideally you want to summarise why you are well suited to dentistry and re-iterate why you want to be a dentist. I think the conclusion is also the best moment for you to write about how you understand that dentals school and dentistry is not an easy path! Having an awareness for the difficulties of dentistry means you are fully informed and know exactly what you are getting yourself in for.

I’ve read some articles where they say you don’t necessarily need a conclusion to your PS, and I respectfully disagree. With pretty much everything in life, there is a start, a middle and an end. If you decided to skip the conclusion then I don’t understand how your PS would end? If you read your finished PS without a conclusion then surely it wouldn’t have a nice flow, if you’re just reading and then all of a sudden there’s an abrupt ending and no more text…?!

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY PERSONAL STATEMENT IS COMPLETE?

When you’re happy with the PS you’ve written then it is complete. Save the file and leave it for a few days, then open it again and re-read it from start to finish with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’.

Sometimes it helps if you actually read it out a loud, it allows you to get a better idea for how it will be read by others. If something doesn’t sound write, doesn’t quite make sense or you feel is wrong then change it!

When you have a completed PS on your Word document, you can copy and paste it onto the UCAS submission page. When it is uploaded, you should check it again because the formatting can be affected when you transfer it across to UCAS.

But before you upload and save your PS onto UCAS you should go through a few rounds of checks.

QUALITY CONTROL

Double check your grammar and spelling; your final PS needs to be perfect as simply mistakes related to grammar or spelling may be one of the reasons your PS doesn’t get picked for interview.

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Get it Checked before You Submit

To be honest, I sometimes make mistakes with my grammar and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some in this post! And knowing I sometimes make grammatical errors, I know to always ask someone else to check important things (like a PS) for me.

You can easily check your PS using the spell-check tool on Word, and you can also get other people to check it your you!

It’s a really good idea to ask a few people to check your PS. Another perspective will help not only to point out any mistakes but also for their feedback on it in general. Getting three people to check it is a nice number: a friend, a family member and a teacher/colleague etc perhaps for different perspectives.

Reading it out a loud will also help you see if your PS flows. There should be a beautiful flow with natural succession of your paragraphs. Then take a look at it, does it have a start, a middle and an end?

Once you’ve got feedback from others then you can make any amends/corrections/changes to your PS.

THINGS TO AVOID WHEN WRITING YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT

Earlier I mentioned that it can be helpful to read other people’s personal statements to give you a feel for it. I stand by that advice but also need to say that it can be detrimental if you over rely on them and begin to compare yours with others.

Everyone’s personal statement is different, and you should avoid worrying about how yours compares to others. The worst thing you can do is to change yours to more closely match others you’ve read, even if they are brilliant.

But in the end, most personal statements despite being different are all very similar. And that my friends is a contradiction for you!

Never lie on your PS. It is so easy to falsify your PS by writing something that isn’t true but you need to remember that as a dentist one of the key underlying principles is to be open and honest always. It is ethically and morally wrong to lie.

TOP TIPS FOR YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT

From start to finish, writing your personal statement will take a time. You shouldn’t rush it or leave it last minute.

Don’t use a thesaurus and think of really complicated ways of writing. Write it in plain English, nothing fancy! Avoid over using words like privileged, honoured, humbled etc.

What distinguishes a good personal statement from an average personal statement is a good question. I can’t be confident in answering this but there are some comparisons that can be made.

Another good idea is to make some reference to continued professional development (CPD). As a dentist, you will be required to do CPD throughout your working career, and it is basically a way to ensure dentists are constantly learning new things about dentistry, becoming a better practitioner. Dentistry is a rapidly evolving field and this should excite you! So by mentioning this in your PS you can demonstrate a good understanding about what is expected of dentists and you can convincingly convey your genuine thirst for self development and learning new things. If you can relate this to something you already do then that’s perfect – for example if you watch TED talks you could relate this to CPD somehow by saying you are always interested in learning new things!

I’m going to write a post about CPD specifically in the near future so look out for that if you’re interested 🙂

For a PS to be good:

  • It needs to be convincing
  • It needs to read well – by which I mean it should have a nice flow to it
  • It should constantly have references back to dentistry
    • You need to highlight the efforts you’ve made to understand what it is like to be a dentist
    • You need to exemplify why you have the skills, qualities and characteristics that a dentist should have
  • Your personality should hopefully shine through and give the assessors an idea of who you are as a person – they will paint a picture of you in their minds based on your PS!

Conversely, I think it would be almost immediately obvious for someone reading a PS to identify if it was a bad one. Spelling mistakes, bad grammar, disjointed paragraphs and a poor structure are some of the basic errors. It can also be identified as a bad PS if there is no conviction to the applicant’s genuine desire to want to do dentistry.

Other things to avoid are the clichéd statements, the pretentious quotes, name dropping, use of slang, contradictions, naming a specific university, irrelevant extra-ciricculars etc.

When it comes to writing, I am not the best. It is one of the things I hope to improve through this blog.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I strongly believe that when I applied to dental school in 2014, I was a very well suited applicant and was confident I’d be invited to interview and was fairly confident I’d be offered a place to study at at least one dental school. But I honestly struggled when writing my PS, it took me a long time before I was happy with my final version. And the reality is that, regardless of how strong an applicant is, the quality of their PS is a key determining factor for whether or not you are successful. So you need to strive to create a good PS and for that reason it is worth investing a fair amount of time and effort into it.

BE SELF CRITICAL OF YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT

When you’ve finished writing your PS, read it back whilst imagining yourself as the dean of a dental school.

Would you invite yourself for an offer based on the PS you just read???

Critique your PS, identify the weaknesses in your statement. Then think about whether there is anything you can do to improve that specific aspect and then update what you’ve written.

This is a really important quality for a dentist to have: self-appraisals, being critical of yourself, reviewing the work you’ve don’t and thinking about what you can do to improve moving forward. I am a very self-critical person in every aspect of my life and I think this is so important to start doing if you don’t do so already!

Once you’ve critiqued you PS, you might even think about mentioning self-assessment as a personal quality of yours – relate it to dentistry too!

Here are a few dental examples:

  • You have a very nervous patient and after they’ve left the clinic you might think to yourself that there was something you could have done or said differently to help make them feel more at ease.
  • You are preparing a tooth for crown and after fitting the crown you realise there is something not quite perfect about it and you then identify what you can do differently the next time to make it better
  • You take a periscopical radiograph and although it is a perfectly adequate X-Ray that you can use to help plan a treatment for a patient, there is something you could have done when taking the X-Ray to improve the image quality

HOW TO PREPARE FOR DENTAL SCHOOL INTERVIEWS USING YOUR PS

After you’ve written your personal statement, completed your UCAS application and submitted it to the four dental schools you want to apply for, you will hopefully get invited to interview!

When you are preparing for your interviews, don’t forget to re-read your PS

It depends on the dental school’s interview style, but there is a good chance the interviewers have not had an opportunity to read your PS before hand but they might have a copy of it in front of them. So you might be asked questions during interview that are directly related to what you’ve talked about. And since the time between writing your PS and actually having the interview can be many months you may well have forgotten all about it!

By reading your PS before interview you can also identify things you might get asked to talk more about and begin to think about how you might elaborate in interview.

This is one of the key reasons why you should never lie on the PS, because if you get asked about a lie in your PS you’d have to then lie about it further in interview which is wrong and you might get caught out!

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I hope some of the advice I have included in this post is helpful to you when writing your own personal statements.

Good luck for writing yours!

If anyone wants any individual help or advice then I am more than happy to offer a personal support service so get in touch via email or through the comments section.

I also used to work as a headhunter so had to read multiple CVs daily and train my candidates on how to improve theirs to maximise the chances of success with job applications. So I know a good resume from a bad one. I only mention this as I believe it further qualifies me as someone who can help you with your PS.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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