It is easier getting into dental hygiene school than it is into a med school, or pharmacy school. Nevertheless, the acceptance rate on most good colleges that offer study programs in dental hygiene is below 50%, and can be down to 15% in some cases. Great GPA alone does not guarantee you will succeed, and you should prepare for the admission interview.

Typically you will sit in front of a small admission committee. Can be anything from three to six people, depending on the school and number of applicants. Senior teachers may be present, someone from the student council, assistant principal, and other figures from the college. They will ask you questions about your motivation, strengths, goals, and how you want to handle your studies. Let’s have a look at the questions.

 

Can you please tell us something about yourself?

It’s a common misconception to think that you have to talk about something in particular–such as why you decided for their study program, or why you want to be a dental hygienist. They have separate questions ready for these matters.

In fact, this is an icebreaker interview question, and what they really to to do is getting a good grasp of who you are, your communication skills, and your personality. I suggest you to be genuine and open right from the start. Keep an eye contact with different members of the admission committee and share with them something about your life.

Where you are from, how old you are, what you enjoy doing in your free time, and so on. Do not go into details though, they will ask about them if interested. What you say isn’t that important with this questions. How you say it matters more… They should get an impression that you are enthusiastic about your interview, and ready to talk openly about anything. That’s your goal with your first interview answer.

 

Why did you decide for dental hygiene?

Try to tell them a story. It can be a story of a dental hygienist who had a positive impact on your life, perhaps in your teenage years. Great looking teeth help with confidence, and an injection of confidence was what you needed as a teenager. Understanding this impact and also the fact that the field does not get adequate recognition by general public yet, you decided to pursue this career, and improve the affairs.

Or, on the contrary, you had a horrible dentist and dental hygienist, and decided that you’d do a better job. Because you enjoyed what you saw in their practice, and understood the importance of dental care. Just they didn’t do it well, their customer service was horrible. And hence you saw an interesting opening on the market, and went for it.

There are many stories, and I am sure you have your own. Each story should have the same end, however: you made the necessary steps, and they took you to this room, this admission interview. Dental hygiene studies are the next step in your journey…

 

Why our college? Why not some other place?

You have likely sent several applications and got a couple of invitations for the interviews. And you’ll be happy for approval anywhere, and maybe they aren’t even your first choice. That’s all right, even for them, as long as you can explain your reasons clearly.

In an ideal case you should praise their college for something. If they are in the leaderboards, a place where everyone wants to study, the answer is obvious. You want to learn from the best and they are right up there. You can be more specific though, pointing out particular professors you look up to, or research papers that caught your eye, or some courses from the curricula that differ to the offer of other colleges.

Things change when you interview with an average college. Then you can either praise their location (you always wanted to study in this city), or the fact that they aren’t so picky in their selection of students (you didn’t have such a stellar GPA, and are grateful for the chance they gave you, to demonstrate your motivation and attitudes in an interview).

One way or another, they should get an impression that you aren’t in the room by accident, and that if they aren’t your first choice, they are the second one.

What is your greatest strength and weakness?

A rule of a thumb says that you should pick a strength that is relevant for a job of a dental hygienist. Or one that will help you a lot in your studies. Communication skills, attention to detail, precision, determination and persistence, are some of the strengths you can mention.

Remember though that your words should correspond with your interview presence and answers. Saying that you pay attention to details won’t make much impression on them if you know nothing about their college, and did not do your homework. The same is true with communication skills. They would hardly believe in your excellent listening skills if you do not talk to the point, and ask them to repeat the question in the middle of your answer…

When it comes to weaknesses, you can really pick anything–even a weakness that matters for the job. You are still young, you can change, and one of the reasons why you go to school is to improve on your weaknesses. As long as you demonstrate your willingness to work on your skills, and to eventually get rid of your weaknesses, they will be satisfied with your answer.

 

Tell us about a big mistake you made and what did you learn from it.

They may ask about different life situations–a big challenge you faced, big mistake you made, a disappointment you had to get over. In each of these cases, the exact situation you narrate does not matter for them much. They are interested in your attitude.

With the mistake, they want to hear mostly the following:

  • That you can admit making a mistake, and do not blame another person, or circumstances, for the mistakes you made.
  • That you can analyze the mistake, and eventually learn from it.

You are still young so you do not have to talk about something groundbreaking… Can be a mistake you made at school, part time job, or even something from your personal life. Perhaps you reacted inappropriately in some situation and harmed someone you loved. Or you even lost the relationship because of your overreaction.

Sometimes we can remedy such things, but sometimes the bridges are destroyed and we cannot build them again… In such cases it’s important to learn the lesson and move on–and that’s exactly what the interviewers want to hear from you.

 

Dental hygiene studies are hard. What do you want to sacrifice to ensure you manage the workload?

You should ensure them that your studies will be your first priority. Maybe you have a part time job now, and for sure you have some hobbies. But once you get in the college, these things will become secondary.

Now it doesn’t mean that you will give up on them and spend your days with a head buried in books, from morning to evening. That would make you just miserable and you will start to hate your college life soon…

You still want to go out from time to time, interact with other students, perhaps even apply for a position of a resident assistant or contribute to the campus life in some other way. But studies will have the first place, and you will devote your time to other activities only if your studies allow you do so.

 

Other questions you may face in your dental hygiene school admission interview

  • What do you plan to do while you are not studying?
  • In your opinion, what characterize a great dental hygienist? Try to describe them with a few sentences.
  • Many students apply for this study program. Why should we choose you, and not one of the other applicants?
  • How would your best friends describe you, if they were not in the room with you?
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
  • After everything that we discussed in this interview, do you want to add something or do you have any questions for us?

* You can also download the list of questions in a simple, one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later with a friend:

dental hygiene school interview questions, PDF

Conclusion, next step

School admission interviews are not as difficult as job interviews. They do not expect you to know your field already (you apply for a study program to learn dental hygiene), and they typically won’t test you with some tricky behavioral questions.

What’s more, it is quite easy to predict the questions you will face (they repeat in most interviews), and you can definitely prepare for them in advance. Check all questions from my list once again, read the hints, and try to write down your answer to each question. Then you can do a mock interview with a friend (brother, sister, etc), and practice your answers. It will help you calm down, and feel more confident before the start of your interview. I hope you will get in, and wish you best of luck!

Matthew

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Matthew Chulaw
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