About 55% of applicants who seek admission to accredited dental schools will actually enroll in one. Is it a lot, or a little? It definitely depends on your perspective, whether you see the glass half-full or half-empty. However, you should realize that most of these applicants interviewed at more than one dental school. In fact, in average, students will send their application to 10 different schools or more.
Looking at it from this perspective, the success rate in dental school admission process falls below 10%. It means one thing only: When you finally secure an invitation for an interview at a dental school, you should try your very best to succeed. Because you will compete with many people for the place in the study program, and you may not get many other opportunities…
Let’s have a look at the questions you will face, and how to make the best impression on your interviewers.
Why did you decide for dentistry?
This is probably the most typical question, and often a first one. And you can be sure that the interviewers have heard the typical answers hundreds of times… You know them all: you decided for dentistry because you want to help people. Or you understand the essential role healthy teeth play in a quality of one’s life, and see a meaningful purpose in this job. Or you were always fascinated with the subject, or the precision and accuracy this work requires…
These answers are not bad, but you won’t stand out with them. Most applicants will say the same thing. I suggest you to try something else: tell them a story.
Perhaps you had bad teeth as a teenager, and suffered a lot. Or you were scared of even knocking on a door of a dentist, let alone let them look into your mouth. However, you were lucky enough to find (or to belong to) an empathetic dentist who helped you to overcome your fears.
Or they did an excellent job with your broken teeth (and confidence), and actually what they did improved your quality of life a lot. This experience had a profound impact on your career choice. You found a role model you wanted to emulate. Your mission is not to fill teeth. It is to improve the quality of life of your patients…
Of course this was just one example, and you can come up with your own story. Be creative, and tell them something they will remember long after the interview.
Why our dental school? Why not some other place?
In reality you likely applied to five or ten or twenty places, and do not really care. As long as they invited you for an interview, they are good to go. As you can probably guess, however, this isn’t the best interview answer…
Most applicants will say one of the following things:
- The school and the professors have a great reputation.
- They like a location of the campus, it is either close to their home or in a place where they always wanted to study and live.
- The curriculum is excellent, better than at other schools.
Again, these are decent answers, but you won’t stand out with any of them. My advice in this case is clear: Be as specific as you can about your reasons.
Instead of saying that you like the curriculum, point out particular subjects you like–you can prepare their list before the interview. Instead of praising the school for their reputation or professors, pick exact names of professors or researchers from school, and mention the papers they published.
Most interviewers will be impressed with your answer and attitude. Because you did more than other to prepare for this particular interview–which means that you really care.
Another alternative that can sometimes work is brutal honesty. Maybe their school wasn’t your first choice, or even your fifth choice. But they are the only one who invited you for a face to face interview. And that means a lot to you, and you want to get the most out of this opportunity.
Dental school is hard. How do you plan to handle the workload?
Empty phrases such as “I am an excellent student and I will handle everything” won’t make much impression on the interviewers. Again, you should be specific, and you should ensure them that you are ready to sacrifice something for your studies.
Perhaps you enjoy playing soccer or dancing or whatever. You have had a lot of after school activities up to this point, perhaps even a part time job in a fast food restaurant or in a grocery store. If you get into a dental school, however, you plan to quit your part time job, and limit the number of your extracurricular activities.
You like your life outside of school, but dentistry is your first priority, and you will treat it accordingly. That’s the attitude they seek in a good applicant. At the end of the day nobody can guarantee that you will graduate–a lot of things can happen during your studies. But you definitely have better chances with the right attitude.
What will you do if you do not get to a dental school?
A common answer is that you will try your luck next year, or in the next application cycle, perhaps also with other accredited dental schools. Again, it is a good answer, but you should add something more to stand out with your answer.
While dentistry is your career choice, and you won’t give up easily, you do not plan to waste the next year waiting for other invitation for an interview. First and foremost, you will try to understand what went wrong. Did you fail in the application process? Or in the interviews? You will try to get some feedback, to understand what went wrong.
Then you will try to use your year in the most meaningful way–perhaps reading literature that will help you in your work (anything related to communication skills, psychology, working with people, dentistry–history and trends, etc).
Or you will try to get a job that will help you to improve on abilities that matter for a good dentist–communication skills, attention to detail, precision, and so on. Another alternative is traveling around the world, but not to drink with other young fellas in hostels… To know other cultures, to improve your language skills, and perhaps to even learn how dentistry works in different corners of the world.
Ensure the interviewers that you have a plan B for the next year, and a meaningful one. If you do not get in this time, you will come back stronger next year.
Special Tip: Download the list of all questions in a one page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later:
What do you don’t like about dentistry?
World isn’t black and white. Saying that you love everything about your future profession won’t make much impression on the interviewers–though many applicants opt for such an answer…
You should have realistic expectations. What matters the most, however, is the attitude you show while talking about things you don’t like about dentistry. Let me give you an example:
Services of a dentist are quite expensive, and many people cannot afford them. This is the case in many countries of the world, including the most developed one. And it is not a good trend. Instead of blankly complaining about the situation, however, you can come up with some innovative approach, or at least a dream, idea, how to make things better.
Say that if everything goes well, and you graduate from a dental school one day and eventually have your own practice, you will reserve one day in a month for people who cannot afford your services–homeless, poor, people living below poverty line. This day you will charge them the bare minimum for your services, or you’ll even repair their teeth for free–of course if your financial situation and income allows it.
You won’t change the world, but you will make a positive difference in a local community with this model. Of course, to do this in reality is harder than it seems. But you are still young and definitely you have a right to dream.
This was just an example, but you can apply the same principle to anything else you do not like about dentistry.
What do you plan to do in your free time while studying at our dental school?
I’d say you have two options for an excellent answer at this point. One is focusing entirely on your studies. Free time? You do not think you’ll have any, because you want to be one of the best students in your class. You have to study and read a lot to achieve this goal, and that’s exactly what you plan to do in your “free time”.
Another excellent answer is referring to things you want to do for the community of students. You do not plan to drink in a bar, or watch series on Netflix when you do not study. That’s just a waste of time and money. But, if your studies allow you to do so, you will consider applying for a position of a Resident Assistant, or for other part time position within the university structures.
Ensure them that while you want to take something from them–excellent lectures and guidance, and eventually a diploma, you also want to give something back. Such an attitude will impress a lot of interviewers…
Some other questions you may get in your dental school interview
- Are there any dentists in your family? What impact did they have on your decision to study dentistry?
- Where do you see yourself in ten years time from now?
- What is the last book you read, or are reading at the moment?
- Where do you see yourself practicing dentistry once you graduate from dental school?
- What are your expectations on teachers, school administrators, and fellow students?
- In your opinion, what characterizes an excellent dentist?
MMI at Dental School
Some dental schools opt for a different interview format, called multiple mini interviews. In this case you will solve short puzzles, do a role play, or answer various scenario-based questions. Most of them will be related to the practice of dentistry and dental school studies, but some may even refer to everyday situations and ethical dilemmas. Let’s have a look at some examples:
- A patient, 35 years old, wants you to pull out their tooth, one that has been bothering them for a while. You know that the tooth can be saved, but it will cost a lot of money and they will have to visit your office repeatedly. What will you do? What will you say to the patient? Will you eventually pull our their tooth if they do not agree on your proposed interventions to save it?
- A mother comes with a crying child to your practice. The child keeps crying and tries to run out of your office, not wanting to let you look into their mouth. How will you react in such a situation?
- If the Prime Minister/President were to ask your advice on one change that could be applied to the healthcare system that would improve it enormously and have the greatest positive effect, how would you answer?
- A representative of a company that manufactures some anesthetics, accredited by the local authorities, visits you in your office. You already have your supplier and are satisfied. But the sales rep offers you a holiday voucher (or other tangible benefit) if you decide to switch suppliers and start ordering anesthetics from their company. What will you do in this situation, and what factors will you consider while deciding whether you should change the supplier or not?
- Your best friend, Jennifer, calls you to tell you that she has been rejected for the 3rd time from all dental schools that she had applied to during the previous application cycle. She invites you over to her house to have a chat about her future plans. Go inside the room and speak with Jennifer.
- A member of your family decides to depend solely on alternative medicine for treatment of his or her significant illness. What would you do?
Conclusion, next steps
Admission interviews at dental schools may seem easy, but they are not. The success rate is typically quite low, and it is difficult to stand out with your resume or application.
The best thing you can do is to try to stand out with your interview answers. Do not say the same thing everyone else does. Prepare your answers upfront, and try to come up with something special. I tried to give you some advice with my answers.
And if you are not sure what to do, or would like to know something other applicants do not know, have a look at my eBook, Pharmacy School Interview Made Easy. I know it is not a book for dental school interviews, but many questions are similar and you’ll find great answers to MMI questions in the eBook.
I am working on a specific book for dental school interviews. It should be ready by the end of the year. As soon as it is ready, I’ll add a link here. Meanwhile I wish you good luck 🙂
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